From £43,245
Increased engine capacity but still no challenger to AMG or M division

Our Verdict

Vauxhall VRX8 2011-2012
The Vauxhall VXR8 is a Holden Commodore in its native Australia, but its styling it all-Vauxhall

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.

Join the debate

Comments
10

1 August 2008

"but if you can get over the idea of spending that amount of money on a Vauxhall,"

I don't get that, why should you spend any less money on a car just because of its badge?

2 August 2008

Badge snobbery, that's why.

Would you buy a rear drive 1.8 litre Kia if it was the same price as a 3 series BMW?

Would you pay the same for Amstrad as for Sony?

Or for Hi-tec instead of Nike?

Over here (New Zealand) a BMW M5 will set you back 83,000 pounds whilst the VXR8 can be bought for less than a quarter of that, or about 18,000 pounds.

Go figure.

PAH

2 August 2008

I defence of the VXR8: Many motoring enthusiasts will NEVER be able to afford (or perhaps justify the spend on) M3's M5's or AMG's . . . but we ARE able to afford a V8 Commonwhore or V8 Vauxhall. I drive a 2003 Commodore Gen III SV8. GM is decent enough to make big power / big torque V8's available to the masses and I thank them for that! On the whole, I have very much enjoyed owning my SV8. V8 grunt is a joy Open road economy is brilliant - less than 9L / 100 kms.

Most of the Asian firms insist on selling the working class torque steering front wheel drives with their poor traction woes. If they make rear wheel drives, they charge rip-off prices for their products. Subara is a pleasant exception.

Complaints against GM's large V8 cars. For goodness sake!! GET WITH THE TIMES. Large car markets ARE SHRINKING!! Performance enthusiasts would need 400 horsepower if cars had 300 kg's less mass. Most cars seem to be adding mass in the quest to build safer cars. The massive focus on the need for economy may tip the scales back towards sanity.

The Vauxhall VXR8 has its roots in Series Production car racing that spanned from the 1960's to the late 1980's. GM in Australia very successfully raced the Holden Torana. It was a small car with a BIG engine. Two notable models were the GTR XU-1. It was powered by Holden's 3.3l straught 6 with hot cam, hot head and triple Stromberg CD carbies. It cleaned up Ford's 351 Falcon at the 500 mile Bathurst endurance race in 1972 with Peter Brock at the helm.

Bathurst is the pinacle of Australian touring car racing. Brock won the race a record nine times. In 1979, he won the race by a staggering six laps after leading from start to finish and breaking the lap record on the last lap. Brock was driving an A9X TORANA 5L V8. Again, small car with a big engine. GM - Please bring back the Torana !! http://www.a9xclub.org.au/index2.html

Will GM and Ford build smaller lighter cars? What this space??

2 August 2008

An American style muscle car from Down Under! Looks like an interesting alternative.

Since some Autocar staffers greet many larger mainstream cars with advice such as waiting till the car is a year or two old to avoid taking a hit on the depreciation, kindly allow me to offer similar advice: "Wait for year-old examples to come on the market at bargain prices and with extremely low miles on the clock, and you will save a bundle."

With fuel prices at current levels, you could bet your bottom dollar they would all be low-mileage examples. :-)

2 August 2008

I saw this car at Goodwood a few weeks back and it looked as if someone had been ragging it around the lanes in Sussex. The colour was/is a bit dull and the exhaust pipes were bent and touching the bumper. Not a loved car, which is a shame as it has possibilities.

4 August 2008

I really do love the HSV Clubsport R8 (the car's birth name before it gets put on the boat), but what does get me is the fact that this car was never really meant to rival any of the finest Germans. The R8s main rival is the Ford FPV (Ford Performance Vehicle) GT and F6 range (see the link here http://www.fpv.com.au/fpv-range/overview.aspx). To a lesser extent the R8 is also a rival for the aussie Impreza STI and Evo X. The aforementioned cars are all close to the recommended retail price of the R8 downunder, and each of the four cars have a different method of going very quickly.

Looking at the exchange rate at the moment between the £ and the $AU, the R8 is not that far off the Australian price, even in the UK. It is still, and will be for quite some time, a great way to own a full blood V8 muscle car that can seat 4 people in comfort.

7 August 2008

[quote Penny9966]what does get me is the fact that this car was never really meant to rival any of the finest Germans. The R8s main rival is the Ford FPV (Ford Performance Vehicle) GT and F6 range[/quote] Exactly - when I was visiting my relatives in NZ last year they reviewed the new HSV in the Kiwi/Aussie version of the Top Gear magazine. There was certainly no mention of competing with the M5's and AMG's or anything like that, the rivalry is purely with the Ford equivalent. It really is a different type of car.

ys

10 August 2008

The R8's main rivals are not the M5 etc, to some extent it's a rival for the STI / Evo. I would like to own a R8 unfortunately the local road tax system (I live in Singapore now) and petrol prices don't favour cars with big engine so I settled for an Evo. I have lived in Australia for 7 years and really enjoyed the performance of the V8s, especially the much improved handling over the past decade . I miss them! Now I am paying annual road tax of 500pounds for the 2-litre Evo and would have to pay more than 3000pounds for the R8 if i drove one!

10 August 2008

[quote julianphillips]There was certainly no mention of competing with the M5's and AMG's or anything like that, the rivalry is purely with the Ford equivalent. It really is a different type of car.[/quote]

Exactly. Those who need more proof visit the V8 Supercar (the Aussie Touring Car Racing) website here...http://www.v8supercar.com.au/

11 August 2008

Could this be the 'Aussie' M5:

http://www.hsv.com.au/w427/

This monster is based on the range topping HSV GTS (a top spec VXR8) and packs the 7 litre Corvette engine, giving the car just shy of 500bhp (370kw is roughly 496bhp). The price is $AU150,000, or going on today's exchange rate £70,000. I would have mine in black.

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