This review was originally written for Wavelength Surf Magazine, July 2013:
Er, what is it?
The Vauxhall VXR8 is the British cousin of the Australian HSV Clubsport R8 Tourer. Put simply, it’s a practical estate car with a whopping great V8 engine. To the untrained eye at the beach it may look like just another sporty estate car, but there are aesthetic hints as to its awesome capability. The aggressive snouts on the bonnet, flared arches, 20 inch wheels, and four tailpipes are clues that give the game away – this is one serious piece of kit.
What’s it like to drive?
The comfortable leather bucket seats hold you in place whilst the huge steering wheel and generous pedals make the driver feel connected and in charge. The steering is perfectly balanced – firm and planted yet light enough to make parking a breeze. Around town the car is civilised and easy to drive, although the clunky gearbox can take getting used to.
Out on the open road the pace is blistering. The 429bhp 6.2 litre V8 engine feels like it’s never going to run out of power – it just keeps on pulling. The stated 0-60 time is 4.9 seconds, but it’s the acceleration from there on that’s mind blowing. This car just loves going fast. Keeping that power in check are four huge AP Racing disc brakes, the performance of which is almost as impressive as the engine itself. The combination of an engine that loves to go and a braking system that loves to stop is perfect for those ‘report says six foot but the wind is swinging round so we need to be fifteen miles away half an hour ago’ scenarios that most surfers will be familiar with. The VXR8 can capitalise on the smallest window of opportunity for overtaking slower traffic, just dropping a gear and stamping on the fun pedal unleashes a deep wail from the V8 as it rockets forward. Despite it’s size and weight the power isn’t intimidating, it may sound like seven hells but the advanced traction control system and incredible brakes make this a very enjoyable car to drive quickly.
How does it sound?
Incredible. The 6.2 litre V8 starts with a grumble that would make any car nutter grin; it burbles and pulsates at idle in the most satisfying way. I’d rather listen to any engine than local Cornish radio but the VXR8 comes with a compilation of ear pleasing tones that’d rival Zane Lowe’s best late night set list.
What’s it like to live with?
The VXR8 is a very practical car. Although this Australian thoroughbred feels wide on tight Cornish lanes, physically it’s no harder to live with than any other large estate car. There are plenty of toys to keep you entertained in the cabin such as cruise control, zonal climate control, detailed race analytics, reversing camera – it’s got the lot.
In terms of fuel economy it’s very efficient. A 102bhp VW T5 can return 37.7mpg, so the VXR8 being 4 times more powerful should use 4 times more fuel. Driven sensibly the VXR8 can achieve over 20mpg, which makes it twice as economical as a diesel VW T5 when compared like for like. (Obviously this doesn’t quite make sense, but then nor does buying a VXR8 if fuel economy and the environment are a concern…)
What’s it like for a surfer?
With the gigantic load space the VXR8 will transport you and your surf buddies in comfort and at pace. The rear seats fold flat and split fold – the most important two features any surfer should look for in an estate car! If you’re determined to take four surfing friends on an epic adventure it can be fitted with solid roof racks. Despite the 20inch wheels and low skirts; ground clearance only becomes a problem in the most rutted of car parks.
Are there any alternatives?
If you’re looking for a fast, V8 estate car that can transport the whole family and all your surfboards then the VXR8 represents good value:
Mercedes E63 AMG Estate, 549bhp V8, £75,535
Audi RS6 Avant, 560bhp V8, £76,985
What’s the verdict?
If you can stomach the fuel economy and want to stand out from the crowd then this is the wagon for you. That V8 howl will never get old, you’ll never have the problem of parking next to an identical vehicle in Polzeath car park on a Bank Holiday and Joel Parkinson drives one.
2013 Vauxhall VXR8 Tourer:
Engine: 6162cc V8 Petrol
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual
Fuel Consumption: 20.9mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 324g/km
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Price From: £49,500