The HSV Senator Signature.
The HSV Senator Signature.

Gen-F HSV Senator road test - muscle that stays classy

SENATOR is quite an apt name for what is possibly the most refined and polite of the HSV range - when it's behaving in an acceptable manner it's well turned out, it won't really offend anyone and it gets its job done with a bare minimum of fuss and bother.

If it goes the other way - which it really shouldn't but is more than capable of - it's an utter reprobate that will annoy anyone with a shred of decency, get a hearty pat on the back from the mates and go wildly, wickedly over the edge. Then it'll re-knot its tie, straighten the jacket and pretend that nothing untoward ever happened.

The Senator is based on the Calais - Holden's swept-up exec model that will go the same way as the Commodore within the next few years. It's a pity, when you think about it, the Aussie battler finally finds a decent suit to wear and gets laid off.

But that doesn't change the fact that the Gen-F version from HSV takes it up a notch from the previous E3 model, cleans up its act a bit while learning some even nastier tricks for when nobody's looking.

Motivated by the SV-spec version of the 6.2-litre V8 - meaning a bump to a very un-PC 340kW from the "usual" 325kW and 570Nm to boot - it's certainly not lacking in power.

With quite elegant lines that don't scream "look at me, I'm a bloody great V8, mate", HSV has managed to follow Holden's lead and, like Ron Burgundy, stay classy.

The interior keeps the theme, with nicely turned out heated and electrically-controlled onyx leather seats. Most of the dash is pure GM - not necessarily a bad thing with the considerable improvements made from the VE to VF Commodores. One blemish is the dual gauges fitted just forward of the trans shifter - utterly pointless, housed in a squeaky gloss plastic surround and a smear on the Senator's good name.

The EDI, Enhanced Driver Interface, is an HSV special, giving everything from G-Force readouts, gauges, lap counters and allowing adjustment to the induction and bi-modal exhaust.

Drivers can also turn a toggle wheel forward of the central elbow rest to flick among Tour, Sport and Performance modes.

The Senator's big trick is magnetic suspension - in Tour mode, it becomes as compliant and well-behaved, soaking up the holes and hits of rural runs without breaking a sweat. A step to the right, into the Sport default setting, and things get a bit more raucous, and Performance lets it behave like the last night of a party conference, when the cameras are gone and only the truly faithful remain.

Poised and purposeful on a smooth road, Performance isn't the right setting for everyone but it's well-set for the odd bit of bad boy, sharper than you'd expect from an "execmobile".

Most Senator buyers will be more Tour, more often.

It's a comfortable car to cart clients and colleagues in, and still makes those burbly V8 noises that are increasingly hard to resist in this tiny turbo four era.

As a result, it's not exactly frugal around town, heading up more than 18.5 litres/100km when putting up with stop/start traffic, but cruising on open road saw it drop markedly, making the factory claimed 14.8L/100km combined consumption quite obtainable. HSV, thanks in part to GM's development of the VF, has lifted the $83,990 Senator's game brilliantly, and probably more than the others in the range.


Model: HSV Gen-F Senator Signature.

Engine: 6.2-litre V8 generating maximum power of 430kW @ 5900rpm and peak torque of 740Nm @ 4200rpm.

Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

Consumption: 14.8 litres/100km (combined average).

Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.4 seconds.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $83,990.