Vauxhall, a company best known for producing inoffensive hatchbacks that appeal to learner drivers, has thrown down the gauntlet to the performance divisions of BMW and Mercedes with the mighty VXR8 GTS saloon.
The flagship of the Vauxhall range, the VXR8 is actually a re-badged Holden HSV imported from Australia – something the Luton brand has been doing since it introduced the snarling Monaro coupe to the UK market in 2004.
This latest model is the most bonkers yet. It’s a two-fingered salute to engine downsizing and fuel economy, being fitted with a massive supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine from the Corvette muscle car, which develops an incredible 576bhp.
Not only does this comfortably eclipse more upmarket rivals the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG, it also outguns the recently announced Aston Martin V12 Vantage S– the fastest car in the marque’s firmament.
It’s a relative bargain, too. At £54,999, Vauxhall is claiming the VXR8 GTS is the cheapest route into the 500bhp club.
Official performance figures have yet to be confirmed, but the 0-60mph time should be somewhat lower than the previous model’s 4.9 seconds, while the top speed is likely to be limited to 155mph.
Don’t expect the VXR8 to skimp on equipment either. Aside from Brake Torque Vectoring, which improves handling by minimising understeer, the car is also fitted with magnetic dampers, which allows for the ride to be firmed up for greater body control at the flick of a switch.
It’s also well specified with toys. Drivers will enjoy Automatic Park Assist, a reversing camera and keyless entry and start. There is also a fighter-plane style head-up display, showing a wealth of driver information, fitted as standard.
However, don’t expect the subtle, avant-garde styling offered by the German brands. This is a Vauxhall VXR after all – a brand synonymous in this country with youngsters tearing up McDonald’s car park in hot Astras.
True to form, the VXR8 wears a huge ‘twin nostril’ grille and jutting vents to channel air to that oversized engine.
Large daytime running lights and arch filling 20-inch wheels complete the in-your-face look.
Interested? Order books are open now and the first cars are expected to reach customers by the end of the year.
If you’d prefer to buy used, you can browse our Vauxhall classifieds here