Vauxhall has been selling VXR8s in the UK for some years now and the best bit of news is that each iteration is more powerful than before. Closely based on an HSV (the performance arm of Holden in Australia) the VXR8 delivers an impressive 576bhp from its 6.2-litre supercharged V8, making it the cheapest car you can buy new with more than 500bhp – and considerably less than similarly-powered rivals.
To go with that there is a sharp new exterior with more vents and grilles to keep everything cool, upgraded brakes and clever new dampers that allow a broad range of adjustment. And on the inside there’s an updated cabin with some smart new features.
Compared to some of the sophisticated European opposition, the VXR8 can look a bit…well, obvious. Finished in a vibrant orange hue, the big rear wing, fat wheelarches and bright LED rear lights make it hard to miss. But more subtle colours tone it down a little, especially when you factor in the black wheels, and there’s no doubt that the shape is dripping with menace.
To those in the know, the VXR8 badge means serious performance, and those who don’t will be too busy trying to read the badge on the rump as you disappear into the distance in a haze of tyre smoke; its image is a strong point.
If you need to justify the VXR8 to your better half (whoever that might be) then it’s certainly on your side. The long wheelbase means there’s stacks of room on the inside and near-limousine levels of legroom, while the boot is also a very healthy 496 litres.
The cabin is decent but not exceptional in quality, but there are plenty of toys, including a very comprehensive data system within the touchscreen.
The seats are worthy of a special mention too: supportive and extremely comfortable, they are perfect for long distances.
The VXR8 is clearly a high-performance machine, but the large capacity V8 means it can do comfortable cruising too. With so much torque you can bumble around in a high gear and it’s surprisingly quiet when you’re taking it easy.
But it really comes into its own when you stretch that glorious 6.2-litre motor. The noise is fantastic, though it could be louder still, and the way it pulls so hard in every single gear is incredible. It dominates the experience and is all the better for it.
Despite its size, it is controlled and capable when you’re pressing on and even though all that power is going through the rear wheels alone, traction is excellent. Yet if you want to play the hooligan it will do that too. You get the impression that the VXR8 is on your side and wants to have fun too.
It’s hard to argue that the VXR8 is anything other than great value for money. The figures tell one story: an electronically limited 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and that 576bhp for £54,499. There’s a bit touchscreen with satnav, a good audio system, the very comprehensive data logger, plus the things that everyone can enjoy like leather seats and dual zone climate control.
Who’s it for? Anyone smart enough to look beyond the badge of more expensive rivals. The VXR8 is a refreshingly honest and unpretentious car in a segment where way too much prominence is given to the roundel on the front.
As well as a performance car, you get a perfectly serviceable family car too, although you’ll need a few quid to keep it full of fuel of course.
ENGINE 6.2l petrol; 576bhp, 546 lb ft
PERFORMANCE Max speed 155mph (ltd), 0-62mph 4.2s
ECONOMY 18.5mpg combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 363g/km