Vauxhall – your own supercar

Supercar performances are very good and everybody wants them, but how do you achieve supercar performance on a real world budget?

If you take a look at the Annual Performance Car of the Year review keenly and spend an considerable amount of time in advance of the test establishing exactly what cars take part.
With a real world budget of around £15,000, there are quite a few used car contenders worthy of consideration. Japanese muscle machines like the Mazda RX-7, the Toyota Supra Twin Turbo and the Nissan Skyline GTR-32 all easily fall within this budget but many of these are now getting a little old and all are cripplingly expensive to insure and run. The same could be said for cars like the BMW M3 and Porsche’s 968 Club Sport. Both are amazing cars on track but both wear big tires and high consumptions.

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If you really want supercar performance on a precise budget, you need to adopt a weight loss plan. If you think a little, you will be surprised by the fact that if you were forking out your own money for a car that could be used on both road and track, you’d probably plump for a Vauxhall VX220.
Examples like this can now be picked up for anything between £12,000 and £15,000 and represent the best all-round way for those on a budget to get into semi-supercar motoring. Alright, so there are a few rattles, but for the money on the right day on the right road, nothing gets close to this car.

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Most people believe the VX220 is simply a re-bodied Lotus Elise with a Vauxhall 2.2-liter engine, but the cars share just 114 common parts from a total of over 2,500. All of the specifications regarding handling, ride and build quality were dictated by General Motors. So, it’s definitely more Vauxhall than Lotus then? Well, yes and no. The car is referred to as the “Lotus Type 116″ within Lotus and the ECOTEC engine was developed by the crew from Hethel, Norfolk. Vauxhall’s marketing machine never denies the link with Lotus but go to great lengths to point out that this is their baby. You can only imagine why they are so proud of it.
Lotus had fitted the Elise with small wheels to reduce the weight, offer lively handling characteristics and keep low-speed steering effort manageable, the car not featuring a power steering system. Vauxhall decreed that the VX220 had to wear big wheels in order to fill the arches and look agreeably sexy. The result was that the 17-inch wheels had to be fitted with 175/55 tires at the front, probably the skinniest rubber to grace any serious sports car on sale today.

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Unlike the razor-edged Series 1 Elise which would slide the tail if you lifted off the throttle during hard cornering, the VX220 had to be a little less willing to bite back. Working in close collaboration with Bridgestone on the specially developed tires, the result is a car that offers a huge and accessible handling envelope. The Elise steering rack was modified to cope with the additional gyroscope effect of the 17-inch wheels and to offer more feedback close to the limits of adhesion. The relatively benign handling of the VX220 is of massive reassurance when you’re learning a new track and the car offers plenty when you finally master the line.


Vauxhall VX220 is almost as quick as a Ferrari 456GT and that’s all that matters. The concept of fitting a ponderous Vauxhall Vectra gearbox to this package sounds a bad idea on paper but most experts appear to feel that in this guise, it works quite well: Lotus magic at work again.

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If your budget will stretch to £20,000, then you should consider a low mileage VX220 Turbo model. What else for this price is capable of driving long distances without huge chiropractor’s bills, will zip to 60mph in under 5 seconds, cruise at motorway speeds returning in excess of 40 mpg and is light enough to indulge in a full day’s circuit antics without mauling its brakes and tires? Think about that one for a while and then you’ll appreciate quite what a special car the VX220 Turbo is.

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The essence of the VX220 is supercar performance for mainstream money and loading the car up with optional extras merely dilutes the astonishing value proposition. I don’t know if I’ve choose the right car for a supercar example, only you can prove me if I’m wrong!

Tags: cars, supercar, Vauxhall, Mazda RX-7, Toyota Supra Twin Turbo, Nissan Skyline GTR-32, BMW M3, Porsche 968 Club Sport, Vauxhall VX220, General Motors, Lotus, cars engines, wheels, Lotus Elise, Bridgestone

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1 Comment

  1. cristian Said,

    April 15, 2008 @ 10:52 pm


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