RE: VX220 Turbo

RE: VX220 Turbo

Monday 27th October 2003

VX220 Turbo

Graham Bell tests a Vauxhall but looks beyond the badge


Chances are that from its advertising this year, most of you know that this is Vauxhall’s centenary. What most of you probably don’t know though is that back in its early years, Vauxhall was regarded as something of an upmarket sporting marque. In fact prior to World War One Vauxhalls set several class speed records, held the lap record at Brooklands and posted a time at Shelsley Walsh hill-climb so far ahead of the competition that it remained the course record for 15 years.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

The reason I mention this is that these days Vauxhall is generally regarded as anything but a sporting marque. In fact when the VX 220 was originally launched some people immediately dismissed it purely because of the badge, stating that Vauxhall 'had no sporting heritage'. In reality Vauxhall have a sporting heritage that spans 100 years and continues to this day. After all, who’s been BTCC champion for the last three years?

But despite all their Touring Car successes, up until the launch of the VX 220 you’d struggle to find anything in Vauxhall’s recent line up that could be described as a high performance car to excite the enthusiastic driver.

The VX220 is of course essentially a modified Elise with a Vauxhall engine, different body panels and a few sops to the mainstream buyer. However, as Vauxhall discovered from the poor sales figures, most people who buy this sort of car would rather have a Lotus badge than an airbag and ABS. But with the VX220 Turbo offering over 40bhp more than the Elise 111S for £500 less, it’s had a lot of people thinking that maybe a Lotus badge isn’t that important after all.

Power

That tempting turbo isn’t attached to the ‘original’ VX’s 2.2 litre all alloy-engine but comes courtesy of a parts bin labelled ‘Astra GSi engines’. These 2-litre units use iron rather than alloy blocks, which along with all the turbo gubbins means the VX Turbo weighs 55kg more than the standard model at 930kg.

Compared to Evos and WRXs, the VX Turbo’s maximum output of 200bhp at 5,500rpm looks a bit tame, indicating a mild set-up. This is backed up by the torque curve which is – literally – flat from 1950rpm to 5500rpm, between which it produces a useful 184 lb ft.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

Transmitting this to the back wheels is the same Getrag 5-speed gearbox used on the normally aspirated VX, though to make better use of the increased power and torque both final drive and fifth gear ratios have been raised, producing a long-legged 25mph per 1000rpm in top.

Despite its extra power and weight, the Turbo also uses the same 288mm vented discs all round as the standard version (with alloy callipers from AP Racing front and Brembo rear) but does offer the option of drilled discs as fitted to the test car. The all round unequal length double wishbone suspension has been beefed up though, with spring and damper rates increased by 7% at the front and 11% at the rear.

Body

Looks wise, external differences between the turbo and the standard VX run to a couple of discreet black ‘splitters’ on the front, a body coloured spoiler on the back, some purposeful looking air scoops on the flanks and new wheels with forked spokes. The scoops and spoiler definitely help add to the ‘junior supercar’ image, and the VX turbo certainly has a real presence on the road (especially when painted in eye-catching Brilliant Yellow!) eliciting vociferous approval on more than one occasion from gangs of lads. Seems there’s hope for the Max Power generation yet…

It cuts the sports car mustard on the inside too. Ensconce yourself in the VX’s driving seat, and even though there’s a Vauxhall badge in front of you there’s no doubting you’re behind the wheel of something special. For starters, there’s that low slung, sit on the floor race-car driving position, the small steering wheel and all that exposed aluminium. Then there’s that interesting forward view between the distinctive angular curve of the front wings.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

Apart from some minor trim revisions, the main interior change over the standard model is the instrument panel, the dials of which have silver rather than white faces, with the speedo going to 160mph and the tacho gaining a ‘shift up’ light.

On the Road

The clutch is light and progressive but the gearchange is somewhat clunky, though locating and engaging your chosen ratio is a swift and effortless task, and unlike the Elise 111S I tested some years back you can short cut across the gate with no problem.

Thankfully the steering is very like the Elise. There might be an airbag in its centre, but the two-way communication between your hands and the front wheels via that small Momo steering wheel is absolutely sublime.

The uprated suspension remains pliant enough to soak up the bumps comfortably in most conditions, though the car does thump noticeably over sunken manhole covers round town and it did grauch a few times at high speeds along bumpy country roads.

Handling

As for handling, well following complaints from S1 Elise owners about suddenly heading backwards into the hedge/gravel trap it’s hardly surprising that the VX has been set up to understeer. Like the standard version, the Turbo uses skinny 175/55x17 Bridgestones on the front, and if you push it too fast into a corner in normal road conditions they’re the ones that’ll slide. But with 200bhp and rear wheel drive you’d expect to be able to induce power oversteer – right?

Well at one point I found myself with a completely clear roundabout to play with, and a few quick circuits hard enough to generate the smell of burning rubber indicated that applying more power mid-bend just tends to push the front end even wider rather than bringing the back out.

You can however bring the back end out by getting off the throttle. Yes, the VX Turbo has lift-off oversteer. Don’t panic though, because even with modest driving ability it’s not hard to deliberately provoke the VX Turbo into a slide, lift off the throttle to bring the back round and then balance it on the throttle and steering.

Alternatively you might prefer to simply match your power to the bend, in which case the VX will go round quite neutrally - and rather more quickly.

Pulling Power

Despite its mild state of tune the engine isn’t keen on pulling from below 1,500rpm, but things are different once you’ve reached that wide plateau on the torque curve. Above 2,000rpm the VX Turbo pulls very strongly (to the accompaniment of a noticeable whine from behind you) and on NSL roads you can make quite rapid progress just using top gear, which might help you get near the official extra-urban figure of 43.6mpg.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

For really rapid progress though you need to make full use of the gears and hang on to them until that ‘shift up’ light comes on at around 6,300rpm. Get the VX220 Turbo going at full chat and there aren’t many cars on the road that’ll keep up with it. Vauxhall claim 0-60 in just 4.7 seconds, which is F360 quick – and I can believe it. Make no mistake, work it hard and this car is seriously rapid, with third gear providing fantastic overtaking capability.

On the flip side of the coin we come to the VX’s biggest sop to the mainstream, namely its brakes. Whereas the Elise sticks to the basics with no servo and no ABS, the VX has both servo and ABS. They are well calibrated though and help provide powerful progressive braking that won’t catch you out in the wet.

Day to Day

Practicality is hardly the main priority with a car like this, but during the week I had it I did two days of rush hour commuting and it coped well with all aspects of city driving from stop start traffic to multi-story car parks.  Stowage space isn’t huge, with a rear parcel shelf and a couple of map pockets on the inside and a rather shallow but full-width 7.1 cu ft compartment in the tail – for which you can get a pair of special VX luggage bags. Just don’t expect the soft-top to fit in with them.

Winter is hardly the best time to drive the VX either, because it mists up badly in cold damp weather and the optional hard top creaks and rattles. Still, at least the Turbo offers the optional ‘Touring Pack’ with extra carpeting for the sills so that your right leg won’t end up frozen by ice-cold aluminium…

The Package

However, I’m sure many PHers would gladly put up with these minor annoyances for a car that has a Lotus developed chassis, 151mph top speed and Ferrari matching acceleration, yet which will do over 30mpg in normal use and costs just £25,495 – including a day’s Advanced Driver Training with Palmersport.

I’m equally sure that, despite all this, some people will continue to dismiss the VX220 Turbo simply because of the badge. But if you’re prepared to look beyond the badge you’ll find a belting little sports car that offers a hell of a lot of road presence, performance and driving pleasure for not a lot of money.

And one that gives you the chance to enjoy the facial expressions of admiring members of the public when they ask what make of car it is and you tell them, “It’s a Vauxhall”.

VX220 Links

© Copyright Graham Bell 2003

Author
Discussion

Nacnud

Original Poster:

2,187 posts

211 months

Monday 27th October 2003
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Last Saturday I was lucky enough to do five laps of Castle Combe in this very demonstrator! Unfortunately I was only passengering and the pilot had instructions to return the car to the factory with some tread left on the tyres.

Despite apologies for having to take it a bit easy, it was still a very entertaining set of laps, even getting a little crossed up now and again. And it was very rapid! The usable powerband seemed virtually endless and pulled like the proverbial train.

Good luck to Vauxhall. IMHO the VX200 Turbo deserves success.

jimbro1000

1,616 posts

226 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
No comment of the pisspot small fuel tank and the average fuel consumption then?

While the consumption was really no worse than my normal driver I found the VX220T needed refilling nearly every day on my normal run with the fuel gauge visibly dropping on the way.

I also found the suspension/steering jittery. I'm used to very direct steering in short wheel base, mid-engined cars and none of them have ever been like this. Fine on a very flat surface (and I don't mean motorways) but really, really bad on the local country lanes! While this does add to the excitement and fun (if you can call it that) it does make the car anything but easy to drive.

Can't get the rear out? You must have been doing something wrong - 2000 lines "I must try harder!"

On the motorway it is a real barnstormer up to about 90mph where it suddenly turns into something of a dog feeling utterly breathless - no doubt one of the aftermarket "chips" would solve that though. It certainly had none of the urgency my old Integra had...

I believe my final comment to the Vauxhall rep when I handed it back after 3 days was "a brilliant car - but a shame about the roads". I would never, ever buy one (says he who keeps looking out for the inevitable cheap second handers that must appear soon) not because the car is awful - far from it, but its "sports" suspension is so overwhelmed by the roads in my area that I could never enjoy it.

madasahatter

374 posts

209 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
jimbro1000 said:
No comment of the pisspot small fuel tank and the average fuel consumption then?

While the consumption was really no worse than my normal driver I found the VX220T needed refilling nearly every day on my normal run with the fuel gauge visibly dropping on the way.

I also found the suspension/steering jittery. I'm used to very direct steering in short wheel base, mid-engined cars and none of them have ever been like this. Fine on a very flat surface (and I don't mean motorways) but really, really bad on the local country lanes! While this does add to the excitement and fun (if you can call it that) it does make the car anything but easy to drive.

Can't get the rear out? You must have been doing something wrong - 2000 lines "I must try harder!"

On the motorway it is a real barnstormer up to about 90mph where it suddenly turns into something of a dog feeling utterly breathless - no doubt one of the aftermarket "chips" would solve that though. It certainly had none of the urgency my old Integra had...

I believe my final comment to the Vauxhall rep when I handed it back after 3 days was "a brilliant car - but a shame about the roads". I would never, ever buy one (says he who keeps looking out for the inevitable cheap second handers that must appear soon) not because the car is awful - far from it, but its "sports" suspension is so overwhelmed by the roads in my area that I could never enjoy it.


I must admit the fuel consumption is rarely as good as Vauxhall say, but I have to add that this problem is found somewhere between the steering wheel and the seat.

You could drive at the speed of a 1.8 Mondeo all day and get the figures, and you COULD drive at 75-80mph all day on the motorway (I am almost sure the Turbo spools down at these speeds - but maybe I just cannot hear it). You could get the fuel economy then.

But who wants to drive a car like the VX like that?

Although you are right JimBro, the steering is direct, and the state of England's road (and possibly the UK's) is enough to mean that you are fighting the car down country lanes, I have to say that it is FAR better than my TVR Cerbera in this respect.

On the stength of that, I suspect that a lot of enthusiasts would go for it, with the steering as it is.

I think the VXT is a very very good everyday car, as well as a load of fun for hooning down a favourite country road.

If I wore a hat, I would take it off to Vauxhall.

Don

28,367 posts

226 months

Monday 27th October 2003
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I can only hope that the VX200 Turbo has a depreciation profile as piss-poor as most other Vauxhalls.

Because then, when it is two years old and has done only 20,000 miles and is worth only a third of its new value, I'll buy one.

But I don't expect that'll actually happen damnit.

Followed one briefly at Anglesey. By heck those things shift. The driver was pretty nifty, mind, niftier than me for a start - but still....what a monster.

DanL

2,699 posts

207 months

Monday 27th October 2003
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Jittery steering indeed - it's called feedback! To be honest, I used to think my VX felt nervous at high-ish speeds, but it's just the way of the car. Once you adapt, it's fine. The Elise is just the same...

As you say - the fuel tank is a bit of a thimble. I get about 180 miles out of a tank before I feel I have to refil the thing, but on the other hand it only costs me 18 or so each time. The VXT could be slightly worse, I suppose.

Dan
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Marki

15,763 posts

212 months

Monday 27th October 2003
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Tempted by one of these wee beastys

jimbro1000

1,616 posts

226 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
DanL said:
Jittery steering indeed - it's called feedback! To be honest, I used to think my VX felt nervous at high-ish speeds, but it's just the way of the car. Once you adapt, it's fine. The Elise is just the same...


It was the lack of feedback that made it jittery, not the other way around. The car's ability to suddenly leap sideways by a couple of feet *without* telling you through the steering is what made it such a handful. All it needed was a bit of backwash from a lorry or a slight ripple in the road. Forget trying to use the inside lane on the motorway as that was just a death-wish in disguise, on the other hand it *did* keep me very awake.

As for the fuel consumption - some genuine hooning without trying too hard (ie fast but not totally antisocial) was seeing about 100 miles to a tank. A more sedate pace saw that rise to about 130 miles. If I had imposed some real restraint I could possibly have dragged it up to maybe 150 or a little bit more but not by much.

madasahatter

374 posts

209 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
That sounds a little bit suss.

Very heavy hooning around the local countryside still gets 150 miles from a tank. And yes, I was trying.

The worst mpg recorded from a standard VXT is about 14mpg - which was round the Nurburgring - that is nearly 110 miles from a tank.

Also, the steering DOES tell you when it is going to wander, or dive across the road - could be the 4 wheel alignment needs doing. Again, my Cerb used to dive across the road as you explained, but the wheel alignment made a huge difference here. I guess if one of the front wheels is slightly out of line, and you go over an slightly uneven bit of road, it could pull you about a bit.

Still. Each to their own!!

DanL

2,699 posts

207 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
jimbro1000 said:
It was the lack of feedback that made it jittery, not the other way around. The car's ability to suddenly leap sideways by a couple of feet *without* telling you through the steering is what made it such a handful. All it needed was a bit of backwash from a lorry or a slight ripple in the road.

It did that? Blimey - something must have been knackered, as my regular VX's never done that... Admittedly, it can get a bit 'lively' over bumpy country lanes if you're really pressing on, but never on a M-way.

Mind you, I can't claim to use the inside lane too much!

Dan

>> Edited by DanL on Monday 27th October 14:41

grahambell

2,695 posts

217 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all
Wouldn't say I found the suspension or steering to be jittery, but at high speeds it can feel light on the front end. And yes, at high speeds down bumpy country roads it did get bounced sideways slightly once or twice, but never to the extent that it felt as if it was going to be thrown across the road.

Like DanL says, it's just the way of the car and feels fine once you've got used to it.

OK, the fuel tank is small, but if you're not permanently flooring it I reckon 30mpg is a possibility. Certainly one of the most economical cars I've tested for PistonHeads, especially in view of the performance on offer.

johnnystorm

168 posts

215 months

Monday 27th October 2003
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I have just returned from a test drive in one of these and I'm afraid I'm not that impressed. While obviously very quick, the lag-thump nature of the power delivery didn't seem to suit the car. I'll second the reports of poor feedback, compared to my S1 Elise the steering was heavy and prone to bump steer, not nice on back roads. Interior space seemed even less than my Elise with my arm up against the salesman the whole way. Airbag steering wheel is a funny shape and servo's are too spongey for me. The real killer for me is the hard/sharp angle the sills have. While lower to ease entry (but wider so still as much faff!) they now co-incide with the side of my leg about knee height and it bloody hurt! Sorry, but I'll keep my Lotus.

DanH

12,287 posts

202 months

Monday 27th October 2003
quotequote all

Elises and by the same token VXs (I expect) are very sensitive to geo. I'd suspect that it was out if its that bad. They can get a bit unsettled at times if there is a huge problem with the surface of the road or something, but doubt it would be different in any sports car.

Its not the Vauxhall name that puts me off, its the slab sided styling

stevenrt

141 posts

212 months

Tuesday 28th October 2003
quotequote all
There was a thread on the Lotus Life Bulletin Board that is relevant to this discussion, in the interests of information dissemination I have copied it below:

"
from mrb:

Nick

There's an old road which runs between my place of work and my parents house up in the Midlands which always used to leave me a bit frustrated and disappointed when I drove it in my previous car, a VX220. The road consists of a long series of fast sweeping bends but it is also very bumpy. The bumpy nature of the road seemed to unsettle the car and frequently deflect it from my desired line, requiring constant steering corrections which meant the car didn't flow smoothly through the bends. In my Elise S2 the situation couldn't be more different. Whilst bumps are still felt every bit as much, the steering doesn't seem to kick back as violently and the car sticks to it's line much better, meaning that I can concentrate on carving a smooth line through the turns.

I'm pretty clueless about chassis stuff, but a mate of mine (who's only a bit less clueless) said the difference could be something to do with the difference in unsprung mass at the front of the cars. From your previous reply about the mass differences between the two cars you say hubs and disks account for 20kg and bigger front wheels/tyres on the VX about 12kg. Asuming the hub differences to be equal at all four corners that amounts to 11kg differnce in unsprung mass at each front corner, which sounds like an awful lot to me.

Are the differences I've observed on bumpy roads anything to do with this or is my mate talking tosh?

Thanks

MRB

...

from Nick Adams [Lotus Engineer]:

..there certainly is a significant difference in the unsprung masses of the S2 and the VX220, but as there is a not disproportionate difference in sprung mass the ratios between the sprung and unsprung masses are not so very different. I rather doubt therefore that your mate is on the right path with his diagnosis, although it could be exascerbating the effect. I suspect what you are experiencing is the differences in the geometry of the S2 and the VX. The S2 is set-up in line with Lotus thinking with regard to bump steer characteristics and front to rear grip levels, while the VX has been developed to meet Vauxhall/Opels requirements. The upshot of this is the S2 is a little more demanding of the driver than the VX, and maybe a little less forgiving in the event of the driver making a mistake like lifting off mid corner, while the VX is a little more tolerant of driver errors but slightly less dedicated than the S2. It would be wrong to say one or the other is right, they are probably both right for the audience they hope to attract.....

from mrb:

OK I'll tell him he's talking bolx! Whatever the reason, I'm just pleased that the fun now doesn't stop when things get bumpy. You're right though with your very diplomatic answer; both are truly superb cars which are different for slightly different needs. I just love that 'steering hardwired direct into the brain' feel, so I've now got the right car for me

"

Nick also accounted for the mass differences between the Elise S2 and the VX in another thread:

"Hi All, as you guessed, the majority of the difference in mass between the VX and the S2 lies in the powertrain (60 kg ish), the brake discs and hubs (20kg ish) and the additional equipment the VX carries (10kg ish). The larger front wheels and tyres add another 6kg or so each, the exhaust system is some 10kg heavier, the body is about 20kg heavier. Altogether this comes to a difference of about 130kg in equivalent states. ...
Cheers, Nick"


Broccers

3,204 posts

195 months

Monday 3rd November 2003
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Well a mixed bag of views in this thread. Just doing a little research before my test drive this afternoon. I drove the N/A and was very very dissapointed. Shabby build quality, the drivers side window broke whilst we were out and refused to close again.

Hope I'm more impressed this time.

gerrym

187 posts

192 months

Wednesday 5th November 2003
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Something tells me the review from Johnnystorm is a real independant review looking at all pros and cons and reporting on the differences...NOT!

ultimarobert

110 posts

193 months

Saturday 22nd November 2003
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I have to say the normally aspirated VX I had for a year was both fun and interesting -- to say the least.

I got around the badge by going one deeper; chiefly, I put a green Skoda badge front and back. It sure provided conversations of the type "Is that a Skoda" whenever parking. Even the police periodically stopped by to ask the question -- and then argue between themselves if it really was a Skoda.

The pearlecent(?) green/black/yellow paint made it look awesome too with the re-badging (I wonder who has it now). The Vauxhall people hated it when I went for servicing though.

My main arguments against the VX, is its small fuel supply and jumpy steering. It would also rear-wheel hop around long tight bends at speeds above 60mph. That was OK once you knew what was happening.

My biggest argument with Vaxhaull is its size. I happen to like the body style and do not really care for the Elise styling or Lotus badge on such a small car, but it would have been a great car if it had the size of a Merc 500 and at least a V6 turbo. Of course the price would have reflected the change.

I bought an Ultima GTR this year and it has the right size of everything. It just lacks some of the high-tech found in the VX -- i.e. the optical cables on the throttle, airbag (it has RAC caging) or other safety and engine comforts.

I do not miss the rattle in the hard top (you can tighten until knuckles are white) or the shaky windows (hope the turbo has better), the occassional rain leak or the foggy winter windows.

But, it is a great car if you are 18 - 30 in age (to look in 25,000 budget), somewhat fit & trim (to look in proportion) and do not drive around corners too fast on rainy oil slick roads (anyone without practice that is).

I may buy one for my daughter.

haydo

2 posts

178 months

Sunday 2nd January 2005
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I`ve got the offer of a VX220 Y Reg with 30k miles for ` 11000 ono` through a colleage at work. They seem to be going for a bit more money than this generally. I`m seeing the car on Tuesday. Guy`s what do I need to look for and what to I need to ask?? Cheers for you help in advance. Haydo

tja

1,172 posts

196 months

Sunday 2nd January 2005
quotequote all
haydo said:
I`ve got the offer of a VX220 Y Reg with 30k miles for ` 11000 ono` through a colleage at work. They seem to be going for a bit more money than this generally. I`m seeing the car on Tuesday. Guy`s what do I need to look for and what to I need to ask?? Cheers for you help in advance. Haydo

Get over to vx220.org.uk as someone there might know the car.

There's also plenty of information available on the site via the forum search function.

Scorewriter

75 posts

172 months

Tuesday 14th June 2005
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It's interesting reading these debatesregarding Elises and VX's. Obviously most are written with a bias depending on which points of view your starting from.

I've had an Elise S2 135 for about 3 1/2 years and not had the merest hint of trouble with it. I've loved having the car and always thought of it as a quick and agile little whippet - that was untill I got an Ariel Atom 220. The Atom quite litterally takes your breath away and for me redefines my perception of sports/road/race cars. I know what most of you will say: It's not practical, it's better for track than roads etc., etc., and you'd probably be right. The point I am making, and the reason I am posting here is this:
Untill I got the Atom I thought the Elise was pretty rapid and stuck to the road well. The Atom has totally blown that away for me. I still have the Elise (temporarily) and still love it, but now in a completely different way - I now think of it as a little sluggish, quite polite, and (dare I say it) slightly boring! If I ever go back down the route of an Elise type again it would definitely be for a 111R, a tricked-up VXT or a Toyota powered Exige. What was fine for me before, is now no longer so. Has any body with a chipped VXT owned or used other marques with extreme power? - If so, how does the VXT compare?

Plotloss

67,279 posts

212 months

Tuesday 14th June 2005
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Ive got a stage 2 VXT and recently sampled a 111R as a passenger (have tried the stock S1, S2 and S2 111S) as a driver.

Without doubt the 111R is sharper, which I suppose comes from the unsprung weight advantage but you can put the Exgie Superlight wheels on the VXT for about 3K so that cancels that out.

The VXT is much quicker and a much different delivery of power. The reason I preferred it over the Elise is strictly personal, I dont like wringing the neck of cars. The VXT is far more V8 like in its delivery.

I'd like an Exige 240R but I just cant see how it can cost 43K when my car is quicker, only slightly duller handling wise and if I sorted that with the 3K solution I would have more car for less than half the price...