by Samantha Stevens - 05/12/12
The HSV R8 Tourer is the sleeper of the HSV range; the wagon body is more subdued than its sedan siblings, and the interior in base R8 trim is subtle.
However, it can get up and go like the rest of the LS3-powered range, is surprisingly neutral and balanced in its handling, and costs only $1K more than the R8 Clubsport sedan at $68,990.
The 6.2-litre eight-cylinder LS3 engine develops 325kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm at 4600rpm in its current E3 guise.
It needs premium 98RON fuel – though will take 95RON but drop a few kilowatts as a result - and sucks down 13.7L/100km claimed.
This makes it a touch less thirsty than the R8 sedan, which drinks 0.2L more. Transmissions are a widely gated Tremec six-speed manual as standard, or a six-speed auto with sportshift that costs $2000 extra.
The dark Sportwagon interior is tarted up in the Tourer with some aluminium trimmings and borders, some go-fast temp and oil gauges atop the centre stack, and the Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) multi-function touch-screen which displays car and trip info, tyre pressure monitors, a reversing camera, stereo and sat-nav.
It also has pre-loaded maps of most racetracks around Australia, and performance data such as lap times and G-forces are a nifty if somewhat naff addition in Tourer form.
The seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, and aside from the awful Saab-esque handbrake that integrates nicely with the centre console when down but catches fingers on the way, the dials and instrumentation are largely ergonomic and soft to touch.
The Tourer’s design gets in the way of rearward vision, with the long boot and closed-in C-Pillars limiting the rear view – the standard camera and parking sensors are vital.
The boot space is a little more restrictive than some mega-wagons, with an 895-litre cargo area with the seats up, or a more accommodating 2000 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Unfortunately, underneath the floor is a space saver spare; a 19-inch or the optional 20-inch full-size spares come at a price.
Otherwise, the standard fare is excellent, with a roof-mounted DVD for the second row ($1290), side blind zone alert ($1290) and two leather packs matched with either 20-inch rims ($3990) or the soft/loud bi-modal exhaust ($5990) the only big-buck options.
When it came out in mid-2008, the Sportwagon was hailed as a stylish and rather sexy alternative to the traditional Holden/Ford wagons, which until then had been a fleet-special hauler with as much sex appeal as a pack-donkey.
Cargo room certainly suffered as a result of the styling, but the design was more accommodating in other ways; more private buyers came back to the wagon bodystyle, and sales remain relatively strong.
The Tourer pushes it further with a more aggressive bodykit, bonnet scoops and the HSV family face, though the rear is thankfully left clean of ridiculous roof-mounted spoilers and fussy ducting; only tarted with some chrome strips and surrounds.
The wheels and brake package really stand out on the slab-sided wagon; it’s not every day you see a wagon with massive four-pot brakes beneath big 19-inch rims.
The performance and handling suffer no ill effects as a result of the Tourer’s big backside. If anything, it feels marginally more planted than the sedan in certain aspects of its handling; perhaps a result of fine rear suspension tweaks with load carrying in mind, along with its not insignificant kerb weight of 1887kg.
The wagon body is more aerodynamically efficient in the fuel stakes, sipping 0.2L per hundred less than the sedan despite weighing 100 kegs more.
The four-piston calipers with 365mm front discs and 350mm discs at the rear are fabulous, stopping the big wagon short every time and seemingly without fade.
However, the tighter, more technical twists see the Tourer drop back behind its sedan siblings, and even the Maloo ute, which shares a portion of its load-carrying rear suspension with the Tourer, can out-corner the heavy wagon. But this is hardly surprising - and is hardly a wagon’s strong point.
And when things get a bit too pear-shaped, the excellent ESP calibration, which was specially tuned for the Tourer, does a fine job of bringing the boot back into line.
The LS3 is a rather primitive pushrod V8, and while its noise is gloriously old-school, the pump is a painful place to be with its 13.7L/100km claimed average, which is all-too-easily exceeded.
Strangely, you cannot option the Tourer with the LPI-LPG upgrade, which costs $5,990 on the R8 sedan and is even available on the Maloo Ute ($6390). Holden/HSV claims the system cuts the fuel bill in half, along with a 15 per cent cut in emissions. Its current green rating may be three star, but 326g/km of CO2 is pretty poor in this day and age.
General Motors is soon unleashing its small-block engine, and the Holden and HSV ranges are sure to take it up in the next Commodore overhaul. This could be seen as either a bonus or a bad thing for interested Tourer shoppers, but it will still be some time before we see either engine or a new HSV.
Arguably the biggest competition for the Tourer comes from its own ranks, with Holden’s Sportwagon SS-V. At $57,290 it undercuts the Tourer by five figures, but its more conservative styling and performance bling is matched to the smaller 5.7-litre V8 with 270kW/530Nm. But it’s a Holden, not a ‘Special Vehicle’.
Ford dropped its wagon bodystyle with the introduction of the FG in May 2008. Its only big-booted hauler is now the Mondeo, which only comes with a four-cylinder petrol and turbodiesel donks.
The other heir apparents would be from the German three, but their wagon-bodied V8s add a minimum of $15K to the Tourer’s price tag.
An off-beat alternative would come from Volvo and its R-Design V-wagons, though the average HSV enthusiast would probably not venture into the Swede’s showroom very often.
The HSV Tourer offers families and load-carriers the option of wagon-bodied performance, and has proved far more palatable and popular than the previous (mis)adventures in the genre, such as the HSV Avalanche wagon (2003).
At only $1000 more than the sedan, it’s an affordable, practical and pretty stylish option for buyers with lots of baggage.
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