What is it?
When petrol prices went up a couple of years ago and the global financial crisis was still in its early stages, what did Australians do? They bought more V8s than ever before.
That’s how the performance division of General Motors’ Australian outpost, Holden Special Vehicles, has been able to afford all this lot.
While the basic Commodore saloon has remained relatively untouched for the past three years, the gents at HSV have been spending like crazy.
The GTS (named after a famous Bathurst-winning Monaro from the 1960s) is the meaner brother of the Vauxhall VXR8 that Australians call a Clubsport.
It’s a strong chance to head to the UK some time next year to sell as a premium model alongside the VXR8, just as it does in Australia, although Vauxhall and HSV won’t confirm this.
What’s it like?
The GTS carries over the same 6.2-litre V8 as before but it’s had a tweak. Its slight power increase to 436bhp from the VXR8’s 425bhp doesn’t sound like much, but you can feel the extra urge between 4000rpm and 6000rpm thanks to an exhaust with fewer bends in it and a computer recalibration. Torque is unchanged.
The new HSV range also gets launch control (and a heavier-duty clutch to match) as well as stability control with competition mode for track days. Don’t worry, for the truly brave, there’s still an off button.
To make sure there’s no mistaking the updated model, HSV went for the biggest facelift in the company’s history, with a little help from some friends. The bonnet from the defunct Pontiac G8 export version of the Commodore now has a new home. And new, sharply-styled front and rear bumpers aim to attract plenty of attention, as do the Audi-style daytime running lamps (a first for an Australian-made car, incidentally).
The new AMG-style tailpipe tips are attached to mufflers that, at long last, make plenty of noise. It’s quiet when you want it to be (such as when you’re passing a government drive-by noise test), and glorious the rest of the time.
The most impressive aspects of the GTS are the bigger brakes and the wider front track (thanks to wider front wheels that change the offset). The GTS handles corners (and the car’s considerable weight) with much more precision than before.
And when you’re done playing on bends, the optional bright yellow (a nod to Ferrari and Porsche) six-piston calipers clamping 380mm front discs risk putting you into the windscreen like a bug.
Should I buy one?
Vauxhall is eager to bring this car to the UK, but has to shift its stock of pre-facelift VXRs first. That could take up to a year, but if you are happy to wait and and you can stretch to the estimated £40k price tag, then you may have the widest smile on the roads.