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 a Vauxhall VXR8 with more poke. A lot more poke. Because, as you’ll no doubt be aware, the regular Vauxhall VXR8 is pathetically shy of horses, equipped as it is with a paltry 411 of them…
Actually, although that is a lot, and as churlish as this sounds, one of the criticisms we have of the regular VXR8 is that, for all the M5-crushing hype, it’s not quite as explosively fast in a straight line as it could be. It takes nearly five and a half seconds to reach 60mph, after all. And if that doesn’t sound slow, consider that an Audi RS4 (414bhp) will do the same in a touch more than four-and-a-half.
Granted, that’s partly because on anything more than a third throttle, the VXR8’s back wheels are more inclined to smoke themselves to the canvas than transfer its 411bhp and 406lbft into forward motion. But it’s also because the VXR8 weighs 1812kg.
And, given VXR is in the business of producing Vauxhalls for nutcases, that’s not fast enough. So the VXR8 has been off to WPP (Tom Walkinshaw’s Oxfordshire performance product HQ) to have a supercharger fitted (at £6990), as well as a ‘Supercar V8’ exhaust (£1114), lowered suspension (£543) and 20-inch Chrome Shadow alloy wheels (£2938). Our test car also had sat-nav (£1500), making this a £48,190 car.
Which sounds like quite a lot for a Vauxhall. But, then, 532bhp and 568lbft is quite a lot for a Vauxhall, too.
What’s it like?
It’s like a regular VXR8, only a shed-load faster. And a shed-load louder.
First things first: we attached our VBox timing gear to the Supercharged VXR8 and, although it was damp, it still nudged 60mph in 4.8sec and 100mph in around 11sec. It feels more urgent throughout the entire rev-range, if not still perhaps not quite as urgent as an M5 does. But yes, I think you could comfortably say it’s now fast enough.
It’s still relatively good value, too, at a little over £42,000 if you just specify the Supercharger. But you’ll want the wheels too, and you may as well have the suspension modifications, because they make the Supercharged VXR8 look the business, they don’t ruin the ride, and they tie down body movements a little – although it still takes a while to settle from bumps, particularly mid-corner. This is still a bruiser, not a finely honed sports saloon.
And you’ll definitely want the exhaust. In fact, if it makes a noise this good, we’d recommend getting one for the standard VXR8 too. The noise it makes is a sort of, well... imagine Sesame Street's Cookie Monster gargling through Spinal Tap’s 11-strength speakers in the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s and you’ll be about halfway there. It’s a very angry noise but a brutally beautiful one and, if every V8 sounded like it, nobody would ever buy any other engine configuration.
Otherwise it’s all VXR8. Which means it’s no sports car but is one of the most adjustable and driftable cars on sale, has a quite plasticky interior and is as spacious as you’d expect a large saloon to be.
Should I buy one?
We like the VXR8 a lot and, if you do too, you will adore this version: it’s even more blokey and Australian than the regular car.
True, if you kit it out with all the extras that were on our test car you’re looking at nearly £48,190, and there are better honed sports saloons available for that money.
But there’s very little on sale today that’s just so eminently likeable. Despite the VXR8’s flaws, and despite the dynamic superiority of some of its competitors, if somebody asks us whether they should buy a Supercharged VXR8, we are not about to say no. Right now, we can't think of any other way to buy a lot more than 500bhp for a lot less than £50,000.