Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Review - HSV’s ClubSport R8 Enhanced

clubsport05A certain car magazine recently bemoaned that drivers will miss out in coming years, with the change to more technological features in our chosen chariots. Ripping up a handbrake lever to drop a skid on the tarmac or dirt, for example, or fiddling around with cassettes whilst hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand and a ciggie perched between the lips. But there’s more that we’ll miss out on. I’ll explain later as I look at the last of a breed: Holden Special Vehicle’s ClubSport R8 Enhanced.

The Driven Heart

Recipe: take six litres of already grunty alloy block Chevrolet V8, massage and prod until it becomes 6.2, add a freer flowing exhaust and add the ingredients R8. Then massage even more, find a few extra ponies and torques then screw them up to a smooth shifting six speed manual, big 20 inch diameter black coated alloys, black highlights and that awesome bi-modal exhaust. That is what you'll get when 340 killer Watts and 570 metres of Mr Newton's torques appear after HSV waves their magic wand over the marvel that is a freebreathing V8 engine and uprated wheels; it adds the Enhanced part to the standard R8.

clubsport09It's an engine that appeals instantly to a driver than can not merely understand, but appreciate, what these terms and numbers mean. It's immensely flexible, with torque on tap from almost zero rpm which allows even fifth and sixth gears to be utilised at low revs, being able to pull away from 40 km/h in sixth is a party piece. With peak torque at 4400rpm but what feels like 99 percent of it available before then, it requires only a sneeze on the foot for the ClubSport to sprint away in lower gears. As it does so another party piece is put on show, this time an aural one. Inside the cabin, right where the window switches used to be in a VE Commodore, is a dial for the traction control and three suspension settings: Touring, Sport and Performance. The latter two engage an exhaust mode called Bi-modal, taking the already subterranean note to the earth's core.

The gear shift is surprisingly (bad grammar alert) untight, meaning there's not a hell of a lot of effort required to move the short throw gear lever...it slides from gear to gear with a hint of a notch as it does. the new Tremec T6060 transmission also throws up a softer, less pressure required clutch. I have a slightly arthritic left knee, courtesy of a prang as a passenger over twenty years ago and it's come away unscathed. What this also means is that for those that whinge about manuals in Sydney's utterly pathetic excuse for a road system that you can leave it in third or fourth in traffic and just clutch and accelerate without changing gear. The AP racing brakes are sensational, with a well modulated pressure, no fade and virtually no ABS intrusion when the anchors are thrown out from high speed.

The Office

HSVs of days gone by were sometimes a case of too much red was never enough. In the VF based ClubSport it’s more of a visually muted environment, with red highlights restricted to the headrests and squab on the seat cushion plus a tasteful alignment of fuel and temperature gauge needles with the red piping in the two main dash dials. Otherwise it’s a tasteful mix of charcoal fabric and leather accentuating black plastic.

clubsport10There’s also a relocation of the battery and oil pressure gauges to the empty space ahead of the gear lever, rather than on the upper dash. It’s comfortable to look at, comfortable to be in bar one thing…I’m of average height, call it 177cm. The placing of the pedals, steering column (adjustable for height and reach) and playing with the many ways adjustable electric seating still left me with my clutch leg’s thigh (the leading edge of the seat squab was pressing up and just behind the knee joint) just not feeling comfortable enough to push the pedal in all the way without feeling as if my arms were too close to my body.



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