New VXR8 unveiled

Has Vauxhall let Stevie Wonder loose with some crayons in its design studio? Unlikely, but I certainly pondered on it when I clapped eyes on the latest incarnation of the Vauxhall VXR8. This is the Griffin-badged version of GM’s Aussie muscle car known as the Holden HSV GTS in the Land Down Under. There was a lot to like […]

By Tim Kendall | 16th December 2010

Has Vauxhall let Stevie Wonder loose with some crayons in its design studio? Unlikely, but I certainly pondered on it when I clapped eyes on the latest incarnation of the Vauxhall VXR8. This is the Griffin-badged version of GM’s Aussie muscle car known as the Holden HSV GTS in the Land Down Under. There was a lot to like about the previous generation VXR8, a lumbering brute of a car which employed the appealing ingredients of rear-wheel drive, big V8, innocuous saloon body and a Primark price-tag. At around 36 grand it undercut it’s on-paper rivals – the BMW M5, Mercedes E63 AMG and Audi RS6 – by a good 25 grand, and was thus a ‘performance bargain’. In wantonly analogous terms, the VXR8 was a Fosters six-pack, the German opposition a bottle of Belgian beer. They deliver a similar hit, but the Aussie just does it in a slightly less sophisticated, considerably less expensive way. Until now, that is.

Vauxhall VXR8

It now sits considerably closer on price to the big-hitting Germans, Vauxhall having announced a list price of £49,500. Apparently, part of this rise is down to the imminent VAT increase, and part due to the fact the VXR8 is now based on the higher spec Aussie equivalent, the HSV GTS, as opposed to the Clubsport R8. This new version still has the LS3 6.2 litre V8 unit packing the same 425bhp as the old version, endowing the VXR8 with an undeniably brisk 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds. But apart from lining the treasury’s coffers, where does the rest of the £14k premium go?

It’s been spent on a bit more sophistication and technology in the handling department for starters. It still uses the MacPherson strut set-up of the old car, but the suspension now also features ‘Magnetic Ride Control’. Adapted from the Corvette ZR1, it works by sending electric pulses through the dampers which are filled with metallic particles. These particles harden when detecting a high level of input through the damper units, stiffening the ride and handling according to the cornering loads. The extra outlay also pays for a launch control function, activated when competition mode is selected via the switchable stability system. Santa Pod regulars might be interested to know this gadget helps it achieve full-bore acceleration times within 0.1 seconds of each other. There’s no mention of whether liberal use of it will get customers into trouble with warranty claims, although being an Aussie muscle car, it should be able to withstand some ‘hooning’.

Vauxhall VXR8 rear

There’s more tech on the inside too, including the ‘Electronic Driver Interface’ (EDI) which generates lap time, G-force, power and torque figures and even data on your drift angles. Close analysis of such data whilst driving might prove distracting, so Vauxhall provides iMOTEC software which allows full download capability, meaning you can obsess over heroic drift angles at your leisure. That should give it instant appeal with the track-day community, as will the grippier eight-way adjustable HSV Performance Seats. The dashboard architecture has also been improved for a ‘cleaner and more integrated look’ whilst iPod and Bluetooth connectivity add a welcome dose of useability into the mix. For nearly £50k, you’d feel a bit short-changed if leather was not standard, so they’ve added that too.

Vauxhall VXR8 interior

Once you tear yourself away from studying drift angles and eye this big Vauxhall up, the appeal might wane somewhat. It’s gone from looking aggressive and cohesive, albeit lacking the understated style of an M5 or RS6, to being a bit crassly detailed. Think shellsuit as opposed to Savile Row suit, with a fussy rear bumper/exhaust interface and marmite wheels being the worst offenders. The front end has also been furnished with daytime running lights for that added dose of ‘look at me’. So, if you like to be seen as well as heard, this is probably a sound choice of car, especially if you choose one in ‘Hazard Yellow’ like the car in these shots. And it’s bound to be good fun, just not cheap fun in the same vein as the old car.

By Tim Kendall
16th December 2010

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