As good as it gets

Published: 08 February 2002
HSV.

Pictured: HSV.

Holden Special Vehicles' luxurious SV300 puts all the best in one high-performance, razor-sharp package AUSTRALIA'S army of muscle cars has never been stronger. The V8-powered brutes just keep getting better and better as Holden and Ford keep pushing closer to the front line traditionally occupied by the European supercars. Holden Special Vehicles has grown to become Australia's fifth carmaker. It produced more than 3300 Commodore-based cars last year -- an amazing 24 per cent more than its previous best in 2000. Its popularity has stunned the opposition and looks set to continue with the introduction of its Monaro-based Coupe twins this year and the next limited batch of its high-performance flagship GTS sedan. And several exclusive limited-edition HSV cars -- the latest of which is the SV300 -- have elevated the company's profile even higher.

The car is only the fourth in HSV's 13 years to carry the SV nameplate. It gets its name from its 300kW V8 engine -- the first time this powerplant has been offered in anything other than HSV's GTS. As with the GTS, HSV will build only 100 SV300s, which come only with six-speed manual gearboxes and cost $94,950. The car basically blends the best attributes of the high-performance GTS and the luxurious Senator.

It gets the 300kW engine and premium braking packages from the GTS and some of Senator's top-end creature features.

The engine has been tweaked by US-based tuner Reeves Callaway to get the extra 45kW of power over the standard 5.7-litre HSV Gen III V8. Its peak power of 300kW comes in at 6000 revs; maximum torque of 510Nm arrives at 4800 revs.

HSV claims the SV300 will match the GTS in a sprint to the speed limit, and has a 0-100km/h time of only 5.1 seconds. To deliver all that power and keep the car stable, all HSV cars have significantly upgraded suspension packages. The SV300's mid-range sports-suspension system has upgraded springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, and the razor-sharp Performance Suspension pack is an option. The Premium Brake package includes racing-style, cross-drilled and ventilated discs with four-piston calipers on all four wheels and an anti-skid system.

The SV300 is easily identifiable -- the front bumper has the Senator's egg-crate air-intake and the Clubsport's non-chromed, twin-nostril upper intake. At the back it has the Clubsport's raised rear wing. It also comes with 18-inch ``chrome silver'' nine-spoke alloy wheels, SV300 badges and is available in Phantom Black, HSV Racing Green and Hackett Gold. Inside, the sports seats are trimmed in anthracite leather with mustard highlights and SV300 logos in the backrest. The steering wheel, door trim and gearlever all get the contrasting treatment. Standard are auto aircon, cruise control, full electrics and premium CD sound system with a 10-disc stacker. It has twin front and side airbags, traction control and anti-skid brakes.

On the road THE SV300 must be close to the best-possible Commodore. It's great to drive, luxurious and cosseting, and a real head-turner.

It has almost the same impact as the two-door Monaro, which is easily the hottest thing on our roads today, so HSV gets a big tick for its latest body work and wheels.

The SV300 is the ideal way to get a limited-edition Commodore with the lot. It will rumble around town without fuss, thanks to an even idle and no driveline snatch.

But plunge into the long-travel throttle and things get more urgent. For us it was fun just to let the car's torque do the real work. You can cover ground at great pace and grace by shifting up and letting the engine lope along without stress. The gear-higher approach also improves fuel economy, though 15.9 litres/100km was nothing special during our test. When you do give it everything, you need to plan well ahead -- corners arrive very quickly.

We actually had the best fun with the SV300 running it to the edge at Holden's Lang Lang proving ground. It's obvious the suspension is tuned to work with the drive. The on-the-limit response is usually a dogged front-end push, though it's still going very quick. Mind you, we wouldn't want the car to go loose in the tail with the sort of weight and speed involved.

The SV300 definitely has the right brakes, with great feel and race-style stopping power.

The cabin has every luxury, though satnav and a sunroof are still optional -- with supportive leather-wrapped seats and great sound.

The SV300 definitely delivers on its promise.

HSV SV300 Price as tested: $94,950

Rating : 4/5 Stars

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