Ideally, we’d have driven the W1 on the road. But, given production doesn’t start until April and HSV isn’t even sure that there’ll be a press-test car (although there’s certainly a desire for a test-car to be made available) a handful of laps around Philip Island might be the best we’ll ever manage.
And, hey, that’s a pretty good second prize, innit? Exactly. Thing is, in any other car, a few hot laps might be less than relevant, but the W1 is so damn track-focussed to start with that any assessment without a track component would be incomplete. So, yeah, we’ll cop it sweet.
Just jumping inside the W1 is enough to let you know this is special. That diamond-stitched alcantara is el plusho and while the same stuff on a steering wheel and gear-shift knob is often asking for trouble, we don’t reckon too many greasy paws will be allowed inside a W1.
And then you give the starter button a stab and listen as that LS9 blapps into life and, again, you know you’re sitting in something well tasty. It’s definitely raspier than the LSA and way more urgent sounding and feeling. And that’s at idle.
And, man, it’s loud! Yeah, you can shut it up by about 80 per cent by selecting Tour on the drive-mode dial, but why the hell would you? Because it’s not just decibels, it’s fair dinkum brilliant.
There seems to be a bit of camminess at idle, too, although other times, you’re inclined to think that it sounds more like a fattened-up LS3 rather than an LSA with more. Either way, for a blower motor, there seems to be evidence of a fair bit of overlap and, clearly, that cam is a big part of how this thing manages to shovel out those 474kW.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking that it might be a tad soft off the bottom. Bzzt. Okay, the taller first gear is going to make matching HSV’s sub-five 0-100km/h time difficult to say the least, but the 12.1 second quarter-mile claim seems definitely achievable.
Trundling down pit-lane to hit the circuit proper, there’s no hint that first gear is taller than a stocker, really. Then again, 800 Newtons should do a pretty good job of disguising a tall first cog. But what strikes you even more is how docile the clutch is.
Okay, so the twin-plate design should make it lighter, but this thing is the complete opposite to the light-switch stuff you often wind up with in really big-power applications. And the gearshift via that stumpy little lever is way, way smoother and slick than a gearbox capable of this sort of punishment has any right to be. If ever a driveline belied its industrial-strength capacity, this is it.
The VF Commodore base-car has always been a good steerer with an intuitive feel to the way it tips in, and that hasn’t altered here. If anything, though, it’s even sharper and that altered offset geometry must be playing a part there.
Then again, the R-Spec Pirellis would be having an effect and HSV admits that the tyres are probably the bulk of that difference, helping to justify such a radical fitment for what is ostensibly a road-going car.
Which bring us to the subject of what the Pirellis will be like in the wet. Pretty terrible is our guess and HSV engineering boss Joel Stoddart admits that they’ll likely be “not as capable as a normal road tyre in the wet”. He ain’t whistling Dixie.
But in the dry, they’re a bleedin’ revelation. Combined with the monster anchors, you can go rushing deep into corners only to find you should have waited another 50 metres before bailing. You really need to recalibrate your brain to account for the fact that the grip is now a match for the braking hardware and the middle pedal is now controlling a beautiful relationship.
Same goes for cornering. The mid-corner speed of which the W1 is capable is going to leave you speechless. As you get some heat into the Trofeos, you can actually start to feel a tiny teensy bit of oversteer as you get into the apex. And it’s not just the absolute grip they provide; the feel and feedback is phenomenal, too.
Like all R-pecs, these ones need a bit of heat in them to really start working, but with a big heavy car like this one, that won’t take but a few corners. And that’s when you’ll go from slipping a bit wide of the apex if you’re not patient enough, to sometimes being too tight when you’ve underestimated the grip.
And that’s when you’ll hit the ripple-strips and discover that even though the W1 is firm beyond road cars as we know them, it’s not harsh or choppy in the way it rides. That’s surely down to those race-car spec dampers, but the way they’ve been installed in the HSV means I couldn’t get them to contribute any bump-thump into the cabin. Impressive.
Then there’s that engine. There’s enormous flexibility here, partly because of the raw numbers, but also because the shorter fifth and sixth gears (100km/h in top is now a 1900rpm proposition) keep her on the boil.
And once it’s up and making boost in first, changing gears is like tossing T-bones one after another at a Great White. Give it second. Gone. Into third. Gone. Into fourth… You get the picture.
Exactly what the W1 will be like on the actual road is anybody’s guess. But awesome is our suspicion. Oh yeah, it’ll be super-firm and the tyres will be crapola in the wet and it’ll drink ULP like crazy if you drive it properly. But you will be the absolute king of the road.
And you will almost certainly be driving the best thing with four wheels this country ever produced. A-hundred-and-seventy-grand is starting to sound cheap.
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger
Power: 474kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 815Nm @ 3900rpm
0-100km/h: 4.0sec (estimated)