by Samantha Stevens - 08/02/13
As its rather lofty title suggests, the Senator Signature is high-end HSV fare. While the Grange still tops the range, its longer wheelbase makes it the limo of the family, where the Senator can boast the title of exec-express.
So the Senator is, if you like, the ‘suit’ of the clan, adding some more subtle styling to the largely lairy HSV range.
Like the rest of the E3 range, the Senator runs the family LS3 V8 engine, which displaces 6.2 litres and develops 325kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm at 4600rpm.
It needs premium 98RON fuel to do so, though will take 95RON at the expense of a few watts, and claims to drink 13.5L/100km in manual guise or 0.2L more through the automatic.
The transmission itself is optional; either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto with sportshift. Unsurprisingly, the auto is the popular – and default – option.
The Senator is also available with the LPI-LPG system, which costs an additional $5,990.
The Signature’s cabin is easily the most pleasant of the HSV range. The dark leather trim bolsters the big sports seats, and every edge features double stitching.
The headrests are stamped with the HSV insignia, but the execution manages to look almost subtle. An optional “Light Urban” leather trim lifts the standard black interior with full old-school two-tone seat paneling, or Turismo Rosso red makes a bold if slightly OTT statement.
Both the driver’s and front passenger’s seat are electric with eight-way adjustment, however the lumbar adjustment is still manual.
The Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) multi-function touch-screen features tyre pressure monitoring, stereo controls with hard-drive and Sat-Nav as standard, while the reversing camera is linked with front as well as rear sensors.
Other standard features include dual-zone climate control, alloy pedals and go-fast gauges, and a flip-out roof-mounted DVD player for the second row.
A 20-inch speed-limited space saver spare tyre is a $199 option, and an infrared blind spot sensor system will set you back $1990.
The Senator is slightly less lairy than its sporty GTS sibling, but it’s no soft-sided slouch either.
The aggressive body styling is enhanced by standard 20-inch rims and low-profile rubber, which cover big four-pot brakes all round and is suspended by magnetic ride dampers and lowered springs.
Six-piston front stoppers with all four calipers coated in bright yellow paint are a $3790 option, and the only other expensive box-tick of note is a sunroof at $1990.
The Senator is quite the civilised blunt-force brute. With 325kW on tap, it’s easy for the rear tyres to be overwhelmed; the three-stage traction control, which includes a Competition mode as well as a launch control, is a subtle helper in the dry and almost a necessity in the wet.
However, it is best driven as a GT car should; cruising, with the ability and agility to leave any baulking traffic in its wake.
The added luxuries make for a heavy kerb weight – about 1847kg - but is suspended admirably by the MRC dampers and springs, propping it up in the corners with little yaw and good feel, yet absorbing most of the bad surface bumps in such a way, it’s hard to believe it rides on 20-inch rims.
However, the ‘sports’ suspension tune and skinny 245/35 rubber can only do so much to cushion larger imperfections, and the compromise for grip shows through on larger corrugations and dips – though it’s not unsettling.
The driver interface (EDI), which lets one access performance data such as G-forces, power and torque, and lap-times is nifty timewaster for the tech-lovers, even if most people who buy this particular variant will likely never visit the track. Most will use it to keep track of their fuel economy - or lack thereof if the Senator used for fun and not frugality.
At this price, you’re crossing into German territory, with the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series Beemer easily in the same sphere. They can’t touch the HSVs on second-row room or boot space, but are more efficient and have an arguably classier design inside and out.
All that power comes at the expense of fuel, of course, with a fairly high consumption rate and CO2 emissions of 320g/km producing only a three-star green rating.
Bi-Xenon headlights and typical luxo features such as seat heaters are strangely not available on the Senator.
And it’s only $2K to step up to the GTS and the Grange, which is a small price to pay for either sharper performance or even more room to move.
A stately big-blocked banger with tonnes of room, kit and grunt.
The German three have a different air of brand cache of course, and all three are litres better in fuel efficiency, have a more refined interior, and arguably better exterior design. However, none in the same price range can offer the same power and torque, nor do they offer the aforementioned capacious cabin and boot. And when the options are added, or when it’s time for servicing, the hit to the wallet is much harder.
The HSV shopper probably would never consider the Ford Falcon, and would shy away from a turbo sixdespite the G6E offering amazing engine performance and similar levels of spec.
Nor would they necessarily look to Britain or Sweden. Both Jaguar and Volvo offer some amazing metal in this bracket, albeit with nowhere near the brute horsepower of the LS3 (and the Jag at this price is a diesel).
However, they may consider the Chrysler 300C SRT8. With 347kW and 631Nm, it certainly has enough for the horsepower freaks, and its value equation is hard to argue at $66,000.
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