Matt Saunders
26 February 2011

What is it?

Vauxhall’s Oz-born super-saloon, the VXR8. This 425bhp brute is being reintroduced to UK showrooms after an eighteen-month absence, and suddenly has it all to prove. Not just because this latest version of the rebadged ‘HSV’ Holden is billed as the fastest and most focussed VXR8 yet, but because it’s now got a proper price tag to match.

When this magazine road-tested Vauxhall’s first officially imported Holden back in 2004, the 5.7-litre 329bhp Monaro, it cost a seriously tempting £28,600. At the time it delivered two additional cylinders, and had fifty horsepower more, than pretty much any other performance car for the money.

Watch the video of the VXR8 put to the test

When the Monaro’s UK successor, the original 411bhp VXR8 saloon, came to the UK in 2007, Vauxhall’s price had gone up to a more considerable £35,105. The car still seemed compelling value.

But today, when a British pound buys you about 40 per cent less in Australian dollars than you got at the end of 2008, Vauxhall is asking fully £49,500 for the new range-topping, 425bhp VXR8 GTS. Which, we need hardly point out, looks dangerously close to what Mercedes charges for a 451bhp C63 AMG, let alone what BMW asks for its ever-popular M3.

This plucky Aussie import, it would seem, has had the rug pulled out from under its feet by the plunging value of the pound. Still, Vauxhall isn’t about to let it go down without a fight.

What’s it like?

This new VXR8 is based on Holden Special Vehicles’ ES GTS Commodore; the outgoing one, which you’ll still be able to buy in updated form for £45,000, was the more lowly ‘HSV’ Clubsport R8 in Vauxhall garb.

So this time around, in return for your fifty large, Luton will supply you with a VXR8 with full leather upholstery, a proper ‘HSV’ interior, bigger brakes (at 365mm up front, the biggest discs ever fitted to a production Vauxhall), a mechanical limited slip diff, a more focussed chassis featuring active magnetic ride control dampers and launch control. Our test car also came with a six-speed automatic gearbox, pushing its price beyond the £50k barrier.

With that tauter chassis, the new VXR8 GTS is certainly a more focussed, controlled car to drive quickly. The dampers continually adjust very effectively to rein in body movement, although they don’t dial it out completely. And they have two switchable control settings: ‘performance’ and ‘track’.

Even in the former of the two settings, there’s much less pitch and roll in the VXR8 GTS, when you really begin to deploy that considerable power on a cross-country road, than you would have found in the old model. Better grip, traction and steering precision too. In circumstances where the old car would have been a willing if slightly ragged entertainer, the new one’s got poise and purchase to spare, as well as power. And ‘track’ mode adds even greater damper control, bringing the car’s reserves almost up to BMW M5 level; but it also causes the VXR8 to crash a little through sharper-edged dips.

That 6.2-litre V8 is at once smooth and vocal. It’s got every bit as much aural interest-value as an AMG or M-Division lump, even though, measured by the high standards set by the very latest European performance engines, it lacks both a wicked-strength, force-fed mid-range and a banshee-like top-end.

The best news, however, is that the VXR8’s benign and wonderfully entertaining dynamic character is still here to be enjoyed – even in GTS form. The VXR8’s relatively long-travel suspension combines with its neutral chassis balance and well-weighted steering and allows you to take liberties with this car that you’d rarely contemplate in other cars of the size. In both automatic and manual forms the VXR8 is instantly throttle-steerable in 2nd and 3rd gear bends, and seldom fails to serve up wonderful driver engagement, as well as added speed and composure, from apex to apex.

By comparison to other fast rear-drivers, the VXR8 remains an armchair of a sports saloon: it’s comfortable and flattering, and yet game and responsive at the same time.

Should I buy one?

As fast, poised and entertaining as the new VXR8 GTS is, here we come back to the same stumbling block that we started on. Much as you love the way it drives, this is never a £50,000 car. It’s good: a more purposeful driver’s car, sure, as well as a slightly more expensive-feeling way to travel. And it’s as hilarious as ever on a quiet hairpin bend.

But it’s not significantly better than the £35k VXR8 of four years ago. And it’s not quite fast enough, special enough or sufficiently well-appointed to tempt people away from the German performance options.

You suspect Vauxhall knows that much, which is why Luton’s expecting to sell just twenty-five new VXR8s every year, exclusively to dyed-in-the-wool Holden enthusiasts. Thanks to the dollar-pound exchange rate, a car that was once a sensationally good buy in the UK has become a bit-part player.

With the financial climate being as it is, however, we should celebrate the fact that Vauxhall is offering the VXR8 at all; that a handful of people every year will get to take delivery of a car with such a uniquely engaging character. Pricey it may be, but this is still a fantastic and fast alternative.

 

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS auto

Price: £51,200; Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 4.9sec; Economy: 20.6mpg; Co2: 324g/km; Kerbweight: 1831kg; Engine type, cc: V8, 6162cc, normally aspirated, petrol; Installation: Front, longitudinal, rear-wheel drivel; Power: 425bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 406lb ft at 4600rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
17

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

I'm glad to see that the new suspension system has engineers out some of the problems I felt previous models of this car have had.

Still looks fantastic fun and I would imagine a much more analogue feeling that it's rivals from both BMW and Merc.

However, I don't care what the pricing is but the styling has definitely lost the plot this time! I know it's an over used cliché but it really does look like a car that has been driven in to Halfords window!

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

Good to see a proper muscle car back on the UK market, one for the truly brave.

As for the depreciation I've always believed that a chap pays for his pleasures.

Good luck anyway Vauxhall thanks for the opportunity to buy this great machine

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

Hey Teg...what was the old one like? I love cars like this but notbat £50k. I therefore wonder if an older one might be worth a go?

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

would make a great getaway car after a bank robbery. Plenty of room for crusher and his mates and a nice big boot for the loot.

 

 

 

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

I am delighted this is coming , but have to agree about the styling add ons that the HSV gets.

But its the price that will put most off. Perhaps now would be a good time for Vauxhall to bring over a lower priced Holden as well the HSV model as they did with the Monaro.

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

The Vauxhall is an XF/E-Class/5-Series rival and with their 400bhp(ish) variants costing about the same in terms of their standard OTR prices, it could be seen as an extremely leftfield choice to go for the VXR, no matter how good it is. At that price the badge will always be a priority for many punters (even if the Jag/Merc/Bimmer may actually be the better cars overall).

Mind you GM could always decide to build the Commodore in Europe and re-enter the exec market as a Vauxhall/Opel or even a Chevrolet. But would the inevitably lower prices be enough to tempt buyers from the premium marques, which were the reasons for the demise of the likes of the Omega, Scorpio, Rover 800 etc?

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

Edging ever closer to BMW money, best wait a couple of years and search out a bargain.

Peter Cavellini.

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

Rod Pinhandle wrote:
Hey Teg...what was the old one like? I love cars like this but notbat £50k. I therefore wonder if an older one might be worth a go?

I owned an actual HSV VT Series but have driven the VXR8. I also realise my opinions of cars handling can be a little askew to everyone else's as I prefer a stiffer set up!!

The HSV and VXR8 were always a little too softly sprung for my liking which made for a good ride but I felt they lost something in body control because of it. Also the steering lacked feel. The new car (from the report) does seem to address this somewhat but I will have to get a steer in one to find out for myself.

They were always stupendously fun cars (sideways doesn't begin to cover it) but I personally got frustrated with the fact you never felt like you could stretch them properly in this country on the roads, but was too soft for track work.

If you are even remotely interested in owning one then just do it. They are real characters and I wouldn't change the time I had with mine for anything.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Fal

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

TegTypeR wrote:

However, I don't care what the pricing is but the styling has definitely lost the plot this time! I know it's an over used cliché but it really does look like a car that has been driven in to Halfords window!

Peter Cavellini wrote:

Edging ever closer to BMW money, best wait a couple of years and search out a bargain.

Gentlemen, to buy the VXR8 over an M3 would be crazy. But I would not wait a couple of years for this car to depreciate. Why ?

It will still look awful and you could buy a faster, better looking version of its predecessor now; namely the Monaro VXR 500.

Until reading this article I didn't actually know that the pound's value had fallen so badly against the Aus$. Double shame.

Edit: Someone had one for sale on Pistonheads:http://pistonheads.co.uk/sales/2258700.htm.

A bit over done but all the bits are there and it still looks better than this 'new' car

Re: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS

3 years 35 weeks ago

i dont think the cost of this car will cause too much of a problem to the person who buys it! it will be bought by die hard Holden/Vauxhall/GM fans and yes they wont sell many and this is why i would much rather have one over a merc c63 or a bmw m3 but then i'm a Vauxhall/Holden fan and for that reason i would have one and explains my point above!

Please register or login to post a comment.

Our Verdict

The Vauxhall VXR8 is an unsophisticated sledgehammer that is engaging, entertaining and very different from the German super-coupés that it rivals

Driven this week