HSV GTS E3 2011 Review
It's not as though there's a lack of quick moving imported status symbols between $80-90K. Consider the top spec of the rapid and smart Lexus IS350 V6, a C-Class Merc also with a V6, a beautifully balanced BMW 3 Series with a straight six and an Audi A4 with a neatly blown four.
Then, like blinged up brickies, there are those Strayan muscle car aristocrats with their bellicose V8s, Ford's FPV and this, the latest of Holden's Special Vehicles. As comparatively refined as the E3 series GTS has become, it remains in essence a big, beefhearted brute.
While all the Japanese and Euros devices mentioned above shout "I've made it," the GTS seem to say in all its burbling enormity: "I've made it too and get stuffed."
As always with HSV this is a question of what you most value. If it's go for the dough, you're in the right showroom.
At $82,900 for the six-speed manual, two grand more the auto, HSV can always claim this is an amazingly cheap equivalent of, say BMW's 550i or Merc's E 500. There's much in this argument.
You get a mass of prime meat for the money. Apart from rare, raw power, the E3 has crossed the luxury car threshold in terms of both tax and content, with tech of the highest order.
Best not consider the the question of residuals, though. Buyers of new HSVs can get kicked in the slats at resale time.
Not so much as a visual facelift over the E2 as an organ transplant. The changes are almost all within the cabin and they are considerable, Via a touchscreen, the new HSV Enhanced Driver Interface accesses a performance data logging system conveying real time info on revs, brakes, gear changes, G-forces, fuel use, steering angle, bi-modal exhaust and a plethora of other data and the ability to download data onto a PC (though not a Mac). Novelly, the system includes preloaded race track locations, stop watches and track maps. For civilian deployment, there's sat-nav, digital radio and Bluetooth.
Taking a page from the Volvo playbook, Side Blind Zone Alert uses sensors to locate and alert you to obstructions in those hard to see spots. EDI also accesses the stability program and controls the bi-modal exhaust.
Out front, the the LS3 6.2L V8 is retained but upgunned over the rest of the HSV range to 325 kW. Ninety-five RON is required.
As safe as its solidity suggests, with five star ANCAP rating, and massive brakes that, at least in street legal use, don't fade under the big bloke's considerable heft. Would that all stop pedals had this sort of progression before the barrier of ABS is breached.
If you have the misfortune to be hearing impaired and thus unable to hear the V8 with bi-modal exhaust in full roar, the violent yellow of our test car would still somehow be audible. Loud? Rather. My choice would be something more discreet, such as blood red or screaming magenta. Phew.
Whatever, the beast has presence, not least in the rear vision mirror of the overtaking lane laggard. No horn blasting or light flashing necessary for an unimpeded path.
On the outside, the GTS is mainly a case of tarting up the SS V Commodore, so you will either love it or loathe it and that's miles better than indifference. Within the E3 is a step up. Though you'll never quite escape the feeling this is derived from a much less expensive car, the GTS is an attractive and comfortable, if not lush, place to inhabit.
In any hue (and, honestly, make mine a dark metallic or white) mounted on massive low profile 20-inch rubber wrapped multi-spoke Pentagon alloys, the GTS has a sense of occasion.
Save for a few furtive bursts, it's useless pretending we charted more than a fraction of the GTS's immense performance during our 400-odd kays on public roads. Capable of reaching 100km/h from standing in just under five seconds, so it's claimed, the GTS seldom feels hurried, as that immense capacity is put to the road without undue fuss.
Though some 1830kg (plus 73 litres of fuel and 100kg of me), it is seldom unwieldy and through tighter passages of road it somehow feels smaller and more nimble than than its heavyweight dimensions should permit.
OK, we can accept the GTS works fine as both a functional device and a fantasy fulfiller for well to do V8 Supercar fans. What wasn't expected, at least not by me, is the aplomb with which it fills the role of grand touring sedan. On a mostly open road run (hence our reasonable fuel consumption) the yellow leviathan eats the kays at a canter. Those easy conditions mean a manual shifter, inevitably described as "agricultural", can't become tiresome, though even in urban running the need to be assertive with it seems in keeping with the car's character.
In a car suffused with tech, HSV's Magnetic Ride Control is an outstanding feature, ensuring that the ride through those skinny 20s almost unfeasibly compliant.
Didn't want to return it.
HSV GTS E3
Price: from $82,900
Engine: 6.2-litre V8 petrol; 325kW/550Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto
Thirst: 12.8L/100km (tested)
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