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The Top Gear car review:Vauxhall VXR8
What is it like on the road?
The engine is still a basic large-capacity V8, this time sporting an Eaton supercharger and charge-cooling to deliver all that slugging power and torque. It drives the rear wheels through a heavy-duty six-speed manual gearbox (there’s a 6spd auto option) and twin-plate clutch, and has an enormous 9.9-inch rear diff and unique subframe. It’s basically a Chevy Camaro LS1 underneath, and while this kit might not be the last word in sophistication, it’s all rock-solid stuff and built for abuse.
The other hardware upgrades are designed to cope with the dramatic increase in power. There are now standard AP forged brakes (which used to be an option) - six-piston up front, larger diameter at the back. There’s third-generation Magnetic Ride Control (MRC), which means you can tighten up the body control and damping at the flick of a switch and a new electric power-steering system to try and claw back at least a little of the efficiency lost through that supercharger.
And you know what? The car feels 25 per cent better to drive in every direction. Immediately. The steering is more accurate and consistently weighted. The clutch pedal is lighter, even with the standard twin-plate clutch. The brakes are excellent, and the harder pedal is most welcome, lending feel to committed stops. And, of course, it sounds bloomin’ brilliant, though any supercharger noise is buried deep in the velvet of V8 thrum. And boy, is it fast. Any gear, at any revs, this motor picks the GTS up and pelts it at the horizon, and you barely need to head all the way to the 6,100rpm red line. Though you will, just to hear the V8 get abrasive and howling.
It all adds up to a car that feels tighter, more consistent, more European-fast. But in an attempt to compete with the likes of AMG and M Sport, HSV/Vauxhall has thrown an entire suite of electronics at the GTS, which doesn’t suit it for the UK market.