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View the cars in our AutoRoadTests Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us at review of the VXR220Date:28/02/2005   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests review of the VXR220

Vauxhall VXR220

Our Thoughts
Does the VXR model spell the ultimate incarnation of the VX220 ?


The VX220 was first revealed at the London Motor show in 1999 and went on sale the following summer. The car was limited to 1000 units in the UK. The car was based on the original Lotus Elise and built alongside it at Hethel.

The VX220 Turbo was introduced in March 2003, and replaced the 2.2-litre normally aspirated standard VX220. This increased both power and torque. The rest of the car remained more or less the same.

In 2004 Vauxhall announced its new VXR brand and at the same time revealed two cars the Monaro VXR and the VXR220. This new version of the VX220 gave a much more focused car. Not only was it more powerful it had a host of changes over the VX220 turbo to enhance the cars driving abilities. The VXR220 did not replace the VX220 turbo it merely slotted above the turbo as a new flagship model.

The VXR220 features the same 2.0-litre turbo engine, however power is upgraded to 220bhp as a result of a new free-flow air filter, hybrid turbo and a reprogrammed ECU.

The car gets a new set of shoes to ensure that the power is adequately transferred to the road. The combination chosen is black five-spoke Speedline alloys shod with Yokohama A048R tyres. The dimensions of the wheels and tyres also changed over the standard turbo car. The front gets 195/50R16 (vs. 175/55R17) and the rear gets 225/35R17 (vs. 225/45R17). The result of the extra power and traction is a 0-60mph time of 4.2secs (vs. 4.9secs on the turbo).

The changes don't stop there to enhance the handling the VXR is 10 per cent more rigid than the turbo; has uprated and lowered springs and has 30 per cent stiffer dampers. If that is still not enough you can opt for optional Ohlins dampers.

The car retains the same sized brakes as on the turbo but these are enhanced by uprated brake pads.

1st Impressions - Exterior Styling

Only in Red with Matt black features
The first thing you have to do if you are thinking about buying a VXR220 is to like red, because that is the only colour you can buy it in. Calypso Red to be precise. Personally I'd have loved to see a black version it would look so dark and menacing. Red's ok though, you should never let something like colour blur your decision about a car.

To enhance the bodywork and to differentiate the car from a red standard turbo car Vauxhall has added matt black detailing in key places around the car notably the windscreen surround, the front grille, door mirrors, fuel cap and the rear spoiler. This does work quite well. For me the look is pure function, it exudes the image of a race car. Something I'm sure that Vauxhall intended.

As we noted when we tested the standard turbo the overall look of the car is less fussy and more aggressive than the mark ii Elise.

Interior Styling

Inside the changes to reflect the VXR are most notably the use of red Alcantra. This is used to upholster the centres of the seats and also the door inserts.

Red Alcantra and more Matt Black
The seats themselves are very attractive in a combination of the red Alcantra surrounded by black carbon fibre effect leather. The centre section of the seat is sewn into a series of square panels. This certainly make the seats look inviting. The headrest part of the seat finishes off the whole effect with an embroidered VXR logo. I reckon they are some of the best looking seats in any road car at the moment.

In addition to the red, matt black is also used to link to the exterior detailing of the car. So most of the silver parts you find on a normal turbo are now black. This includes the centre cowling, passenger footrest, pedals and window winders.

Basic is generally the word you'd use for the interior, even more so than the standard car which at least had a radio. I suppose you should be grateful for small mercies, so I'll acknowledge there is still a heater. Although if you did want to drive it in conditions such as those during our road test you'd wish the heater was a little bigger.

It's a good job that the seats are inviting otherwise you be really up against it. We knew what to expect but you do find yourself flitting between giggling and cursing as you get in and out of the car. Especially with the roof on, dignified exits are rare and your main solace is that sooner or later you'll have a passenger and an opportunity to laugh at someone else.

Ride, Handling & Steering

Lotus-derived suspension
The VX 220 Turbo is not a soft car and is 'quite communicative of the road surface beneath you'. The VXR220 takes this one step further and lets you fully appreciate what you are driving over. This is not a car if you have a bad back, or if you do a lot of miles. It is however a good car for what it is designed for - the track. Here things are different and you appreciate the feedback (and there is lots of it).

The car comes with Yokohama tyres, which are basically road legal slicks. So you can imagine the joy I experienced when I saw the first snow (and only snow!) of the year. To be fair the tyres work pretty well in the wet / slush and even in the ice. But you are constantly aware of your running shoes and if you do happen to forget, then you better have quick reactions. In the small window of time where the roads had actually dried out, the tyres were terrific and provide huge amounts of grip. Again the car is one step closer to the track and not at all a winter drive.

Handling wise the car is as good as it gets and whilst the Elise may have moved the game on a bit with its own cars, their pedigree is not lost in this car. As the conditions were far from ideal it was a pretty good test of the cars behaviour at the limit of its adhesion. For me, as someone who has spun a VX220 on the track, the car felt slightly better set up, and easier to reign in when things when slightly awry.

Fundamentally though you need to be a real enthusiast to drive this car daily.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The VXR uses the same 2.0-litre (1998cc) turbo as the standard turbo car, but power is upped to 218bhp at a slightly higher 5800rpm (vs. 198bhp @ 5500rpm) and torque rockets to 221lb ft although this is achieved at 4800rpm (vs. 1850lb ft @ 1950rpm).

218bhp / 221lb ft thanks to better air, hybrid turbo and new ECU.
The result is nearly a second of the 0-60mph time, that means just 4.0 seconds (vs. 4.9secs), and supercar territory. Top speed is up slightly to 154mph (from 151mph) although you'd need to be a very brave soul to get close. I am normally keen to explorer the top speeds but the VX always seems to get light and figity above 100mph.

The engine itself doesn't sound too different to the VX220 Turbo we tested. The turbo on the other hand was very different and its involvement was always heard, particularly when you lift off.

Performance wise the VXR feels far more immediate to the turbo we tested. Each gear has a renew sense of urgency and it felt far quicker than the raw figures would imply. If like me you enjoy acceleration this car will deliver. Equally its brakes haul you up quickly too.

The gearbox on the VXR is the same 5-speed manual found in the VX 220 turbo. The biggest thing to hit me, and something we noted in the turbo's review, was the length of the gear stick and the corresponding length of the throw. It seems huge given the rest of the car. You kind of expect a small stubby stick with an equally small throw. You get the opposite and once you get over this preconception the gearbox actually works pretty well. And again as we noted previously the positive aspect of this is the proximity to the steering wheel.


More Power, More Torque, but the same economy and emissions
VX220 and practicality is an interesting proposition. Basically it isn't - it has two seats; its an absolute nightmare to get in and out of; and whilst the boot is surprisingly roomy, it is still not what you'd class as big, it has a really hard ride, and of course there are very little creature comforts.

However if any of that is important to you, your probably not interested in buying a VXR220 or for that matter reading this review.

What we can say though is that the VXR is even less easy to live with than the standard turbo or the original normally aspirated car. It would suit being a second car something the other two models never needed to be.

The VXR220 has margainly worse economy figures than the standard turbo: Both have an urban figure of 23.7mpg, extra urban is 0.1mpg worse at 43.5mpg so too is the combined figure which is 33.2mpg. Emission wise exactly the VXR achieves the same 202g/km.


The VXR220 costs an extra 3k (29,995) over the standard turbo car. Which seems a pretty fair price for the extra performance and more focus. On the rivals front it is up to Lotus to provide a challenger either with it's Elise 111R (27,995) or its more track focused car the Exige (29,995). The VXR has the legs on both of them though.

In the dry or on the track the VXR220 makes perfect sense, in winter as we tested it - it would take some serious enthusiasm to own one. Does it warrant the extra money over the VX220 turbo? Well yes it is significantly different in character and does offer a noticeable performance advantage.

So in our book if your looking for a second car, something to enjoy and take on the track the VXR is definite contender. If you can't run to two cars then you better REALLY want the VXR. But be quick with only 60 VXRs being built they won't be around forever.

Vauxhall Press Release for the VXR220

Full Set of Photos taken during the test

VXR Website

Vauxhall UK website

Tell us what you think

Quick Section Links:
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion



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