Vauxhall's performance flagship

Is new four-door a worthy replacement for muscular Monaro?

  • Flexible engine, engaging suspension, exhaust note, price
  • Underwhelming interior

It’s only just arriving in UK dealerships, but we would like to propose a name change for Vauxhall’s flagship performance car. The VXR8 tag is self-explanatory, yet XLR8 (think about it) gives a much better idea of what this machine is designed to do.

Not that the styling leaves much to the imagination. Yes, it has four-door underpinnings (it’s based on the Holden VE saloon), but as with all VXR models, the Vauxhall knows how to make an impression. Big spoilers, gaping air intakes and huge 19-inch wheels set the tone (20-inch rims are £2,500 more). What is surprising, though, is the neat detailing, particularly the LED rear lights.

In typically Australian fashion, what you see is what you get with the VXR8 – and that applies inside as well as out. It’s really practical, with a 496-litre load area and exceptional rear legroom – although the sculpted back bench means a centre occupant will struggle for comfort.

Slide behind the large steering wheel and the newcomer instantly feels more welcoming than the Monaro – not least because the driving position is so much better. No longer is your head crammed against the roof, and the switches and buttons operate more precisely. It comes across as a better-quality product, and while the materials aren’t up to Jaguar’s standards, it seems robustly constructed – certainly more so than the Chrysler.

Even the cabin layout is pleasingly simple, with neat heating controls and useful buttons on the steering wheel. Only the centrally mounted electric window switches and the awkward flush-fitting handbrake take some getting used to.

Peering outside, you’ll see that the door mirrors are small and the tail spoiler cuts off the bottom half of any cars following you. But then, given the might of the Vauxhall’s V8 engine, it’s forward visibility that matters more.

Borrowed from the latest Corvette, the 6.0-litre LS2 unit is not quite as potent as the SRT-8’s 6.1-litre HEMI, yet it still provides more torque than even a V10 BMW M5 can muster.

In fact, our test car probably delivers a bit more, courtesy of the freer-breathing £950 Walkinshaw exhaust fitted to it (and specified by 98 per cent of those who have ordered the VXR8). But the chief benefit of the pricey pipes is the sound.

We usually praise cars that are quiet in our noise tests, but the VXR8’s rumbling note is ever-present and an absolute delight. It’s meatier than the Chrysler’s, and especially good when burbling around town, where it echoes off buildings.

The Vauxhall certainly delivers on the promise of that growl, too. Thanks to good rear-wheel-drive traction, it was the fastest from 0-60mph at the test track, yet it can pull away from standstill in fourth gear. Pick any of the chunky six-speed box’s well spaced ratios and the VXR8 surges on. While the gearshift is long-winded and the brakes don’t provide the precision of the Jaguar’s, it has crisp throttle response and is very satisfying to drive.

And not only in a straight line. True, it’s a great long-distance car, soaking up miles and bumps without issue. But it’s the VXR8’s behaviour on twisting tarmac that impresses most. Although it’s nowhere near as fast and nimble as a Mitsubishi Evo, the car’s light, accurate steering and good balance ensures great manners at the limit. It’s more composed and fun than the Monaro was.

What’s more, the VXR8 is even better value. With a comprehensive equipment tally and a £35,105 price tag, it looks a bit of a steal.

Details

Price: £35,105Model tested: Vauxhall VXR8Chart position: 1WHY: Taking over where the Monaro Coupe left off, the new saloon-only VXR8 promises to be faster and dynamically superior.

Economy

It’s extremely rare that we exceed the claimed combined figure when testing a car, but that’s the case with the VXR8. We bettered the official 18.5mpg result by five per cent, achieving 19.4mpg over the course of 500 miles.

Residuals

Analysts haven’t yet calculated depreciation for the VXR8, but given that the Monaro holds on to 41.1 per cent over three years, we’d expect better than that. Around 45 per cent would be a good guess, meaning a £15,800 retained value.

Servicing

We were unable to get cost estimates from any Vauxhall dealer, but going by the Monaro, they shouldn’t be outrageous – around £250 every 10,000 miles. Only 33 of Vauxhall’s 500 UK main dealers can maintain the VXR8, though.

Tax

Just because these cars wear attractive price tags doesn’t mean they’ll be equally affordable to run. The VXR8 is the cheapest at 113.4 pence per mile, but that’s still more costly than a BMW 550i M Sport – insurance of £900 a year is a big factor.

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