PH Buying Guide: Vauxhall VX220


Necessity was to prove the mother of invention for the Vauxhall VX220. Vauxhall fancied a sports car to glitz up its range and Lotus desperately needed funds to replace its Elise Series 1 that could no longer meet impending crash protection regulations as the new millennium approached. A deal was struck and in 2000 the VX220 arrived on the market costing £22,809.

VX220 started out with a N-A 2.2-litre engine
VX220 started out with a N-A 2.2-litre engine
For the money, many thought they were simply being offered an Elise with Vauxhall badges (or Opel badges for the same car sold as the Speedster in Europe with left-hand drive). This could not have been further from the case as the VX shared only 10% of its components with the Elise, most notably the extruded aluminium chassis tub, bonded together to create a very torsionally stiff base. Even then, the VX differed from the Elise with a wheelbase that's 30mm longer and rear track 20mm wider than the Lotus.

Vauxhall also opted for 17-inch alloy wheels all round to give the VX a bit more presence, while Lotus stuck with 16-inch front wheels as it reckoned they improved handling balance. Either way, the VX impressed with its dynamic ability, helped by purpose-designed Bridgestone tyres. Other key changes were the Vauxhall's anti-lock brakes as standard and a driver's airbag, which the Elise did without.

VXR220 was an impressive last hurrah
VXR220 was an impressive last hurrah
The VX also distanced itself from the Elise with its engines. There was no way Vauxhall would condone a car in its line-up with a Rover K-Series engine, so the 147hp 2.2-litre aluminium motor from the Astra SRi was drafted in, helping the 870kg VX from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and on to 135mph.

Vauxhall then added the VX220 Turbo in 2003 with another engine from the Astra range. This iron-blocked motor gave 200hp but upped the overall weight of the car to 930kg. Still, the VX Turbo fires off 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and hits 151mph, which earned it a supercar-humbling reputation.

Lotus turned out a total of 5,267 VX220s and 1,940 Turbos by the time production ended in 2005, but that didn't stop Vauxhall adding one last VX hurrah in 2004 with the VXR220. This lightened, more powerful model used the Turbo as a base but with a modified ECU to increase power to 220hp. Along with optional Ohlins suspension and Lotus-aping 16-inch front wheels plus Yokohama tyres, it was the ultimate VX220 and could cover 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. Only 65 VXR220s were made, so it's a rarity today and you'll likely pay around £20,000 for a well cared for example. Much more affordable is the original normally aspirated VX that starts from around £6,000, while a Turbo will cost from the £9,000 mark.


Owner's view:
"If you can live with the downsides then you're guaranteed miles of smiles and lots of admiring looks."
Nige Franklin


Buying guide contents:
Introduction
Powertrain
Rolling chassis
Body
Interior
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Comments (67) Join the discussion on the forum

  • wooooody 31 Aug 2012

    What crash regulations? As far as I am aware there is no difference in crash worthiness at all between an S1 and K series S2. Neither has airbags, neither has ABS, the crash structures are only very slightly different and if anything the S2 tub is worse as it has the lower sills.

    Second time I've seen this on a PH VX220 article, care to point to a source?

    The article said said:
    The 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 R17 tyres Vauxhall used on the VX are fine at the back, but the 175/55 R17 fronts are an unusual size and hard to come by. At the outset, Bridgestone tyres were the only option as these were designed specifically for the VX220. There are some other tyre options out there now, but a simpler solution is to fit the 16-inch front alloy wheels from a Lotus Elise S2 which opens up a much broader selection of tyres.
    Except that neither S2 nor S1 wheels will fit a VX 220; the Lotus is 4 stud, the VX 5. You can if you change the hubs but that's hardly 'simpler'. Tyres are the single biggest reason now not to bother with a VX, my VX owning friends tell me it's still only bridestone that do tyres in completely the correct size, everything else is a compromise.



    Edited by wooooody on Friday 31st August 11:37

  • kambites 31 Aug 2012

    I've never heard that before, but maybe pedestrian impact regs? Is there less clearance between the front clam and the radiator on the S1/VX220 than the S2?

  • wooooody 31 Aug 2012

    Actually who writes this stuff? Only glanced over it but it's reccomending new hub to ball joint plinths in 10.9 grade? So they go bang all of a sudden instead of slowly weakening & giving a warning? Better to replace with new 8.8 bolts yearly if tracing.

    And no mention of toe links that I can see? Make sure they're the latest service bulletin fine thread items at least for road tyred cars.

  • NigelCayless 31 Aug 2012

    I had one of these for 6 months. Although it was fun to drive it was an absolute money pit - you wouldn't think so much could go wrong on such a simple car. Traded it in for a 370z which was a vast improvement.

  • cliffie 31 Aug 2012

    Hi wooooody,

    Most VX220 owners go for a 16/17 inch wheel combination then run the 195/45-17 fronts, there are a few die hard fans of originality that stick to the Bridgestones.

    As for the hub bolts snapping. Not unique to the VX220 and the 8.8 can snap especially on a track day car with sticky tyres such as the Yokohama or Toyo. The change from the 8.8 to the 10.9 was in fact a Lotus originated fix and advised for all Elise/Exige at Lotus servicing and the bolt kit became a Lotus supplied part. I doubt you would notice that bolt slowly weakening over time and no warning is given whatever grade you use.

    The VX220 has wider sills hence better side impact protection.

    You could always go to www.vx220.org.uk if you want to learn facts about the VX220 rather than post incorrect information.

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