Jump straight from the Astra GTC to this car, the VXR, and you can immediately see, smell and feel where some of the extra money has gone.
Okay, so 13-large is a fair old chunk of wedge, but even so, the VXR is a much more complete performance car. Very complete, as it turns out.
The secret is that the bits and pieces that make up the VXR also happen to work pretty well together. Balance, it’s called. The VXR, isn’t the fastest car in a straight line here, and its 0-100km/h time of 6.58 seconds didn’t get it onto the standing-start podium. Nor did its 400m time of 14.8 at 158km/h (in fact, it was closer to mid-field across the quarter).
Part of that, however, is probably down to gearing that was a fraction longer than most of the rest and a tad too long for the technical Winton layout. At, say, Philip Island, it would doubtless be a different story, but at Winton, the VXR remains more or less a second and third-gear proposition. Mind you, the 80-120km/h in-gear run of 4.09 was pretty handy and backs up the flexibility of the turbomotor.
The chassis seems pretty well balanced between ride and handling but it’s also very obviously tuned for serious speed in the time-honoured Euro hot-hatch way. That includes a good dollop of steering accuracy and a very good line in corner speed; a trait that enabled it to put in a pretty hot lap. In fact, the VXR was the quickest of the sub-50K brigade with a storming 1.02:1 that would have seen in giving plenty of grief to a few of the over-$50K mob in a race.
The view that corner speed is a big part of all this is supported by the VXR’s apex speed at Turn Five of 112km/h; the fastest of this category. It felt it, too, and you could also discern that same corner-speed thing helping by sling-shotting you out the other side with more velocity on board.
In fact, despite those non-podium acceleration times we were talking about, the VXR’s top speed at any point on the Winton circuit was bested only by the XR6 Turbo’s (168 versus 172) with daylight third. And that’s purely down to being able to fire out of a corner with the wheels turning faster than the opposition. Simple.
More than that - for a mug like me, anyway – is that the VXR made you feel like you were going fast. It felt precise and accurate yet still allowed you to have a second crack at things if you messed it all up. Definitely not as adjustable and playful as some, it was, however, a safer, more predictable gadget as a result. And still bloody quick.
0-100km/h – 6.58sec (4th)
0-400m – 14.83sec @ 157.97km/h (6th)
Lap time – 1:42.1sec (1st)
Bang Index – 132.3
Price - $39,990
Bucks Index – 87.9
BFYB Index – 167.3
Campbell 6th – “Fast and planted. So much so, anyone who can get it to oversteer deserves a trophy.”
Morley 4th – “Opel, Holden, doesn’t matter. Works regardless of badge.”
Newman 5th – “Only interested in speed, but it’s damn good at it.”
Spinks 6th – “Welcome back! Could be more playful but loves track-work.”
Luffy 5th – “This car is effortless, confidence inspiring and easy to drive on the limit. It feels like it has a very wide platform under it as it's very stable through the fast stuff and good on the change of direction. If anything it does it all too easily, which takes away a bit of the fun element. But this gives you the confidence to push on because it doesn't have any frightening moments.”