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?
It’s the Vauxhall VXR8, largely as we’ve always known it but now sporting GM’s new LS3 engine instead of the old LS2 unit. That means an increase from 6.0 to 6.2 litres, a modest power gain (411bhp to 425bhp) and, er, not a great deal else.
Oh, you get an oil cooler if you choose automatic transmission (shame on you), you can now order it in white and with 20in wheels, and they’ve made major revisions to the interior… well, they’ve changed the oil temperature gauge; everything else is unchanged.
What’s it like?
You will not be surprised to learn that the latest Clubsport R8 (as it’s known Down Under) is remarkably similar to the old one. Its power delivery feels slightly smoother, particularly between 3000rpm and 5500rpm, where its revs are delivered a little more freely than before.
But its performance is not even a modest step up from the old car; 14bhp doesn’t count for that much in something weighing over 1800kg, after all.
The chassis is ‘as you were’, so the big Vauxhall has debatable levels of traction (especially in the wet) and surprising amounts of lateral grip. When the rear end does break away mid-corner, it does so in a relatively progressive manner. Think of it as a friendly grizzly bear; damned entertaining, but always capable of tearing you to pieces.
At least you’ll be comfortable until it does, because the VXR8’s interior – one of its real assets – is as good as ever. Yes, fit and finish aren’t up to BMW or Merc standards, but there’s bags of room for four fully grown adults and their luggage.
Throw in a large fuel tank, well sorted damping and a decent stereo and you have a capable long-distance cruiser, providing you can live with 20mpg.
The test vehicle also had a Walkinshaw Performance V8 Supercar exhaust. It’s awesome fun for five minutes, but thereafter the 110dB noise level, over-run crackles and cabin boom just become tiresome.
We’d advise the mid-spec ‘performance exhaust’ instead, if you do want more volume over the standard model.
Should I buy one?
If you were taken with the VXR8 first time round then there’s nothing to diminish that affection here. Equally, though, the LS3 does not make the VXR8 any more of a genuine challenger to AMG or M division.
It’s a £35k oddball – but if you can get over the idea of spending that amount of money on a Vauxhall, then it’s a charming, good-value option.