Crisis? What Crisis? GM’s Vauxhall Division Launches Its Fastest, Priciest Car
By Andy Bannister
They breed optimists in Luton, the unremarkable English city which is home to the headquarters of Vauxhall, GM’s British division. Despite almost universal gloom about falling sales and slowing production, the company has just announced what is arguably its most extravagant car ever.
The Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst S is a significantly souped-up version of the already fairly-extreme VXR8 saloon – the same Australian-made design which sells as a Holden in its native land and as the Pontiac G8 in the US.
The Bathurst name isn’t going to be familiar to many Brits but is a fitting homage to the race series held in New South Wales, using the Mount Panorama hill circuit.
The Corvette-sourced 6.2-litre V8 has been enhanced by a Walkinshaw Performance 122 Supercharger giving the car a staggering 552hp with 527lb ft of torque. This makes the big Aussie offered in the UK more powerful than the HSV-badged Holdens on sale in the design’s native Australia.
Top speed is governed to 155mph, and Vauxhall is quoting a 0-60mph sprint time of 4.7 seconds for the Bathurst S, which retails at a hefty £45,000 ($64,000).
Other modifications include uprated brakes, height adjustable springs and sophisticated dampers, said to deliver enhanced body control.
If the way this monster sounds doesn’t satisfy the discerning owner, Vauxhall is also offering a bi-modal exhaust system as an option with two noise settings: loud and deafening. This costs an extra £1600 ($2300) and is bounds to annoy the neighbours.
Outside, the VXR8 Bathurst S is instantly recognisable by its decidedly “boy racer” graphic pack, plus front fog light covers and ‘Bathurst’ badges. Huge 20-inch alloy wheels are another optional extra.
For those who can live without the extra power, a more sensible non-supercharged Bathurst, developing 425hp, is also available for £38,000 ($54,000) with similar looks to its S-badged sister model.
These cars are never going to have the cachet of a Jaguar or BMW – it’s a Vauxhall, for heaven’s sake – but the company has done its best to make the car as special as possible. Inside a console-mounted badge showing the car’s build number complements the ‘Walkinshaw Performance’ tread plates found inside each door opening.
Overall, the Bathurst S is a remarkably characterful Vauxhall, and in many ways a modern reinterpretation of the company’s last effort in this class well over a decade ago, the legendary Lotus Carlton.
Unlike the Lotus, however, the Bathurst‘s only European Union market is the UK, as sister-division Opel strangely doesn’t offer an equivalent of it – or indeed any VXR8 – in mainland Europe.
Young, new-money types in the City of London – including those stock market traders and bankers heavily mired in the economic meltdown – have traditionally been magnetically attracted this type of big, lairy saloon, so it will be interesting to see who is left can afford to buy and run one of these vehicles in 2009.
Whatever happens next, only a handful will be made, of course, so the future of the company isn’t going to hinge on it. Most of Vauxhall’s time will continue to be focused on desperately trying to move metal like the new Insignia mid-range saloon, the ageing Astra and the small Corsa and Agila models – all of which have been hit by the vicious sales slowdown.
If the market changes as much as some commentators are predicting, cars like the VXR8 Bathurst S could be dinosaurs heading for imminent extinction. If so, at least Vauxhall’s offering has gone out with a bang, not a whimper.
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