What's it like taking the 'last' great Aussie V8 to Goodwood?
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The Telegraph UK's Rebecca Jackson took an Australian classic to the iconic Goodwood Festival of Speed circus. Here's how it unfolded.
Vauxhall is well known for its sporty, front-wheel-drive hatchbacks such as the Corsa VXR and Astra SRI and, in the “modern classic” category, the Cavalier SRI and Nova GTE. These are quick cars and lots of fun — although my heart really lies with rear-wheel drive, as the car’s steering isn’t compromised by the front wheels transmitting power at the same time.
So when I was asked to drive an almost 600bhp brute of a machine during this year’s Festival of Speed - that power delivered to the rear wheels - I jumped at the chance to demonstrate its grunt in a series of power slides on the safety of the Goodwood hillclimb.
When I learned that my car’s 587bhp was back up by a mighty 546lb ft of torque from the 6.2-litre, supercharged V8 engine, the prospect just got better.
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about the new VXR8 GTS-R, which costs £74,500 in the UK (NZ$132,000). This may sound expensive for a Vauxhall but let’s not forget that it has supercar performance, with a 0-60mph time of 4.2sec.
Its competition comes from the Mercedes E63 AMG S and BMW M5, both of which are significantly more expensive. Okay, look closely and some of the switchgear is not so impressive, neither are the wing mirrors. However, when the choice of audio is between a nine-speaker Bose sound system or pops and spits from the sports exhaust - and all the while the supportive, heated seats are holding you tight as you fishtail under power all the way from the start to the hillclimb’s first corner - suddenly these imperfections become insignificant.
This car put a smile on my face all the way up the hill thanks to its seamless (thanks to the supercharger) power delivery and precise steering. The six-piston caliper brakes are simply superb and the handling fantastic for such a large car, without any spine-jarring.
It also has a Track setting which switches off all the driver aids so that you can really have some fun. With this mode engaged, rear-wheel drifts are effortless—although it’s worth bearing in mind that a set of fresh rear tyres won’t be cheap.
It’s not sprung out of nowhere. This is a car that has been in development for years, an evolution of the outgoing VXR8, which can trace its roots to the mighty Monaro.
These big vauxhall super-saloons remind me of the halcyon days of the Lotus Carlton in the Eighties. However, unlike that car the big VXRs are based on the Holden Commodore sold by Vauxhall’s fellow general Motors brand Holden - and they are built by Holden in Australia.
The bad news is that production will cease when the Holden plant closes in October. Oh, and only 15 VXR8 GTS-Rs are destined for the UK.
So it’s exclusive, thrillingly fast yet also civilised if you want. It also marks the end of an era of big, Aussie-built saloons, so grab one while you can.
- Rebecca Jackson, Telegraph UK