When Aussies set out to design a car, they sort out the main part first – the engine. In HSV’s case, it’s gone for the ‘bigger is better’ approach and dropped a 6.2-litre Chevrolet V8 into the engine, yep that should do the job! HSV then went ahead and tinkered with Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) to optimise the drive. Fitted as standard to the GTS, Grange and Senator, the system jars the ride and is overly firm in my opinion. That leaves us with the only other sedan in the range, the Clubsport R8. Our red Clubby served a dual purpose. Not only was it used to cart around the winners of our Victorian Red Cross Bushfire Appeal 2009 auctions, we also held on to it to do a road test … err well that was the best excuse we could find to keep it for as long as possible! The E-series HSV range has been out for a while now. Launched soon after the VE Commodore range, HSV built on Holden’s work to bring its high performance range. Over that time, HSV upgraded from the defunct 6.0-litre LS2 engine, opting for the newer 6.2-litre LS3. HSV also released the W427 – a 7.0-litre, 375kW V8 ball-breaker – during that time. During our charity lunch, the two auction winners had a chance to ride shotgun in both the Clubsport and the FPV 5th Anniversary GT and handed over their opinion – along with the contents of their lunch when Road Test Editor Matt Brogan was behind the wheel! More on that later. First point to deal with is the gearbox fitted to our test vehicle. Back in 2006 when the VE was released, the six-speed automatic optionally fitted to HSV’s V8 range did the job. It was nothing special, but we made do. With the introduction of Ford’s revised, 315kW BOSS engine and ZF automatic ‘box, which was also fitted to our FPV test vehicle, it’s like comparing chalk and cheese. The six-speed unit in the HSV is now so far behind the game that it’s time for a rethink. Where the ZF Sachs gearbox in the FPV will shift through gears smoothly, the GM unit screams through gears and changes up cogs in an uncanny, jaw shattering style, there’s nothing civil about it. Heaven forbid the gearbox forgetting to change up, which often happens when using the sequential shift mode. So, it’s not looking good for the HSV you’d think. Well, that’s about where the downsides finish. While the automatic gearbox is a genuine pig, you really cannot scoff at the rest of the package. Take for example the acceleration. Both of our charity auction winners commented on how much harder the HSV seems to pull when the loud pedal is sandwiched between a size 13 and the floorboard. Then there are the upshifts! Sure, they’re about as rough as an uncut diamond, but chirping into second gear – especially when you consider the size of the massive 275mm rear tyres – is most certainly something of which to be proud! The steering is a bit vague, but it’s not too bad when you consider the car’s great mass. I feel that the steering wheel is a bit big though, it makes changing direction through a set of tight corners somewhat uneasy. Stopping the car is a set of massive AP Racing slotted rotors. Brake feel is consistent and strong throughout the entire application. This leads me to the Electronic Stability Control calibration, superb, there’s no other word to describe it. HSV has managed to knock together a mighty fine safety package. It lets you have enough play before it kicks in, which is great when it’s absolutely bucketing down. If you’re overeager on the throttle, the Clubby is more than happy to dance. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think much of the MRC calibration in HSV’s Grange, GTS and Senator. It makes the ride extremely firm and takes away from the fun of the whole thing. The suspension calibration in the R8 on the other hand caters more toward comfort. There’s no perfect compromise between the MRC system and the standard suspension setup. As such, the Clubsport has a fair bit of body roll when punted through a set of sweeping bends. The whole package remains composed though, lending to the impressive chassis dynamics with which HSV has worked. Our test car was well and truly run in, it had some 13,000km on the clock and to be honest, it went harder than any other HSV I’ve driven. It seems some of the press cars we are handed with a handful of kilometres on the dial are still a bit tight. Put some hard earned kilometres on them and they slingshot like you would never believe. Another point of concern, yet again tending towards the car’s age, is the dated interior, and it’s certainly beginning to show its age. Dark overtones and bland colours take away from the whole experience. The driver and front passenger seats are built for big people. They’re wide as nothing else and cause people like me to move around a bit when attacking apexes. The side bolster and bottom bolster are good, they are spaced just too far apart to offer proper support. Interior room is really world class. I’m yet to see any other international sedans on the market with the same amount of room as a Commodore. With abnormally sized feet and arms, I always have the driver’s seat almost all the way back. This means no leg room for rear passengers. It’s a totally different story in the Clubsport though. Rear seat passengers still have acres of room with which to play and bucket seats also mean plenty of head room. It’s really hard to fault the Commodore’s ability to move people, quite quickly too in the Clubsport’s case! So, what are we working with under the bonnet? It’s a 6.2-litre V8 that produces some 317kW (one upmanship on the Ford BOSS anyone?) and a stellar 550Nm. The claimed fuel efficiency figure of 14.5-litres/100km is, err, achievable, if you try. However, expect north of 15-litres/100km if you want to be more realistic. Fret not about the gearbox, it’s also available as a six-speed manual. That unit is far more respectable and more of a pleasure to work with, and until GM invests in some decent gearboxes, I’d steer clear of the auto brigade. What’s it worth then? You can expect to fork out $67,320 for the Clubsport R8. However, with the current economic downturn, put your haggling cap on, as there are some bargains to be had. Without a doubt, this is a performance bargain. To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing in this price range, or even within cooee, that matches the Clubsport for comfort, space, performance and looks. Yes, FPV’s GT offers a good rebuttal, but simply can’t match the Clubby’s pulling power and cornering ability. Our charity auction winners were from opposite sides of the fence in terms of their brand preference. But, they did agree that Aussies have something to be proud of in the HSV and FPV range on offer in Australia. It’s horses for courses really. Either way, there’ll be no convincing FPV fans to cross the fence and the same vice versa. Either way you look at it though, whether you sink your money into the red or the blue, you’re getting a people moving, tyre frying, head turning weapon for your hard earned cents.