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.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8 - currently readingThe Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman SDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title