From £43,245
Aussie super-saloon gets a 7.0-litre engine from the Corvette Z06

What is it?

If you thought the Vauxhall VXR8 was a bit special, you should see this. It’s the Holden Special Vehicles W427.

The HSV W427 has been partly built to commemorate the 20th anniversary of HSV cars (the 1988 Commodore Group A SV homologation special was the first).

But the HSV W427 has also been built because Australia’s Holden Special Vehicles, owned by Tom Walkinshaw, has been able to get its hands on some 7.0-litre Corvette Z06 engines. Holden reckons the current-generation Commodore can handle the LS3 V8’s 503bhp and 472lb ft.

The W427 (W for Walkinshaw, 427 for cubic inches) is quite a serious installation job by HSV standards.

Usually Holden’s Adelaide factory fits the powerplants on the regular line and leaves HSV’s Melbourne facility to finish the job, but here the 7.0-litre engines are delivered straight to HSV in crates from the US.

So in HSV’s plant the factory motor has to come out before the new one is fitted, along with a dry sump, new intake manifold, HSV-specific ignition mapping an active-valve exhaust.

There are some pretty serious suspension changes, too, including magnetic dampers and, by HSV’s affordable-brute standards, a serious price of around $155,000 (about £70,000, depending on the exchange rate).

What’s it like?

Anyone who’s a fan of the VXR8 (and that includes me) will love this car. At idle the valve in the active exhaust is open, so it woofles and burbles like a 7.0-litre V8 ought to. The drivetrain is slick, with a manageable clutch and a new, stronger but slicker-shifting six-speed gearbox.

And by crikey is it fast. HSV claims 0-62mph in 4.7sec, which is quick in itself, but it would probably go even faster with a quicker gearbox and more traction.

The engine is astoundingly flexible, though. This is a very torquey motor, yet it also revs cleanly out to 7000rpm, past peak power at 6500rpm. Despite the extra capacity over other HSVs it feels no more unbalanced.

Because of the extent of the changes to the suspension, the W427 feels much tighter than a regular VXR8, with sharper, more accurate steering and better-controlled damping, with no massive drop in ride quality.

There’s a ‘track’ mode to the damping, too, but it’s good enough to use even on lumpy roads. The W427 is a bit fidgety with it on, but it steers and handles with even more precision.

And of course, the W427 has a beefy limited-slip differential. So, of course, it pulls big, smokey skids to Olympic standards.

Should I buy one?

I’m afraid that, unless you live in Australia, you can’t. They’re all destined for HSV-mad enthusiasts down under. The W427 is expensive, but still significantly undercuts M5s and the like in Australia, so all 90 scheduled to be built in 2008 sold easily. Production is limited to 427 units overall.

HSV says none will come to the UK, which is a shame. But give them a call. They could probably be persuaded.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Add a comment…
joni007 5 January 2013

Re: Holden HSV W427

I Thing is cars like these mad souped-up Holdens are a) absolutely stonkingly insane fun to drive, and b) make me laugh at knobs who think cars like the M5 are the best thing since sliced sauerkraut.

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TheOmegaMan 13 December 2008

Re: Holden HSV W427

Yeah, awesome car.

I think if this was sold here it would be priced to undercut the Teutons.

It is a big pity we never got the V8 Omega that Opel were considering.

Penny9966 13 December 2008

Re: Holden HSV W427

It is such a shame that the exchange rate has not been nice to the price of this car. This car was never set to be a rival for the German 'big three' and was more a showcase of engineering; what HSV and Holden could do. In the only country were this car is being sold, price wise it is on par with an M3, C63. However, Australian petrol heads (or die hard Holden supporters) can relate this car to the local V8 Supercar Championship.

Considering that I do live Down Under, and if I had the money, I would take this over anything from Germany.