Vauxhall Vectra

Massive performance and a big boot - it's a formula that has proven popular with plenty of upmarket car manufacturers, most notably Audi and its range of S4 and RS6 Avants. However, now, Vauxhall is bringing power to the people with a load-lugging version of the Vectra VXR.

Cars that go fast and carry lots are an attractive prospect. And there's no doubting the VXR Estate's performance or huge practicality. When it comes to a fun driving experience, though, rivals offer more for less. However, the ride is better than on the hatch, which makes for a comfortable and refined way of transporting people and luggage at high speed.

Massive performance and a big boot - it's a formula that has proven popular with plenty of upmarket car manufacturers, most notably Audi and its range of S4 and RS6 Avants. However, now, Vauxhall is bringing power to the people with a load-lugging version of the Vectra VXR.

We were impressed with the hatchback's storming pace when we drove it in Issue 881 - so is the more practical VXR Estate a better package? Well, it certainly looks aggressive. The tailgate spoiler and jutting lower bumper sharpen the rear, while all the details that make the hatchback stand out - bold bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels and quad-shaped exhaust pipes - are here.

The Estate gets the same 251bhp 2.8-litre turbocharged V6, complete with variable valve timing, hooked up to a six-speed gearbox. Despite an extra 135kg and poorer aerodynamics, it posts almost identical benchmark figures to the hatch, with 0-60mph rising only 0.2 seconds to 6.7 seconds.

More importantly, real-world performance is just as startling, with huge low-down shove and lots of power in reserve for overtaking. Capping it all is a V6 engine that sings at high revs, but stays subdued at all other times. The Estate also gets the same chassis upgrades as the hatchback, with specially tuned electronic dampers, revised steering and a 'sport' button mounted on the dash. It has huge 345mm front disc brakes, too.

On the move, the Estate's longer wheelbase means the ride is slightly more comfortable (although it's still firm), and the car feels more stable at speed. However, it doesn't turn into corners as quickly. Pressing the sport button makes the ride too stiff, though, and whether off or on, it can't do anything about the torque steer under hard acceleration, or the numb steering. This means the experience can be wild, yet strangely uninvolving.

But then if you're using the VXR as a proper estate, you won't be tackling twisty roads at high speed all the time. And with 1,850 litres of load space, plus Vauxhall's excellent Flex system of boot partitions, there is no bigger or more practical choice in this class.

At £24,995, the Vectra VXR estate is £1,000 more than the hatch, making it £2,000 more expensive than Subaru's new Impreza WRX, and the same price as Audi's A4 2.0 T Avant. But while both those rivals are more fun to drive, neither offers the same combination of space and pace.

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