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Used HSV SV90 review: 1990-1991

Room for improvement: HSV got its hands on the Statesman and created the SV90.

The VQ Statesman saw the return of the long wheelbase models to the Holden range after an absence of six years. Holden was emerging from a troubled period where it was in real danger of failing. Were it not for a massive rescue package by GM head office in Detroit in 1986 Holden may well have gone out of business.

The rescue, along with some clever local planning that resulted in the VN Commodore in 1988, and the Commodore-derived VQ Statesman two years later ensured the company would not only survive, but prosper going forward. The VQ Statesman was hailed as the best locally produced car ever, which made it the perfect base for an HSV spin-off like the SV90.

MODEL WATCH

Even the best cars can be improved and so it was with the VQ Statesman once HSV got its hands on it and created the SV90. The SV90 was one of the first models to emerge from the fledgling HSV outfit as it embarked on a major expansion program to create three main model streams.

One was based on the Commodore, another on the Holden long wheelbase models, and the third on the ute. HSV built on the base Statesman and gave it an injection of its Commodore performance, like that of the SV89 model.

The Statesman came with Holden’s fuel-injected 5.0-litre V8, but once HSV got to it and added its dual exhaust system, cold air intake, and some other tweaks its power jumped from 165 kW to 182 kW.

Underneath HSV took the Statesman’s suspension, which included IRS independent rear suspension for the first time in a locally produced car, lowered it 20 mm and made it a little more taut.

The objective, according to John Harvey, then HSV’s guiding light in a product sense, was to create a sportier feel than the Statesman had without compromising the ride quality expected of a long wheelbase prestige model.

HSV was using Monroe shocks on its cars at the time and stuck with them even though Holden used Bilstein shocks on the VQ. Special HSV 16x8 alloy wheels were shod with Dunlop high performance D40M2 rubber.

The SV90 styling was kept low key in line with the image of the car, so the body kit is distinctive without being too wild. All were painted Ruby Red with a new Honey Beige interior. The interior featured leather and velour, with a Momo steering wheel to provide some sporting distinction from its Holden cousin.

IN THE SHOP

It’s a Holden so expect the same niggles as you would from a similar car coming from the main Holden assembly line. The HSV cars were, in fact, built by Holden and then shipped across to HSV where they were ‘enhanced’ with all the things that made an HSV special.

Holden build quality wasn’t the greatest at the time; they were still in transition from the 1980s when production quality was probably at an all time low for the company to the mid-1990s when they began to get it right. Don’t worry about panel gaps, they were all over the place, but do be concerned about paint quality.

Holdens of that era were renowned for their poor paint quality, which can be seen in the faded, blotchy, VNs and other similar models on the road today. There’s only one way to fix damaged paintwork like this, and that’s to repaint the car. That’s an expensive option so don’t buy a paint-damaged car lightly.

The engine and auto gearbox are both quite rugged and reliable if not particularly sophisticated. Look for oil leaks around the engine that might need fixing for a roadworthy, and watch for sloppy shifts from the transmission. Many HSV cars tend to be well looked after so shop around for one that has been pampered rather than settle for one that has been thrashed. Make sure it’s an original SV90 and not a look-alike. Check the build plates, and make sure it’s got all the correct HSV bits as it was built with. A missing build plate or missing bits will reduce its value considerably.

IN A CRASH

Look to sheet metal and lots of it for protection in a crash in the SV90. It’s a big, solid car that will stand up well when it comes to the crunch, which is good because it doesn’t have things like airbags to soften the impact. A decent chassis, with four-wheel discs, big wheels and tyres, and IRS, means the SV90 stops, steers and handles pretty well.

AT THE PUMP

It’s got a V8 so it is thirsty. Don’t buy an SV90 and hope it will be as economical as a small four-cylinder model. It won’t be. Expect 15-18 L/100 km if driven with a light foot, more if you can’t keep your right foot under control. The Holden V8 will convert to LPG without a problem, but I am against that option on a car like the SV90. In my view adding LPG takes away from the car’s originality, and its value, and that’s an important thing with a car like an HSV.

OWNERS SAY

Dean Mostert found himself addicted to the styling of the HSV VN/VQ models, so he snapped up the tidy SV90 he stumbled across after selling the VN HSV+6 that was his first car. Other than a fresh respray it was fully original with 147,000 km on the odo. It has the optional leather trim and a few other goodies.

LOOK FOR
• Complete with correct HSV parts
• Sporty style
• Sports handling with prestige ride
• Distinctive looks of panoramic rear window
• V8 performance
• Fuel guzzler

THE BOTTOM LINE
Elegant long wheelbase sedan from a classic Holden era.

RATING
65/100

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
1991 $4,950 $10,010
1990 $5,610 $10,010

View all HSV SV pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$7,810
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$5,610
Highest Price
$10,010

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
90 Statesman 5.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $6,380 – 9,020 1990 HSV SV 1990 90 Statesman Pricing and Specs
Clubsport 5.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $7,150 – 10,010 1990 HSV SV 1990 Clubsport Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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