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Lumina Club Sport for SA?

2010-05-18 07:25

The CSV Club Sport R8 - looks like an Australian V8 Touring car refugee and goes like one too.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Model CSV ClubSport R8
Engine 6.2l V8
Power 317kW @ 6 000r/min
Torque 550Nm @ 4 400r/min
Transmission Six-speed (auto/manual)
Fuel Tank 73l
ABS Yes, with EBD
Tyres F: 245/40 R19, R: 275/35 R19
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Multi-Link

Lance Branquinho

The Chevrolet Lumina is an inarguable performance bargain. For under R500 000 you get BMW 335i pace with 5 Series (actually it’s bigger inside) space.

Although the Lumina SS’s eye-popping surface colours at times leave something to be desired, its value and appeal to local buyers shopping on a strict performance-per-Rand basis is unequalled.

There are some peripheral issues though. Firstly, the Lumina SS’s clean yet unimaginative styling is a little on the subtle side – especially when finished in primary colours instead of the range’s signature lurid metallics.

Secondly there’s the engine. It’s a properly big V8 boasting 6l of swept capacity and although 270kW and 530Nm are hardly outputs to be ashamed of, you know the design is not overly burdened.

If only there was a Lumina SS which was a touch sharper dynamically and looked a little madder. Ostensibly then, if only there was a Lumina SS club sport…

Well, there is – and as part of GM’s drive to re-familiarise local media with the company’s range of products, the presence of a few CSV Club Sport R8s was meant to leave the assembled journalists in no doubt as to the potential of bowtie muscle.

The Lumina SS Club Sport (full name – CSV Club Sport R8) is of course a product of esteemed Australian performance consultancy HSV – the joint-venture tuning arm of Tom Walkinshaw’s racecar preparation concern and GM’s Holden brand.

HSV’s been doing business for a little over two decades and in that time it has delivered 60 000 very rapid Holden products to customers in Australian and New Zealand courtesy of its 70 strong dealer network. It’s not your average aftermarket exhaust and chipping shop then…

How's that for a rear bumper moulding and exhaust set-up? Upgraded brakes hide behind the stylish 19-inch alloys.

Styled like a Bathurst racer

As a styling exercise the Club Sport R8 looks exactly as HSV intended – like an Australian V8 touring car track refugee.

Whereas the Lumina SS could be mistaken for a contemporary Opel Rekord, the Club Sport R8’s dual scoop front bumper air intakes, bonnet power bulge with split ducts, side sills and bootlid spoiler brook no argument to its performance car intensions.

Despite my reservations concerning the rather long LED strips residing in the middle of the front bumper; the Club Sport R8’s styling works quite well. It’s hardly subtle, yet it doesn’t come off as silly either.  

What the HSV does to shore up the CSV Club Sport R8’s performance is quite simple: instead of the 6l SS V8 it’s powered by a Corvette engine.

Chevrolet’s 6.2l LS3 generation 4 engine swells the Club Sport R8’s outputs by 47kW and 20Nm. Although the improvement in rotational force (20Nm) is almost negligible, the Club Sport R8’s power peak broaches the psychological 300kW, settling at a neat 317kW at an engine speed of 6 000r/min.

Don’t for a moment think the Club Sport V8 is a dynamically asymmetrical Lumina SS with more power and little else. HSV’s engineers have ensured an entire suite of mechanical features to harness the Corvette engine’s performance.

Corvette sourced 6.2l V8 produces 317kW at 6 000r/min and 550Nm at 4 400r/min. Runs 0-100km/h in under five seconds, tops out the naughty side of 250km/h.

Traction, action, satisfaction

In terms of drive two- and three-pedal transmissions are available (both with six-speeds and limited-slip torque distribution at the rear axle), the manual derivative sporting launch control.

Suspension remains independent at all four wheel corners (like the Lumina SS), yet both the front McPherson struts and rear multi-links benefit from revised damper settings to counter nose lift under severe acceleration and dive under braking.

Despite the Club Sport V8’s ruffian image it does boast a full array of ABS modulated dynamic driving aids. These include brake force distribution and a three mode stability and traction control system.

The stability control sportingly features an intermediate competition setting for Club Sport R8 owners wishing to exploit the powersliding ability of the aft-axle limited-slip differential, yet are still cognisant of the how quickly 317kW can ruin your no-claim insurance bonus.

Track certified

Despite inclement Cape weather, GM still allowed the local motoring press corps loose around the circuit in the 'evaluation' CSV R8s.

The Killarney circuit, with its three long straights each clipping into a tight corner, is quite unforgiving of large performance sedans. The CSV Club Sport R8 showed off its competition billing and HSV heritage by proving commensurate to each surface, camber and direction challenge the Cape circuit offered.

Naturally the Club Sport R8 doesn’t feel fundamentally different to the Lumina SS – just quicker. It’s keener in all the critical dynamic areas - more stable under severe deceleration and tidier when winding off the lock out of corners under power, despite the additional 47kW worth of verve.

Undoubtedly the best part of the Club Sport R8’s performance cocktail is its Corvette acoustic signature. It might only have 16 valves, actuated by a single-camshaft, yet the Club Sport R8’s V8 engine finds a perfect pitch (resonant and booming, yet never strained) without having to resort to fancy throttle flap exhaust plumbing overkill.

M5 pace for 3 Series money?

So what’s the deal with the CSV Club Sport R8? Well, GM has a few cars in the country for evaluation purposes only, which is a very euphemistic way of saying they’re dead keen to sell the CSV Club Sporty R8 locally.

I think GM would extremely foolish to not bring the HSV fettled top-of-the-line Lumina in to bolster the brand’s local performance car portfolio.

The CSV Club Sport R8 looks dramatic, strikes a fine dynamic balance and if pricing stays under R700 00, well, you can’t go faster (in similar comfort) for less. Australian driving conditions (severe heat, endurance distances, micron-fine dust) mean the CSV Club Sport R8 is perfectly tailored to South African conditions too.

What can you do to make it happen? Well, hassle your local dealer enough and perhaps the knock-on effect will make GM’s product planning department see a business case for bringing the CSV Club Sport R8 over in an official capacity.

I never though I would say this, but the CSV Club Sport R8 deputises as a perfect contemporary incarnation of the E39 M5 - and there is scant praise higher...

Is the CSV Club Sport R8 the poor man's M5? Share your thoughts here...


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