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VXR has come a longer way than you might think

Oh no, Three Pedals is really starting to go downhill now. A whole article based on Vauxhall? That company who seems to serve no purpose except for people with Fords to claim they haven't quite got the worst car in the world?* But please bear with me, because we are not going to talk about how much carbon dioxide the 2002 Vectra emits. No, I want to go over the brand's lunatic brand: VXR.

These days, the VXR cars are being put up in tests against their main rivals from Ford and Renault. Most of the time, the VXR motor is placed in last place for a reason, but I believe this is not because the VXR cars are god-awful - they aren't, trust me - but because the competition is so severe.
The car that started it all. I salute you, VX220.

You see, back in 2004, Vauxhall were severely lacking in their model lineup. For sure, some of their cars have had a 'GSi' badge glued onto them, but that meant nothing more than a tepid teapot that would still understeer like a pig. Vauxhall knew this wasn't enough and therefore launched 'VX Racing', which is now known as VXR. If you are reading this outside the UK, VXR is the same as OPC.

We were promised proper performance machines, and with the launch of the VX220 in 2004, things looked pretty rosey. The VX220 had been around since 2000, but with the VXR facelift, the 2.2 N/A engine was thrown out in favour for a new 2.0L turbo engine. The turbo meant power climbed by over 50bhp, and the 0-60 time was under five seconds. Nice.

Along came 2005, and out popped the new VXR looney: the Astra VXR. Painted in a look-at-me blue, and armed with 236bhp, the Astra was a serious contender in the hot hatch battle against its main rivals. In fact, the Astra completely trumped them power-wise, but it suffered from monumental understeer that just didn't make it feel as complete as the Focus ST or Megane RenaultSport.

VXR had its moments, and that's saying it nicely
2006, in my opinion, has to be the nastiest year for VXR. No, they weren't suffering financial troubles, but whatever they were smoking to make them decide that the Meriva and Zafira should have VXR facelifts, that stuff needs to be banished. With the Meriva having a tepid 175bhp, paired with its boxy figure, you could hardly call it fast. 0-60 was done in 8 seconds, which is about equal to the 1.9L diesel Astra of its time. The Zafira was a little better because it inherited the Astra's 236bhp turbo nutter engine, but even that wasn't good because the tall profile of the car just made the cornering ability rubbish and the acceleration, er, mild.

Later on, the Vectra VXR was released. Packed with a 2.8L V6 turbo, it promises to be fast, and it was without a doubt. But yet again, it just couldn't corner. The shouty looks of the car wrote a cheque that the track performance couldn't cash.

The Corsa Nurburgring is a true LSD masterpiece
But more recently, things have been a lot better. The new Insignia VXR isn't perfect by any means, but it's a lot more subtle and sensible when you want it to be; something the German manufacturers excel at. The current Corsa VXR was hardly dazzling until the Nurburgring edition came along with a mechanical limited slip differential - it's a totally different beast now, and for the better. The current Astra VXR is a true beauty, but it's ridiculously expensive and emits a rather monotone sound.

Do you see what I mean? When tested against their main rivals, the VXR's still flop a bit. But at least they can actually compare against the rivals nowadays. Keep it up, Vauxhall/Opel.

*I joke, and I joke massively. I love Ford.
VXR has come a longer way than you might think VXR has come a longer way than you might think Reviewed by Jack Cooper on April 06, 2014 Rating: 5

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