Traction packed exhilaration

Published: 16 October 2003

Pictured: HSV.

HSV has developed a tremendous reputation for unveiling stunning concept cars at the Sydney International Motor Show – vehicles that push the extreme boundary of the performance scale but that also showcase exciting new real-world technical directions for Australia’s pre-eminent performance vehicle maker. And the recipe for HSV’s 2003 showstopper is no exception!

Take a generous helping of HSV’s high output V8 performance and blend it with the awesome traction provided by a sophisticated, low ride height all-wheel drive platform, then wrap the mixture in a gorgeous two door body and add luxury trimmings. The result is a devastatingly quick and capable point-to-point GT coupe of world-class proportions – the HSV Coupé 4.

As Australia’s first all-wheel drive coupe, this virtually production ready model adds an entirely new facet to HSV’s performance vehicle range and is another bold step forward in the company’s evolution. Indeed, Coupé 4 is more than just a concept car – it’s a fully approved HSV model program that is already signed off for production to start in June 2004.

Despite sharing much of its DNA with the Cross Trac system, the Coupé 4’s Quad Drive all-wheel drive platform is unique. Factors such as the reduced ride height and on road performance application (versus Avalanche’s all-roads role) set some major engineering challenges for the HSV team.

Simply lowering the ride height brought undesirable changes to suspension geometry, such as camber, and the increased track width of 30mm each side caused the wheels to foul the standard Coupé guards. As a result, a variety of components were developed exclusively for this application, including a new steering knuckle, front lower control arms, rear semi-trailing arms and a complete wiring harness.

Providing additional clearance for the wheels and tyres necessitated modifications to the sheet metal of the rear quarter panels and front guards. A portion of each is removed using a plasma cutter before a specially developed HSV tool is used to roll the edges outwards for extra strength and to support the guard extensions.

To ensure that major modifications such as these remain cost effective in a low volume car it’s essential that Coupé 4 flows seamlessly into the production schedule at Holden’s Elizabeth assembly plant. Achieving this has resulted in an unprecedented level of co-operation between HSV, and Holden’s Elizabeth plant.

From Holden’s assembly line the Coupé 4 ‘body-in-white’ will be moved to a special HSV body modification facility within the Elizabeth plant where the unique changes will be made. It then returns to the line to complete the normal rust proofing, painting and general assembly procedure. After transportation to HSV’s Clayton plant each Coupé 4 will be hand finished in separate HRT-style workshop bays manned by dedicated staff.

In fact, Coupé 4 styling differs even from its two-wheel drive Coupé sister. Incorporated into the totally unique body styling package is a specific grille with prominent HSV badge linking into a new front facia sporting a Senator-style appearance. The subtle and superbly integrated wheel arch extensions blend smoothly with distinctive side skirts and the rear facia boasting mesh highlights. The integrated overall appearance is seen as very much Euro-chic with a dash of HSV’s traditional aggression.

Also included within the Coupe’s unique front fascia as standard are HSV’s Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) driving lamps.

Space was made available for the final touch, a quartet of big bore exhaust outlets (two on each side), by switching to a Pontiac GTO spec fuel tank located behind the rear seat. For production the concept car’s polished GTS-style 19-inch wheels will make way for newly designed 19-inch wheels. The concept car also features an optional HSV sunroof. The exterior colour palette was chosen to emphasize the sophisticated styling – Phantom Black, Quick Silver, and Sting Red.

Interior trim continues the sophisticated luxury theme with a selection of unique plush trim materials including a choice of two leather treatments in Anthracite or Ochre.

Standard powerplant for Coupé 4 is the HSV enhanced 5.7litre LS1 V8 matched to a specifically calibrated automatic transmission to ensure smooth shift quality. Exhaust packaging constraints, due to the Quad Drive system, mean that maximum power peaks at 270kW @ 5700rpm and torque at 475Nm @ 4000rpm.

The ability to direct that power to all four wheels virtually places Coupé 4 in a class of its own. Indeed, driving HSV’s new all-wheel drive two door requires a recalibration of the mind in comparison to traditional two-wheel drive high performance V8 vehicles. Such is the level of traction available in virtually any road conditions that all of the engines output can be used more often.

“Performance is not just about outright kilowatts,” says Phil Harding, HSV Director of Engineering. “It’s about getting the available power to the ground and the Quad Drive system just opens up new avenues of opportunity.”

“The driver of a Coupé 4 will be able to have his foot down earlier and harder through a given corner than he would in a two-wheel drive car. Therefore, point-to-point it has the potential to be a quicker car. I know for a fact that this is the quickest HSV we’ve ever had around Holden’s Lang Lang ride and handling circuit.”

However, the merits of Quad Drive aren’t just in handling. HSV has recorded a 0 to 100kph time of 6.3 seconds – on gravel!

A handy by-product of the Quad Drive system is longer suspension travel (compared with two-wheel drive Coupé) – a factor that gave HSV chassis engineers extra tolerance to tune out undesirable characteristics, such as impact harshness, when calibrating the suspension settings. Given its prodigious cornering ability, Coupé 4 offers a ride quality that’s impressively flat and supple with a Senator-style luxury/sports feel.

Rounding out the outstanding dynamic package is an HSV Performance Brake system incorporating larger 336mm front rotors supplied by AP Racing.

Coupé 4 buyers can further enhance their vehicle with a range of HSV options – an integrated HSV Tyre Pressure Monitoring system (allowing the driver to dynamically monitor tyre pressure and temperature and to receive a warning should pressures drop), satellite navigation and sunroof.

The unveiling of Coupé 4 not only enters HSV into a new and unique performance vehicle category it also exposes the brand to a whole new segment of the buying public, says Chris Payne.

“Coupé 4 will definitely appeal to traditional buyers of European-style premium cars and as such it’s likely to attract many first time buyers to sample the HSV brand. With the sophisticated luxury performance package this car offers they won’t be disappointed.”

Export potential is also on the agenda for Coupé 4. Its remarkable talents are seen as a perfect fit for markets such as the United Kingdom and the Middle East.

Recommended retail price for Coupé 4 will be confirmed closer to the start of production timing, but will be below $95,000.

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