First drive: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS


Back after an 18 month absence, Vauxhall's re-badged Aussie super saloon, the VXR8, is being re-introduced to UK showrooms.

Priced from £49,500 in top-spec GTS form, the revised VXR8 has changes to the interior and exterior styling, plus more technology. Will this be enough to tempt buyers away from other super saloons like the Audi RS6, Jaguar XFR and Mercedes E63 AMG? We headed out on UK roads to find out.

Design highlights for the face-lifted VXR8 include a new, 'Shockwave' grille, the almost mandatory LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents. Whilst at the back, there's a new 'Superflow' rear spoiler, LED tail lamps and twin exhaust tips that mimic the shape of the front grille.

Inside, interior changes such as the full leather trim, HSV Performance seats and new instrument cluster do their best to convince you the VXR8's interior is up to the £50,000+ price and fail. It's not that the VXR8 feels badly made, but the quality of the trim and switchgear isn't in the same league as the Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes opposition.

Still, the EDI or Enhance Driver Interface that's a new feature for the VXR8 might appeal to the PlayStation generation. Developed by data logging specialist Motec, it will stream real-time vehicle dynamics such as vehicle G-forces, power and torque and lap times to the car's main 5-inch monitor. It's a shame then, that this seems to be at the expense of other useful features such as satellite-navigation.

So what's the latest VXR8 like to drive? Well, with the stiffer chassis active magnetic dampers and a mechanical limited-slip differential, the 431 PS, 6.2-litre V8 is kept well under control in the front. The VXR8 is a poised, neutral handler with well-weighted steering and these all go together to allow you to drive the VXR8 much harder than you might expect.

Prod the throttle at the wrong time though and the VXR8 is very happy to get its tail out. Also, our test car was fitted with six-speed automatic transmission, which whilst being smooth enough, lacks the involvement of the six-speed manual. It's a £5,000 option that I'd happily save and spend elsewhere.

The 6.2-litre V8 is refined and sounds fantastic crackling and popping on the overun, but I wonder if too much of the charismatic soundtrack makes itself known in the cabin and will become wearing over time?

The only major annoyance apart from the feel of the cabin, is that the indicator stalk is still on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. This meant that I spent more time flicking the windscreen wipers at junctions than using the indicators!

So would I recommend the latest VXR8? In reality, the Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes are probably safer places to spend £50,000. But, if you're after raw thrills and more exclusivity (just 25 are being imported to the UK this year), then the VXR8 GTS might just be the car for you.