The green beast: Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R quick drive

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VXR is DEAD. Well, it is for the time being at least. It’s safe to say that the current chapter of VXR closed with a flourish, thanks to the inclusion of the VXR8 GTS-R.

What is it?

There’s a good chance you aren’t aware of this car, because just 15 were ever made for the UK market, making it rarer than hen’s teeth. The VXR8 GTS-R starts life as a Holden Commodore, which is sold for the Australian market, before having the griffin badges applied for the lucky 15 in the UK. You can tell it starts life as a Holden product as the company’s logo features on the infotainment system and also on the rear lights.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R
Actually, the steering wheel also has a Holden badge on it.

Whether you want to class it as a Holden or a Vauxhall, there’s no disputing what lurks underneath the muscular bonnet. That’s because it’s a fire-breathing 6.2 litre V8 petrol, which has the assistance of a supercharger. This engine is mated to the rear wheels (naturally) via a 6-speed manual – no automatics to be found here, thank you very much.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

No less than 595hp and 740Nm of torque is produced from this super saloon, meaning you’ll crack 60mph in just 4.2 seconds (in a Vauxhall!) and you’ll continue to a limited top speed of 155mph. This makes it the fastest Vauxhall ever made, and most likely the last to be fitted with V8 engine. Pity.

Hold up, what about the Lotus Carlton?

Ah yes, the legend that is the Lotus Carlton. Sure, that has a top speed of 176mph, so it would be natural for you to assume that it’s the fastest Vauxhall ever made, but let’s not forget the GTS-R is limited to 155mph. Remove it, and you’ll be looking a top speed of 200mph. Plus, it’s also worth bearing in mind that the GTS-R will reach 60mph a full second faster than its 6 cylinder powered grandfather.

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton

Unleashing the beast

That aside, I think it’s time I take this Incredible Hulk on wheels out for a quick spin. Sadly, I was limited to the surrounding areas of Luton, so I couldn’t really drive the car as hard as it deserved. Even so, I was still able to get a decent impression of what this thunderous saloon was like to drive.

Pushing the start button to ignite the 6.2 engine is like waking up a bear from its slumber – an angry bear at that. The engine roars in to life in a way you simply wouldn’t expect from a Vauxhall. I then snick the stubby, alcantara clad gear lever in to first gear, which requires very little travel thanks to a slick change.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R
The seats are also trimmed in alcantara, meaning they’re nice an grippy

I then ‘poke the bear’ so to speak by giving the throttle a few blips, causing the exhaust to burble and crackle like an out of control fire. I then lift off the well-weighted clutch pedal and set off in this Spitfire Green super saloon that’s about as subtle as an explosion in a firework factory.

What’s it like to drive?

In short, a bit of a riot. Thanks to the supercharger, the power comes in very quickly and the delivery is linear to the redline. The noise the engine and exhaust makes is nothing short of pornographic and I found myself changing down just for the sheer hell of it. The inside may feature leather and alcantara in bid to feel premium – although, it ought to considering its £74,500 pricetag – but the GTS-R feels raucous.

You get a sense that if it were a human being invited to a dinner party it would turn up wearing an oil-stained vest and cut-off shorts. It feels like an old school muscle car, but I suppose that should come as no surprise as it has the heart of one. The V8 is a big part of this driving experience as you can imagine, but that’s not to say the GTS-R is one dimensional.

Yes, it’s not quite as sharp as German rivals but it’s still more than capable, and I bet you a pound to a penny you’ll have more fun in this. In the corners there is a good amount of grip thanks to the Continental ContiSport Contact 5 tyres fitted on the chunky 20″ alloys, plus there’s a limited slip diff fitted as standard as well brake torque vectoring.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

There’s three driving modes on offer; Sport, Performance and Track – I spent the majority of my drive in performance. As you would expect, this makes the car more eager, makes the exhaust more vocal and it also makes the steering heavier. The steering provides a lovely weight, and it’s a great tool in which to thread the GTS-R through the bends.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

The steering also has a nice directness to it, which is just as well, because this car is rather portly. It weighs in at almost 1,900kg, so you can feel the weight as you corner. Despite this, the car never feels like it needs to be dragged around like a lethargic dog, nor did I ever feel the need for it to be manhandled.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

Sorry, but what about that price tag?!

Ah yes, it’s quite pricey isn’t it? Charging £74,500 for a Vauxhall feels like a supermarket charging £100 for bag of sugar – it just seems a bit ludicrous. Thankfully, you do get a lot for you money, including 20″ alloys, carbon fibre rear spoiler, 8″ touchscreen, navigation, sports seats, alcantara steering wheel and gear lever, electronically adjustable front seats, which are also heated, front and rear parking sensors, plus more.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R
It may have a navigation, but it does look a bit old-fashioned.

Granted, you’ll think this is a lot of money to spend on a Vauxhall, but in comparison, the BMW M5 starts from a price that is just shy of £90,000.

As practical as it is fast (and green)

Despite its blistering pace, the GTS-R is far from what you call impractical. The inside has got a decent amount of cubbyholes, the rear space is pretty decent even for a taller person like me (I’m 6’2″), plus you got a decent boot which offers 496 litres. The car rides pretty well too, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t use this car everyday, although you’ll have to put up with a combined fuel economy of just 18mpg…

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

Final thoughts

There is a fair bit to like about the VXR8 GTS-R as it’s a celebration of car genre that will slowly die off, and it’s most likely the last time we will see a Vauxhall saloon fitted with such a big engine as well. The GTS-R has got old school feel about it, which is very charming and also rather infectious when you drive it. Cars like this will eventually die out, so I think it’s safe to say, there are 15 very lucky owners out there.

Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R

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