The storming Vauxhall VXR8 is back with a vengeance, packing heavily revised front- and rear-end styling, a new cabin and a raft of new technology to enhance its appeal to drivers in search of one of the last, great rear-drive V8 super-saloons.
Priced at £49,500 and available to order now, the new Vauxhall VXR8 in top-spec form is now based on HSV E3 GTS model, just launched in Australia, the previous VXR8 representing the old version of the lower-spec ClubSport R8. That means it still undercuts full-size super saloons like the Audi RS6, Jaguar XFR and Mercedes E63 AMG by between £13k and £29k, and even performance saloons from the segment below, such as the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG. The entry-level Vauxhall VXR8 Clubsport is still available at £45,000.
A new, ‘Shockwave’ grille, LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents mark the new car out from the front, while the rear features a new ‘Superflow’ rear spoiler, LED tail lamps and twin exhaust tips that mimic the shape of the front grille. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Vauxhall VXR8’s road presence: no other production car in the UK looks like it or sounds like it.
As before, the new VXR8’s race-bred chassis uses MacPherson struts/progressive rate coil springs at the front and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear. But for the first time on a Vauxhall VXR8, Vauxhall has employed Magnetic Ride Control (standard on GTS only), adding a greater degree of sophistication to the car’s dynamics. Also making an appearance for the first time is Launch Control, which helps drivers make best use of the Vauxhall VXR8’s huge torque during brisk acceleration without unnecessary wheelspin.
Of course, no Vauxhall VXR8 would be complete without a large-capacity V8, and this latest version doesn’t disappoint. The fourth generation 6.2-litre LS3 unit produces 431PS and a massive 550Nm of torque, enough to propel the Vauxhall VXR8 from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and on to a governed top speed of 155mph. Drive is delivered to the rear axle via either a new MM10 six-speed manual gearbox with uprated LS7 clutch, or a six-speed auto ‘box. Both work through a mechanical limited slip differential.
Inside, the new Vauxhall VXR8 has undergone a transformation. Full leather trim is standard in GTS models, and front occupants are cocooned in special HSV Performance Seats with eight-way adjustability. A new instrument cluster and surround, centre stack and switchgear provide a cleaner and more integrated look, while standard equipment also includes Aux-in/USB inputs, iPod support and Bluetooth with phone book display and touch-screen dialling.
But for drivers who want to engage with their VXR8 like never before, Vauxhall has introduced EDI, or Enhanced Driver Interface. EDI connects with the on-board computer to constantly stream real-time vehicle dynamics and performance to the car’s main 5-inch monitor. At the touch of the screen, drivers can access a variety of data such as vehicle G-forces, power and torque and lap times – even the degree to which their Vauxhall VXR8 is drifting. Completing the clever package is the ability for drivers to download data, such as track day performance, and analyse it using the MOTEC i2 software provided.
Finally, Vauxhall is delighted to announce that two new VXR8 variants will join the saloon in the UK: the Maloo (pickup body) and the Sports Tourer (estate body). Both use the same running gear and platform as the Vauxhall VXR8 saloon, but offer drivers even more versatility combined with exceptional performance and handling. More details about the Maloo and Sports Tourer will follow soon.
Befitting its exclusivity, the Vauxhall VXR8 is now available through just five highly specialist VXR dealers in the UK, though a total of 30 VXR outlets will be authorised to maintain the model.
Anyone who’s driven the previous generation Vauxhall VXR8 will know that it blends exceptional body control with the kind of pliant ride quality which is becoming so important on British roads. But for 2011, as well as incorporating revised spring and damper settings across both axles, the new VXR8 has two more features in its dynamic armoury.
As before, the new Vauxhall VXR8’s race-bred chassis uses MacPherson struts/progressive rate coil springs at the front and a multi-link independent set-up at the rear. But for the first time on a VXR8, Vauxhall has employed Magnetic Ride Control (MRC), a suspension system which adapts up to 1000 times a seconds to road conditions and driver inputs. Based on technology used in GM’s current Corvette ZR1 supercar, and fitted as standard on GTS models, MRC works by sending an electric current through damper units filled with ‘soft’ magnetic particles. These particles harden as the input reaches its maximum value, providing drivers with exceptional levels of ride, handling and stopping power.
Complementing the new Vauxhall VXR8’s MRC is Launch Control, which is engaged when drivers select the ESC’s (Electronic Stability Control) Competition Mode. Standard on both Clubsport and GTS models fitted with manual transmission, the system dictates the level of torque delivered to the rear wheels for maximum acceleration, according to surface conditions. All the driver has to do is floor the throttle and let the car do the rest. Extensive testing has proved that LC results in acceleration runs no more than 0.1 second apart.
Completing the chassis package are the largest brakes ever fitted to a Vauxhall. At the front, 365mm diameter ventilated and grooved discs take pride of place, mated to race-bred four-piston callipers providing exceptional stopping power. The same hardware is fitted at the rear with 350mm diameter rotors.
Making a welcome return to the new VXR8 is GM’s 6.2-litre ‘LS3′ engine, a modern interpretation of the legendary small block motor which has powered millions of vehicles for more than fifty years and currently sees service in the Australian V8 Supercar Series and also the mighty, supercharged Corvette ZR1.
Even with 431PS of power at 6000rpm and 550Nm of torque at 4600rpm, the LS3 is unstressed and tractable enough to deal with a wide spread of driving needs, whether it’s burbling through towns and cities or exercising its full potential on drivers’ favourite A- or B-roads. And as Vauxhall proved with the Bathurst S version from the last generation Vauxhall VXR8, the LS3 unit is eminently capable of being tuned to accept more than 600PS, such is its strength and placidity.
Race-bred features abound, such as an exhaust manifold which splits from four into two into one to minimise power loss, while the large diameter stainless steel exhaust offers the kind of aural accompaniment you’d expect from a super-saloon.
The result is the sort of performance you’d only get from large saloons costing considerably more than the Vauxhall VXR8: 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.
As before, the Vauxhall VXR8 is available with either a new six-speed manual MM10 gearbox with uprated LS7 clutch, or a six-speed auto transmission with selectable ratios, both of which deliver drive to the rear wheels through a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Designed with the enthusiast driver in mind, and adding something unique in this class, is the Vauxhall VXR8’s new Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI).
EDI constantly streams real-time vehicle and performance data to a touch-screen located on the upper centre console. The intuitive system was developed with industry specialist, MOTEC, while all the graphics and display pages were designed in-house at HSV’s styling department.
The multi-faceted system provides the following functions:
Main menu page – A selection of icons allow drivers to skip to their desired page of choice
G-force page – Displays longitudinal and lateral G-force in a single integrated display
Driver page – Displays a combination of driver inputs, such as RPM, gear selection, and accelerator and brake positions
Race page – Utilises GPS technology to map tracks, records lap times and fastest laps.
Stop Watch – …particularly useful for hill-climb events and road rallies!
Dynamics – Uses the vehicle’s motion sensors to display real-time understeer and oversteer angles
Data-logging – Allows drivers to download recorded data for analysis on their laptops using MOTEC’s IQ software, provided with the vehicle.
Gauge selection – Allows selection of the following displays: instant fuel economy, external air temperature, torque, intake air temperature, power, manifold pressure and elevation.
Fuel economy – …including fuel economy history
Side Blind Zone Alert – allows this feature to be turned off, if required.
HSV’s Chief of Design, Julian Quincey, expects this type of EDI system to evolve further still. “One of the challenges with designing the graphics is in making the data accessible to the driver,” he said. “For instance, it’s not terribly engaging to get a whole stream of data in the form of numbers or a line graph. If you’re a race driver you get used to that, but in a road car it needs to be more intuitive. Making the display easy to read was the most important thing during development and it required a whole new level of integration between design and engineering.”
The Vauxhall VXR8’s never been a shrinking violet on UK roads, and for the latest 2011 Model Year, key external changes have freshened the car’s appearance still further.
A new, ‘Shockwave’ grille, LED daytime running lights and sleek new wing-vents mark the new car out from the front, while the rear features a new ‘Superflow’ rear spoiler, LED tail lamps and twin exhaust tips that mimic the shape of the front grille.
The new rear spoiler itself is smoother and slightly lower than before, providing better rear visibility and less aerodynamic drag. It also features re-designed supports which continue the ‘Shockwave’ styling theme found at the front of the car.
Inside, the new Vauxhall VXR8 has undergone a transformation. Full leather trim is now standard on the GTS, and front occupants are cocooned in special VXR Performance Seats with eight-way adjustability. Complementing this is a new instrument binnacle which encases the gauges on top of the dash, while new appliqués are splashed across the width of the dashboard and on the steering wheel spokes (GTS models feature a race-inspired carbon fibre look).
In other areas, piano-black trim surrounds the touch screen, the air conditioning controls, the gear lever, some centre console switches and the steering wheel buttons.
Standard equipment on both the Clubsport and GTS includes Aux-in/USB inputs, iPod support and Bluetooth with phone book display and touch-screen dialling.