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Driven: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS Auto. Image by Vauxhall.

Driven: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS Auto
Vauxhall drops a self-shifting gearbox into its mega VXR8 GTS supersaloon.

   



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Vauxhall VXR8 GTS Auto

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: brutal performance, superb dynamics, value, impressive interior, lovely ride

Not so good: appalling economy and emissions, exterior styling won't be to all tastes, we prefer the manual, road noise

Key Facts

Model tested: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS Auto
Price: VXR8 from 54,484; VXR8 GTS Auto as tested 56,234
Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 373g/km (Band M, 1,100 VED first year, 505 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 18.0mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Power: 585hp at 6,150rpm
Torque: 740Nm at 3,850rpm

Our view:

Last year, we drove the manual version of the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS and totally loved it. We were also surprised by how refined and well-built it felt, two areas where these imported Holdens have always fallen down before.

Holden? Yes, that's right, this Vauxhall is actually an Australian, specifically the Holden Commodore; the clue to its fresh identity is stitched into the Alcantara-clad dashboard of the VXR8, where the letters 'HSV' (Holden Special Vehicles) are still proudly displayed. Althoooough... the engine is actually an LSA V8 from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and not too dissimilar to the LS9 used in the Corvette. Either of which is American. So we've got a Yank motor in a machine from Down Under being sold straight out of Luton.

If it sounds like a globe-trotting recipe for a disastrous Frankenstein of a car, the truth is far, far more palatable. Admittedly, it is comfortably Vauxhall's most powerful (it has more than double the horsepower of the outgoing Astra VXR and nearly twice as much as even the Insignia VXR) and most expensive vehicle (it's more than 50,000 as standard), but it is also easily the most rounded and superbly resolved vehicle in the brand's line-up, meaning it is a genuine challenger for top honours in its class.

The problem is, its class is a rarefied one - that of the supersaloon. In an age where we all want zero-tax hybrids, where Volkswagen is in deep schtum for trying to hoodwink us over the cleanliness of its diesels (and petrols, to an extent) and where gas-guzzlers are deeply frowned upon, a vehicle that's toting a supercharged 6.2-litre petrol V8 is hardly targeted right at the zeitgeist.

What's changed for 2015 is that Vauxhall has now introduced an automatic version, with flappy paddle gearshifts on the steering wheel and all. It costs 1,750 more than the manual and aims to bring a little more civility to the VXR8 when driving day-to-day, as well as allowing the driver to keep their hands on the wheel more when wrestling the big saloon along at pace. It's just a straightforward torque converter automatic, though, not some fancy robotised dual-clutch affair.

Thus equipped, the VXR8 remains priced to match the likes of the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, yet its build and power place it on a par with some massive German names that dominate this sector, namely the BMW M5, Audi RS 6 and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S. So it's a bargain whichever way you cut it, because you're essentially getting an M5 for M3 cash.

Adding the automatic transmission doesn't do much for the risible economy stats, though, which is one area where the Vauxhall cannot hope to compete with its German rivals. Despite all having similar massive outputs and stunning performance numbers as the VXR8, the BMW, Audi and Merc can dip below 250g/km for CO2 emissions and claim to give back mpg in the high-20s (even if the reality is a little different). The Vauxhall's quoted numbers are a staggering 373g/km and 18.0mpg, worse even than the manual model's 363g/km and 18.9mpg. We covered 212 miles in the VXR8, with the primary journey being a leisurely cruise up the A1 to York and back. At an average speed of 41.6mph, we saw a genuine 18.5mpg - and the minute you start using the right-hand pedal on a regular basis, the 'economy' veers very close to a single-digit average. Crikey.

The thing is, people buying this sort of car probably won't care about the cost of refuelling it. But a range of little more than 200 miles in everyday use is going to get on your pip before long. OK, in theory the GTS can get close to 300 miles out of a tank of super, but that would require you to drive like an absolute saint and short-shift the gearbox up to a high gear with low revs at every conceivable opportunity. Which isn't really why you'd buy a supercharged V8 in the first place, is it?

However, in all other respects, the VXR8 remains a stunning machine. Where previous Monaros were cheap 'n' cheerful inside, the GTS genuinely feels upmarket. We've even come to terms with the two dials shoehorned into the console ahead of the gear lever and (deep joy!) Vauxhall does its sequential gearchange set-up the correct way; you need to pull the lever back to go up a gear and push it forward to descend the gearbox. Like BMW and Jaguar, Vauxhall is to be heartily commended for doing this the correct, motorsport way.

The outside still looks great, striking a neat compromise between purposeful aerodynamic addenda and needlessly aggressive body-adorning tat. It's going to be too brazenly butch for some people, of course, but then the RS 6 and E 63 are hardly shy and retiring vehicles; it's left to the BMW M5 to do discretion best in the category. We're happy to pin our colours to the 'really like the VXR's exterior aesthetic' mast, though, and judging by some of the approving stares this Heron White model got, we reckon the public approves of it too, no doubt largely due to its rarity and the way it stands out from the norm.

And, as the bare on-paper statistics suggest, it's as startlingly quick as ever. Meaty, informative steering, mammoth brakes and that instant shove from 740 supercharged Newton metres of torque make this 1,892kg beast easy to hustle. The gearbox is acceptable, shifting gears cleanly and smoothly, and generally responding to paddle shift inputs smartly, but it didn't appreciably improve the drive compared to the manual, nor did it distinguish itself as an exemplar of its type, either.

We drove this automatic during a cold, damp few days in November and it was noticeably more eager than the manual to spin up its rear wheels and waggle the VXR8's tail, even with traction control fully engaged - and the automatic actually limits revs in lower gears to supposedly make it more benign to drive too. However, it never felt a hopelessly wayward car and we remain impressed by the traction the GTS can summon up from just two driven wheels.

For a big capacity V8, apart from when you're gunning it through the upper rev reaches it's reasonably quiet in voice; Vauxhall might do well to offer an optional sports exhaust, which reputedly is something the aftermarket is going to capitalise upon in the near future. Nevertheless, this attribute only adds to the superb level of refinement when the VXR8 GTS is just tootling along, because the only two things that would limit the amount of miles you might go in one hit would be the motor's chronic thirst and a higher-than-normal level of tyre roar. Otherwise, the fabulous ride it offers on its MagneRide adaptive dampers makes it a wonderfully comfortable long-distance machine.

Chucking an automatic gearbox into the mix was a sensible move by Vauxhall, designed to widen the car's appeal. We know it won't make much difference, because - despite the brilliance of its chassis, and the amount of power it offers, and the fact it is around 30,000 cheaper than its German equivalents, and its superb compliance - a 56,000 Vauxhall is still too much for people to take in. That means the VXR8 is likely to remain a very rare sight on our roads, which in turn appeals to our perverse nature even more; it's nice to not follow the herd and be a bit different. If we had the money, we'd be looking seriously hard at a VXR8 GTS - it's simply that, while the automatic is a fine car, we'd save the 1,750 and stick with the manual gearbox. That way, we'd have enough for around, oh, we don't know... say, 4,500 miles' worth of petrol.

Alternatives:

Audi RS 6 Avant: grip aplenty means monster all-weather pace, plus it looks superb with its overtly flared arches. Not the most engaging thing to drive, though - and how often have we heard that about RS Audis before?

BMW M5: as brilliant as the current model is, the M5 seems to have lost some of its mystique in the move from the old screaming V10 to a turbocharged V8. No doubting its dynamic ability, of course.

Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG S: noise, noise, pace and noise. Closest analogue to the VXR8, as it makes the same 585hp, but even more torque, at 800Nm. Costs more than 80,000 before options, however.


Matt Robinson - 30 Nov 2015



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2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.



2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 

2016 Vauxhall VXR8. Image by Vauxhall.
 






 

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