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Steering, suspension and comfort

The beauty of magnetorheological dampers, so the theory goes, is that they are able to provide the best bits of both a car’s ride and a car’s handling.

A multitude of sensors monitor wheel speeds, steering, throttle and braking inputs and the amount of travel on the dampers, and can then stiffen or loosen them, around 100 times a second, by magnetically adjusting the viscosity of the damper fluid.

There's pace and grip aplenty, but it's driver confidence and chassis poise that see it to within a hair's breadth of the M5

Sometimes such systems are a bit iffy, but HSV has tuned the VXR8 GTS beautifully. In recent times the VXR8 has been a good ride and handler, but now it can hold its head high among anything in the class. It steers fluidly and linearly (only a couple of spots of inconsistent weighing let it down) and it rides impressively in any of its various damper modes given the 275/35 rear tyres on which it sits.

But it’s the keenness that goes with these traits that genuinely impresses. It would be easy to think that a 1880kg, full-size Aussie saloon would feel bulky and awkward, but the VXR8 flows down a British B-road as if it were tuned for it.

Okay, we’re not talking Renault Mégane RS levels of chassis control, but the Vauxhall has the measure of a BMW M5 or, to our hands, a Mercedes-Benz E63 (although that car impresses more as a straight-line hot rod).

But this deftly controlled blend of ride and handling makes the VXR8 a remarkably appealing car to drive on all roads, twisty or straight – the latter where it steers calmly and is leggy enough to return 24.6mpg. And does it oversteer in the right circumstances? Of course it does.

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You get a lot of poise and balance with a VXR8. It’s weighty, so it pays to trail the brakes into a corner to keep the nose planted, but if you do that right, the VXR8 allows you to play all the right tunes thanks to a surplus of power and a limited-slip differential.

Understeer is artificially reduced in Sport or Track mode due to torque vectoring by braking (an ESP extension that brakes an inside rear wheel), but only if you’re slightly on the throttle — which you won’t always want to be on corner entry.

Instead, brake on entry and get back on the gas on exit, to whatever extent you like. Oversteer, if you ask for it, is only as lurid as you expect. There’s impressive grip and traction, too — more so than a Jaguar XFR. Where the Jag wants to go sideways at every opportunity, the VXR8 only does so under severe provocation.

Get sliding, though, and the VXR8 will do so all day long. It’s a 5m-long, 577bhp rear-drive car, after all. Few big saloons are better balanced; fewer still are more enjoyable.

It’s worth noting that there’s also an automatic model on offer, but the £2000 extra on the price tag provides a slight numbing of the VXR8’s strengths, and it isn’t particularly recommendable compared to the manual.