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HSV GTS 2008 review

But it happens more in expensive machinery and the number of times is largely proportional to the vehicle's price tag.

Being let into traffic is a rare experience in top-end luxury and sports cars (yes, I can hear the violins ... thanks), but it's not an issue in an $80,000 car if it has humble origins.

For better or worse, the HSV GTS is a Commodore. With the VE as a starting point that's much less of a sneer than it might have once been, but it makes a difference to those in traffic around you.

Getting behind the wheel of a Holden Special Vehicle has always prompted a couple of expectations — but other drivers don't seem to hate your guts. The first is there's unlikely to be a shortage of power and torque, and the second is that if it's a manual, swapping cogs is not going to be the nicest change ever experienced with a gear lever.

It has improved, it must be said, but other high-performance carmakers have toiled with this particular transmission and then headed elsewhere within the Tremec catalogue.

The T56 six-speed manual has been a faithful servant to Holden and HSV, improving in shift quality and feel with every update, but its time seems passed. Luckily for the driver, there's only a need to make two or three shifts, with 317kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm (arriving 200rpm later at 4600rpm) on offer.

First would only be needed for a hill start on a serious incline and sixth is still a long-legged cruise gear. The engine doesn't really quibble about what gear the car's in, it just goes, now with a little more force than before. Mind you, adding an extra 10kW once you're over the 300kW hurdle is like pouring a jerry can of petrol on to a fire.

The 6.2-litre LS3 power plant — which is donated by Corvette — feels like the torque curve is a little broader than the outgoing LS2 engine, which helps with flexibility in traffic.

Starting off in second and heading for fourth or even fifth is not beyond the realms of possibility; anything to keep fuel use down, as the trip computer displays figures around 18 litres per 100km if you've had any fun.

The other thing that sets the GTS apart from its HSV kin is its wheels: big, chunky 20-inch alloys with 35 front and 30 rear-profile tyres, which, thanks to the magnetic ride control system, don't detract from the comfort of the GTS over the bumps. The other thing the 20s allow for is big brakes, which are welcome when hauling 1845kg of Australian muscle car back to a standstill. The GTS has 365mm front and 350mm rear ventilated and grooved discs, gripped by four-piston calipers.

HSV claims the system brings the GTS to a halt from 100km/h in 36m. If the stoppers don't work in time and events take a turn for the worse, the car's electronic safety systems (which assess a wide range of inputs 30 times a second) will use anti-lock braking, stability control, and dual front, side and curtain airbags to help reduce the damage. In the wet, the stability control is a welcome assistant, as the outputs can overcome the rear end, as you'd expect, but such is the nature of the beast any shenanigans are largely controllable. In the dry, there's plenty of grip and the GTS shrinks in perceived size, stressing the Bridgestones less than previous HSVs and showing poise and pace beyond its considerable mass.

The sales of specialist V8s hasn't slowed much in the face of higher fuel prices. The sweet scream of this V8 at full noise has its appeal, but such fun comes with an 18 litres-per-100km price.

Such thirst can be tempered with less frenetic use of the throttle and more torque-driven cruising, but it's still a buying consideration. But V8 lovers are a faithful breed and there's much for them to love with this new powerplant.

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Range and Specs

(base) 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $19,400 – 27,060 2008 HSV GTS 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
40th Anniversary 6.2L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ $21,600 – 29,370 2008 HSV GTS 2008 40th Anniversary Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist


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