Let’s be honest, an HSV Senator isn’t going to threaten tuned-up Golf Rs or an R35 GT-R for the outright win, but the big, luxurious, five-seat, family-size rig did bloody well in tough, rain-slicked conditions.
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A sign of how easy it is to liberate power out of the 6.2-litre factory supercharged LSA V8: the bolt-on Gen-F2 HSV made 421kW at the wheels, only 29kW behind the event’s horsepower king, Hi-Torque’s R35 GT-R. And that is through a power-sapping 9L90E six-speed automatic transmission!
The Senator was third-fastest to 100km/h at 4.13sec, trailing the BWA Golf R and R35 GT-R, while a towering burnout saw Kent Dalton drop the HSV’s standing 400m time to 11.76sec and a blistering 211km/h through the traps.
This was the second-fastest time behind the GT-R, while the HSV just trailed the GT-R in the 80-120km/h bracket, 1.9sec against 1.5, proving just how fat the V8’s mid-range really is. Amazingly, it recorded the second-shortest stopping distance from 100km/h, behind the diminutive Tunehouse MX-5, at 35.4m against 33.9m.
Unfortunately it couldn’t overcome its family car roots, weight and sheer size blunting performance on the South Circuit. Tony D’Alberto stopped the clocks at 1:05.7sec to finish seventh, a mere 0.1sec behind the VCM C63 AMG.
That result confirms the HSV is neither slow nor a drags-only straight-line warrior. Still, when the rain came down as we went out to drive, I started bargaining with celestial beings so as not to end up backed into a concrete wall. I needn’t have worried because the Senator was amazingly easy to steer.
The MCA Black Series coilover struts might have a slammed stance but the car was tight and soaked up road imperfections with aplomb, without jarring or transferring every little bump through the chassis. There were no rattles, squeaks, flat-spots off-throttle or any other niggling signs that someone had taken apart a near-$100K car to play with it.
It really shows just how good a package the supercharged Gen-F2 HSVs are that they need only minor fettling to create what is a fast, reliable and comfortable machine you could almost mistake for a factory product if not for the ride height. I couldn’t even tell the black beast had an aftermarket camshaft !
My daily driver is a lightly-tuned VF1 SS-V ute, so a mildly modified late-model HSV isn’t a world away from what I am used to driving most days of the week. If I’m honest I have never wanted for power out of my little 6.0-litre, but the way the supercharged LSA V8 and Hi-Torque’s added mods deliver its power had me looking at power upgrades the very next day. The flexibility the Senator offered – from family man to tyre-frying hooligan and back in a seamless transition – was intoxicating.
While BADNWS ultimately sat seventh on the results table, that result overlooks the useability of the package on the street. Track testing is a lot of fun but in the real world this car would have to be nearly the ultimate commuter transport, perfect for clocking bulk kilometres on the trek to work, or family holidays.
This is a car you could easily lap Australia in (if you could find E85 on the Nullabor), with your whole family enjoying supreme comfort, great ride quality, good road-holding, excellent brakes, great handling and steering. Harding and the Hi-Torque boys might be known for insane street machines but this lightly-tuned Senator shows sometimes less is more.
OVERALL RANKING: 7TH
7th | Lap time: 1:05.7sec
2th | Lap V-Max: 161.04km/h
8th | Lap V-Max: 98.14km/h
5th | Lap V-Max: 51.34km/h
TONY D RECKONS
“I reckon I used about a quarter of the throttle! The power delivery is really quite smooth, there’s just a lot of it. It does turn where I need it to, but I just can’t keep the rears on it when I try to accelerate. When it’s dead straight, it’s not too bad, but any sort of lateral load with some throttle breaks the rear traction quite easily.”
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