The Vauxhall VXR8 is familiar in parts and all new in others, but while it used to be a £35,000 bargain, the price has crept up to more than £50,000 for some versions, and that puts it straight in the path of the BMW M3 or Mercedes C63 AMG.
Does this diminish the ultimate Vauxhall’s appeal? Not one bit: fast saloons have always been cooler than their two-door counterparts, and with genuine room for four the VXR8 has all the makings of a cut-price BMW M5 or Audi RS4 alternative.
It’s certainly more exclusive. Vauxhall expects to sell just a handful of the VXR8 GTS saloons in the UK, and a few less of the special order VXR8 Clubsport saloon and estate, and the VXR8 Maloo pick-up.
Based on Holden’s latest VE series Commodore, the VXR8 benefits from improved weight distribution (51/49 per cent front/rear), a five-link rear suspension, a stiffer bodyshell and quicker-witted steering.
Turning the workaday Holden saloon – where even the entry model gets a 3.6 V6 – into a super-saloon falls to Holden Special Vehicles, which has upgraded the brakes, engine and suspension, and fitted aggressive bumpers and an indiscreet boot spoiler.
Vauxhall claims the first UK buyers are coming from Subaru Imprezas and Mitsubishi Evos – entirely understandable when you see the VXR8 in profile. There’s no question that it comes from the ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ school of styling.
Yet for all the talk of new-generation Commodores and multi-link suspension, the VXR8 remains a steel-bodied car powered by an engine producing just 69bhp per litre. Effective and characterful, perhaps, but hardly cutting-edge.