Trofeo-shod W1. It's not often that a 595hp supercharged V8 is the diet option then, but that's what this big blue Vauxhall represents. It's also the kind of silliness we've come to associate with Holden Vauxhalls (Holdalls?) over the past decade or so, and an attitude that will be sorely missed.
Because whilst the mainstream manufactures say that 600hp needs four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox to be manageable, Holden doesn't. This car has six manual gears, two driven rear wheels and a limited-slip differential. The fact that it works so assuredly is not only indicative of how well engineered it is, but also feels like a defiant up yours to the world it will soon leave behind: "You need nine gears and 4WD for 600hp? Watch this."
Cast aside aspersions, as this isn't simply some jingoistic juggernaut, proving Australia is better than everyone else through tyre smoke, V8 bellow, furious speed and, er, more tyre smoke. It can do that, of course, but there's far more depth, talent and ability to the GTS-R than you might imagine.
With fluids warmed through by the M25, the Holdall is much better company. In fact it cruises superlatively, with fantastic seats, a composed ride and so much torque for overtaking. In fact half its 546lb ft peak would be fine, and on par with a Hyundai i30 in fact. Unsurprisingly that supercharged Chevy LSA remains an absolute monster, hauling from idle in a way turbo'd installations cannot. Indeed it pulls so violently in an exploratory run through second that the rev limiter (at just after 6,000rpm) comes as something of a shock - it feels good for at least another 1,000rpm, even if you are already travelling indecently fast.
Spirits are high by the time Donington arrives, even if the fuel level isn't quite so. Damn supercharged V8s... Crucially though they remain elevated throughout the morning, even if its most ardent fan couldn't call the GTS-R a natural track weapon.
Alright, that's not strictly true, Performance lets you have the firmer dampers with a quiet (enough) exhaust but the stricter TC leash. So configured, this car is a hoot: rapid, balanced, accurate and exciting. The brakes in particular feel really strong, which is nice when you're slowing from nearly 130mph for the chicane after the Dunlop bridge. The earlier one...
On wide, fast A-roads is where the GTS-R feels most at home; it's more comfortable than an E63 (though quite a lot is), more involving than an RS6, and presumably faster than the Panamera 4 Executive that costs the same - because the Holdall has another 265hp. The engagement factor is key though; while the steering is merely average by EPAS standards, there's enough communication through the car on the road for it always to feel rear-driven and a bit naughty, though never scary, thanks to the safety net of driver aids. Remember that to make the new E63 and M5 rear-wheel drive means forgoing all of them...
Pics snapped, lunch eaten and car fuelled (again; on track it averaged 5.3mpg) the time to give the VXR8 back has arrived too soon. No bother, because it means another imperious motorway journey, but a real shame because it's a car that I'm desperate to spend more time in. This is not a rational car by any stretch, so making a rational case for it against conventional rivals would be daft. If you want a German executive saloon, you will buy one because - let's face it - they are more rounded and more capable vehicles.
For fun, for sense of occasion and for a totally beguiling driving experience though, the GTS-R is in a class of its own. Its relative simplicity is part of its charm, backed up by dynamic dexterity that means it requires no excuses. The VXR8 is a classic thunder saloon brought just far enough up to date, which is pretty compelling if you ask us. 600hp manual V8s with room for the family won't happen again, but what a way to bid farewell - there are going to be 15 very lucky people rumbling around the UK very soon.
VAUXHALL VXR8 GTS-R
Engine: 6,162cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 595@6,150rpm
Torque (lb ft): 546@3,850rpm
Top speed: 155mph (limited)