Vauxhall VXR models make themselves seen and heard

After an all-too-brief drive, editor DAVID HOOPER says that Vauxhall’s VXR range really knows how to impress, while the VXR8 blows your mind, despite its drink problem!

The Insignia VXR is an impressive car, and great to drive.

VAUXHALL’S VXR sub brand range has been thrilling performance car fans for a few years now in various guises, but now there is a VXR version of the Insignia – and it’s hugely impressive.
I managed to briefly get my hands on this, and the stunning VXR8 at a recent driving day in Leeds, but thanks to damp, misty weather and wet, greasy roads I could only get a taste for these cars and only dream about how good they would be on dry roads.
The Insignia is a big car and offers impressive amounts of space, with a boot big enough to swallow a body or two and ample room inside for five full-sized people. The fact that it is good to drive has ensured it has found favour with the fleet market, too, which has long been seen as the bread and butter for this car, and its predecessor, the Vectra.

The interior is typically Vauxhall, but with sportier dials.

There is always a niche market, however, for performance models, so stick a 2.8-litre V6 petrol engine under the bonnet, garnish it with some huge alloys – the ones on the car I tested were a £1,150 extra, beef up the brakes and stick a few body-styling bits on around the edges, and the there you have it – a VXR version of the Insignia. It costs £34,600.
Of course, there are a few more modifications to the running gear to cope with the power, and lots of electronic trickery to adjust the damper settings, steering feel and throttle response, but most of them are unnecessary, because this car is at its best in its standard settings, without pressing any of the go-faster buttons which tend to spoil the ride quality which is beautifully compliant and comfortable in its standard set-up. For me, the feel of the steering was also better in its standard form, and with 155mph on tap, and a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds, it provides plenty of punch.
The turbo-charged V6 is almost silent when it’s driven gently, but slide the gear lever to the left to give you the option of manual changes, or using the paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel, and the fun really starts. It’s a rapid car, if a little thirsty, with around 20mpg a realistic expectation.

The VXR8 may be a dying breed, but it’s going down kicking and screaming!

If you think this car has a drinking problem though, then clear a seat at Petrol Guzzlers Anonymous and make way for the VXR8.
This is one car you simply can’t miss and just have to experience if ever you get the opportunity. Few people make cars like this anymore, even fewer in the UK, which is a real shame, because it is one epic machine, and whether it is its bright yellow paintwork, or the roar of its mighty 6.2-litre V8 engine, one thing’s for certain, like a naughty child, it will make its presence seen and heard.
Everything about this car is impressive – all the numbers are huge, yet it will seat five people in comfort, and take a fair chunk of their luggage in the boot.
The 0-62mph benchmark is dismissed in five seconds dead, by which point this car is just getting into its stride.  With 431PS in reserve, its power delivery can only be described as brutal – thunderous, even, yet it’s beguiling and addictive, although it demands respect in the conditions I encountered.
This car was a scary yellow monster, and on slippery roads I struggled to find a bit straight enough to allow me to plant my foot into the carpet, but whenever I tried, the noise from the mighty V8 filled the cabin, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Taking manual control of the standard auto box resulted in some wonderful, guttural growls as the car’s electronics blipped the engine to smooth out the downshifts.
A dying breed it may be, but the VXR8 is a mightily impressive car in every respect – and at £51,200, it provides supercar performance for a fraction of the price of a Ferrari – and it seats five!

The VXR8 looks like it means business – and it does.

Rating: ★★★★★★