Vauxhall VXR8

The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun

Who would have thought a Vauxhall would be one of the most popular cars at Greatest Drives? Granted, the rebadged Australian Holden doesn’t have British roots, but everyone who tried the VXR8 loved its V8 engine and simple, direct approach.

Even when driven beyond its limits, the car proved well balanced and controllable. Not bad, considering that, at 6.0 litres, it has the largest-capacity engine here, a set of exhaust pipes to match and 550Nm of torque to deploy. In fact, the VXR8 was surprisingly docile, and would step out of line only when provoked.

It’s happy simply burbling along in high gears at low revs, with the soft suspension delivering good comfort and a reasonable degree of composure. It rolls through corners, but rarely feels sloppy or vague – unlike the Mercedes CL63 AMG, or even the old Monaro this car replaced, for that matter. As a roadgoing machine, it’s relaxing and enjoyable in equal measure – and the same applies at the track.

An honest-to-goodness muscle car, the VXR8 is closest in philosophy to the Nissan 350Z, but sounded better and pulled much harder. However, it lost out to the Japanese coupé for finesse. The steering was lighter and less accurate, while the chassis proved short on turn-in grip and mid-corner traction. Putting in a quick time required real delicacy.

But hot laps aren’t the VXR8’s strong point – it just wants to have fun. Whether that’s just sitting, blipping the throttle and feeling the whole car rock gently, or smoking the rear tyres round a tight track corner, the new VXR8 is an old-school entertainer.

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