The Vauxhall VXR8 is an unsophisticated sledgehammer that is engaging, entertaining and very different from the German super-coupés that it rivals
What is it?
The Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst S, the most powerful production car ever to wear a Vauxhall badge.
There’s already been a supercharged version of the VXR8, but that car was powered by the old 6.0-litre LS2 General Motors V8. The new VXR8 Bathurst S gets the latest-generation 6.2-litre LS3 version.
Power is up by 32bhp over the previous supercharged VXR8, at 564bhp. That’s 139bhp - or more than a Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi - more than the naturally aspirated version. With 547lb ft of torque, the Bathurst S is actually 21lb ft down on the old car - largely in the interests of gearbox longevity - but it’s hardly under-endowed.
Helping to put the power onto the road are stiffened, height adjustable springs, individually adjustable coil-over dampers, six-pot callipers at the front, and four-pot callipers at the rear.
What’s it like?
The VXR8 Bathurst S does not go about its business in a subtle way. The optional bi-modal exhaust system, even on its quieter 'street' setting, woofles on the over-run, and it sounds for all the world like the car is being pushed along on the edge of a thunderstorm. Every moderately enthusiastic poke of the throttle provokes an angry shriek from the supercharger that overlays the chesty V8 rumble.
Fortunately the VXR8 Bathurst S has more than enough go to back up its aural fireworks. Pretty much wherever you are in the rev range - and in whatever gear - the VXR8 Bathurst lunges at the horizon. Between motorway speeds and three figures the performance is electric.
However, when the road turns twisty, the limitations of the hefty 1831kg VXR8 become apparent, despite the best efforts of the chassis tweaks. It’s surprisingly chuckable, but on bumpy roads a BMW M5 or a Mercedes C63 AMG is far more composed.
Inside, there’s nothing to tell the Bathurst apart from a VXR8, aside from a badge on the centre console. That means the dash is not the slickest, but the chairs are squishy yet supportive and there’s more than enough room for four adults. The ride is impressively pliant, too, despite our test car’s optional - and very good-looking - 20-inch alloys.
Should I buy one?
This is the sticking point. Yes, the VXR8 Bathurst S is spectacular, but you’ll get 90 per cent of the fun in a more accessible and affordable form with the naturally aspirated VXR8. But if you want the cheapest way to get more than 500bhp under the bonnet of your car, the VXR8 Bathurst S is it.