If you want to spend supercar-level cash on a trackday car, the likes of the Radical RXC500 and updated BAC Mono mean you now can. The KTM X-Bow is soldiering on, of course – yet to set the world alight, but getting better with every revision.
Meanwhile, the likes of the Zenos E10, Ariel Atom and renewed Caterham Seven range provide the more sensibly priced options for those wanting to drive to their nearest circuit, take their brain out, put their helmet on and explore previously uncharted limits of speed, grip and bravery.
The Vuhl slots plumb into the middle of that group of gleeful extremists. There’s no carbonfibre tub here, and no maniacally powerful turbocharged multi-cylinder engine, which is why the car’s Mexican producers can charge a hefty-but-not-crazy £59,995 for the car.
Instead there’s a handsome body, an equally handsome bonded aluminium tub (photos of which can be admired on Vuhl’s web pages) and a 2.0-litre Ford Ecoboost engine producing 285bhp and 310lb ft of torque.
The transmission is a six-speed manual, sourced alongside the engine from Ford, and the car weighs just over 700kg with fluids; heavier than some rivals but lighter than others.
The Vuhl is unexpectedly friendly and easy-going to drive, quite apart from being predictably rapid – and that’s at least as much down to the fact that it’s a Mexican car as anything else.
Iker and Guillermo Echeverria, creators of the Vuhl 05, work out of a factory just outside the gates of Mexico City airport. “Our roads are quite broken and poorly surfaced, and the altitude (the city is 7200ft above sea level) makes normally aspirated engines struggle to make full power,” Iker tells me.
“So I insisted the car had at least 110mm of ground clearance, in order to deal with our lumps and bumps. And I knew that it had to be turbocharged.”
That level of ground clearance is a lot for a track car, and it has its influence over the Vuhl’s ride and handling. However, so do the Vuhl’s major chassis dimensions. Its wheelbase is as short as that of a Lotus Elise, but its tracks are as wide as a Porsche 911 Turbo. Yummy.
Before we get into all that, credit’s due to Iker and the team of designers he lead for a fine job here. The Vuhl’s looks really are knock-out, and may pleasantly surprise those used to less well finished and visually pleasing cottage industry track machines. If someone told you this was a Geneva show concept car from an Italian design house, you’d believe them.
The cabin is a bit more Spartan than the pretty exterior leads you to expect, but it’s purposeful and well finished. Instrumentation is provided by a monochrome digital display typical of the breed, and there’s a slim metallic centre stack of buttons and toggle switches for the indicators, headlights, ignition and other essential functions.
The car’s slim seats offer decent comfort and support in a cockpit that the average driver will have no problem at all finding a good driving position in. At 6ft 3in tall, this tester struggled a bit for leg room.
I found it all too easy to knock my helmet against the car’s rollover hoops, and would have appreciated a slightly larger pedal box, with somewhere to rest my left foot other than on the clutch pedal. But mostly those are little niggles that the Vuhl’s creators have already addressed in one-off cases, on behalf of early customers.
The first impressions that the car conjures are of unexpected civility and ease of operation. The clutch pedal’s quite light and progressive, and the unassisted steering moderately weighted once you’re away from a dead stop. Building speed makes you soon wish for better wind protection, the Vuhl’s deflector doing only an average job above about 50mph. With a helmet on, the situation’s tolerable.
It’s from the inside of a helmet that the fizzing, whistling, hissing and fluttering of the Vuhl’s turbocharged engine is best appreciated, too. The company offers the car in ‘road’ and ‘race’ specifications; our test prototype was the latter, and so its engine sucked air through an air filter just inches from the driver’s ear.
This way, the induction system gets a better supply - apparently. However, for the occupants at least, I'd argue the audible charm of the engine is greatly compromised.
The good news is that the motor has good throttle response once the crankshaft is spinning beyond 3000rpm. It revs freely to twice that mark and makes the car feel every bit as quick as a super sports car costing twice as much. It also has the mid-range torque to make brisk, laid-back progress possible on the road.
The chassis, too, makes it possible to enjoy the Vuhl at moderate as well as breakneck pace. The car’s grip levels are considerable and its directional responses crisp, but neither makes the handling hyperactive or very highly strung.
Pin-sharp and positive but sensibly paced, the steering allows for a very precise turn-in and telegraphs cornering load beautifully. There’s some body roll to contend with; more, probably, than you’d expect, but never so much as to lean the car into roll-related oversteer.
There’s compliance, too; enough to deal with a bump or gentle kerb without really noticing it, and to make the car a genuinely usable prospect on the road.
That depends if you want the meanest, flattest and most full-on circuit weapon in the paddock on any given trackday; or one that’ll allow you to go every bit as fast but also look after you in the wet, forgive you when you overcook your entry speed on that corner, and allow you to drive home afterwards without threatening to throw you into the odd hedge here and there.
You wouldn’t bet on two, 30-something brothers from Mexico City to create something so dynamically sophisticated at the first attempt but – with a little help from their friends – that’s what has happened. The Vuhl 05 is a car of unexpected maturity.
It’s not perfect. A slightly roomier cabin wouldn’t go amiss. Neither would an engine that sounds more like, well, an engine – and less like a power surge in your local household appliance showroom. However, it’s a fine start – and a promising departure point for grippier and even more powerful versions to come.
Price £59,995; Engine 4 cyls inline, 1999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 285bhp; Torque 310lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 725kg; 0-62mph 3.7sec; Top speed 152mph; Economy na; CO2/tax band na