Sunday, June 29, 2008

HSV ClubSport LS3 V8 range

MOST of us might be reeling from record petrol prices, but soaring sales of Holden Special Vehicles suggest that Aussie muscle cars are, so far, immune to such pressure. As many brands down-size, HSV is going the other way and increasing the size of its engines from 6.0 litres to 6.2 litres. The new engine is called the LS3 and it replaces the LS2 on all V8 HSVs including Maloo and ClubSport, GTS, Senator and Grange. This is a different family of engines to the Gen IV than runs in Holden models and is more performance orientated. The new HSV engine lifts power by 10kW to 317kW, but the torque is capped at 550Nm in order to protect the gearbox and rear differential. Some revisions have been made to the automatic gearbox, which now has a new, larger, oil-cooler and new mapping. Other than that, and the availability of 20-inch rims across the range and some new colours, there is little else different.
You can also pick a gear, any gear, and the LS3 will just pull away. It proves, to an extent, that "there is no replacement for displacement".

GoAuto tested the LS3 at the national launch just out of Perth. It was enough for a light sample of the cars, but the limited kilometers and the open nature of the roads meant we were unable to truly test the engine's capability.

The only place you can really do that is on a racetrack, but a road with lots of tight corners and opportunities for acceleration would also allow you to comprehensively explore the engine's wide powerband.

The LS3 delivers a wonderful growl at all points of the rev range, which builds to a menacing howl from around 4000 revs onwards.

In the long-wheelbase Grange, the exhaust is a little more sedate, but all of the cars are loud and gruff, both when running at low engine speed or when pushed hard.

The LS3 is quite lumpy at idle. This is either good or bad depending on what you want from your prestige muscle car. Sitting at the lights, you can feel the big V8 wobble and shake the whole car.

This issue is largely due to a more aggressive camshaft profile and the lowering the idle from 800rpm to 650rpm to save fuel.

Some performance car fans won't mind, in fact a lot like it and feel that such a trait is part and parcel of big and brawny eight-cylinder machine.

Others, especially those who are looking at the more luxurious Senator or Grange might, not appreciate the 'hippy-hippy shake' a characteristic that would never be tolerated in a German luxury vehicle that HSV says are its competitors.

The manual gearbox is quite good given the power and torque characteristics of the cars. Its clutch is relatively light compared to the hefty pedal of the past and the gears are easy to select.

The automatic transmission has been improved and it is a reasonably good gearbox. It changes are not shorter and the gearbox can be more intuitive than before when put into sport mode.

Still, customers will compare this gearbox to the ZF six-speed available in the potent Ford models, which shows-up the HSV box. The HSV auto does not change gears as smoothly or as quickly as the ZF and is also not as intuitive.

For example, in some cases when you press the throttle considerably hard, the HSV transmission will drop down a gear, pause and then shift down another. In the same conditions, you would expect the ZF to judge the throttle input and simply drop down two gears.


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