Vauxhall Vectra VXR

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Vauxhall Vectra VXR

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Here's a Vectra pouring no less than 255bhp of turbocharged V6 surge through the front wheels.

I need your co-operation for a little audience participation. Every time you hear a moan from me, some characteristic of the Vectra VXR that's less than perfect, I want you all to shout back at me, in an oh-yes-it-will Punch-and-Judy style: 'But it's only 24,000.'

Here's a Vectra pouring no less than 255bhp of turbocharged V6 surge through the front wheels.

Front wheels? Yes, although some relatives of the Vectra have been engineered for 4WD, here it's just the fronts, and there's no chance of matching the traction of an Audi A4 quattro or Jag X-type V6 AWD. 'But it's only 24,000.'

Start up and the brand-new V6 burbles deeply through its fat trapezoid tailpipe mouths, then feeds fat torque all around the revcounter. It's a terrific delivery, almost like a big V8. You just swoosh along with easy speed, enjoying its melody.

A 161mph Vectra, eh? You get a six-speed gearbox too, but the shift is a bit rubbery and occasionally sticky. They could have spent money on a sweeter linkage. 'But it's only 24,000.'

Vectras always were refined cruisers, and this one is quiet enough too, but the electronic dampers get all confused on a motorway and shake up the ride.

It's like driving on giant corduroy. And the big brake discs, though they're effective in a panic, have a horrid soggy initial action. 'But it's only 24,000.'

The handling is well sorted. There's surprising traction if you're not a complete right-foot mutt, and plenty of grip. The suspension seems comparatively better on rough roads than smooth, using its travel well to keep the car on an even keel on pesky backroads.

You get all the electronic stability aids, but switch off and you find it's fun on the limit. However, the steering is a bit short of finesse - it has an odd weighting and feels muffled around the straightahead. 'But it's only 24,000.'

The VXR's cabin has all the usual go-faster trim (not that it makes any car actually go faster) of ally-look flashes, red stripes and fake carbon.

It also has brilliant seats and loads of space. And it's well made and hugely well-equipped: air, cruise, six-CD changer, xenons, Recaros. And you can have the colossal estate for just a grand more.

Look, at the end of the day your friends will laugh 'cos it's only a Vectra. We know that. Most of the buyers will be chief constables. Viewed rationally it's got the performance and space and equipment to leave the default-choice 'sporty saloons' flattened.

OK, so it lacks absolute finesse. Right, you know the last line by now, don't you?

Paul Horrell

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