Vauxhall VXR8 Carbon (2008) review

Published:17 March 2008

Vauxhall VXR8 Carbon (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

For when (if?) a 530bhp supercharged Vauxhall VXR8 isn’t enough, UK V8 gurus Wortec bring you this 600+ bhp 600 lb ft monster; the Carbon Edition. Let the tyre torture begin…

This VXR8 Carbon Edition looks a bit tough

This is the VXR8 brought to you by the creators of the Monaro VXR500 - Wortec. Put simply, the Carbon Edition offers more power and more refinement than Vauxhall's own supercharged version of the VXR8 (produced through Walkinshaw Racing). Wortec felt the four-door muscle saloon hadn’t been given the justice it deserved. If Walkinshaw is Vauxhall’s AMG, then Wortec is Brabus; taking things just a bit further, with a slicker feel to back up the sledgehammer performance.

The Walkinshaw version uses a supercharger of 1.2-litre capacity whereas Wortec’s Carbon Edition breathes via a 2.2-litre and charge cooler. Wortec claims its blower moves air more efficiently and creates less heat – the death knell of bhp on these engines. But the best part of all Wortec tuning parts is that it’s upgradeable. Says Wortec’s Brian Richards: ‘We see our install as an upgradeable car nut install, whereas the Walkinshaw supercharger is a somewhat tamer, non-upgradable solution.’ Existing VXR8 owners can either buy individual Wortec upgrade goodies or order the full Carbon Edition package through selected UK Vauxhall dealerships.

Carbon Edition? Lots of lightweight weave then?

Sadly not. The name actually comes from the metallic black Vauxhall colour, which is the most popular paint finish with VXR8 buyers. Saying that, the lack of carbon is easily compensated for with menacing undertaker-spec black powder coated 20-inch wheels, de-badged front end and a crackling exhaust note altered at the flick of a switch.

Aural feast at the flick of a switch you say?

It sounds like gimmick ridden tat, but the electronic loud/quiet switching exhaust system is fantastically addictive and practical. A discreet Bond-style unlabelled black button next to the handbrake activates a valve inside the exhaust which allows two volume settings, but without any increase in cockpit boom.

When in ‘quiet’ mode, the sound is deadened through material and deflection surfaces inside the box yet there is no power loss. Wortec has been developing this system for some time and it shows that you can have an outrageous grunt outside without it transmitting a tiresome drone inside the car. Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that the bespoke tailpipe layout was directly inspired by the VXR8’s LED rear light clusters.

Any cockpit improvements?

Umm, no. Sadly the interior is all rock stock straight off the ship from HSV bar that discreet black button for the exhaust thunder. If it’s embellishments you want, Wortec will supply retro Mopar-meets-Carrera RS orange stripes for your lower exterior flanks and that’s about it.

Throw me the vital stats

The big black Wortec Carbon Edition is quoted at 600+bhp but has produced dyno readings of 625-630bhp, while torque is 600lb ft. In derestricted form like the car tested, it's capable of 190 mph. But best of all the extra power costs less – just £47,500 on the road – than Vauxhall's VXR8 Supercharged. It’s also a damn sight meaner looking in people’s rear view mirrors.

To break down the component cost, the ‘charger with charge cooler, tuning and fuel system upgrade is £6995. A beefier clutch is £1144, stiffer springs £540, and 20-inch HSV rims shod with new Goodyear F1 tyres £2950 (ouch!). The decal pack (including wheel powder coating and calliper paint) is £799. Everything can be upped even further, for when the driver gets ‘accustomed’ to the power. If such a thing should ever happen with 600 crazy horses…

How does it drive?

Nape hair instantly shoots into your shirt when the key is turned. This thing is pure rolling thunder and it’s got without doubt one of the sexiest exhaust notes of any car on sale today. With its leggy sixth gear the VXR8 is barely ticking over at 1800rpm when you're doing 70mph. The positive displacement supercharger achieves reasonable mpg on the open road (we were getting 27 to the gall) as the intake air bypasses the supercharger rotors at low rpm.

Dial the throttle in in inches rather than millimetres and you’ve got to be prepared for warp drive. The torque is relentless from 1800rpm right up to the 5500rpm region. It’ll punish its speedometer and out-drags most supercars in no time. Wortec quote 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, and 0-120mph in 12.8 but it is being conservative, believe me. It’s properly rapid.

In factory form the VXR8 had issues with its ridiculously high ride height. Wortec has dropped the arch-to-tyre gap down and lowered its edition by 35mm and stiffened it some five percent using progressive rate springs. The result not only improves aesthetics but also makes the fat saloon feel deceivingly nimble, even on narrow lanes. Things look set to be even better when Wortec finishes testing its own forthcoming adjustable damper and spring set-up.

The change to Goodyear F1 rubber from Bridgestones has made a massive difference – excellent sure footed cornering, even in the rain, yet the Goodyears still had stacks of tread after several obligatory rolling burnouts. Wortec say the Bridgestone factory tyres work fine in Canberra climate, but not so well in cold damp Coventry. The new Goodyears make the difference between ending up in hedges when the lazy traction control struggles to play catch-up.

Verdict

Wortec has done nothing but flattered this four-door muscle car. The modifications all blend together and never feel ‘added on’. This is aimed squarely at V8 Vauxhall worshippers but could be lost on those who don’t already live with a stock VXR8. Rest assured your bang/buck ratio is practically unrivalled. A bonafide family machine with slingshot 21st century Lotus Carlton DNA. It’s faster than both of Vauxhall’s offerings and, for those who get it, is priced beautifully.

Some of Wortec’s customers have converted their bruisers to LPG without any trouble. Hardly surprising when you realise how lazy and robust these LS2 V8s can be. Try as some might to strangle the thirst for shrub-wilting muscle cars, the power crazy V8 love affair isn’t ready to die yet. Thank goodness.

Specs

Price when new: £47,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5967cc supercharged V8, 600bhp+, 600lb ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.4sec 0-60mph (est), 190mph (est)
Weight / material: 1831kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4941/2174/1468

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Photo Gallery

  • Vauxhall VXR8 Supercharged Carbon Edition front three-quarter
  • Vauxhall VXR8 Supercharged Carbon Edition engine
  • Vauxhall VXR8 Supercharged Carbon Edition side
  • Vauxhall VXR8 Supercharged Carbon Edition rear three-quarter
  • Vauxhall VXR8 Supercharged Carbon Edition interior
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