Ford and Chevy are riding a wave of support for their modern muscle cars in America, but V8 muscle cars are struggling elsewhere. Australia will be saying farewell to GM Holden this year, a move that spells the demise of locally developed rear-drive performance cars Down Under – and in the UK. The Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R will be the last Aussie muscle car sold in the UK, but its 600 hp engine means it won't be going quietly into the night.
The VXR8 GTS-R is based on the Holden Special Vehicles GTS-R, which itself is based on the Holden Commodore. The final Commodore will roll off the production line this October, spelling the death of the HSV V8 and, subsequently, the Vauxhall-badged versions sold in Great Britain. As you'll soon discover, that's a shame.
Power comes from a supercharged LSA V8 making 600 hp (447 kW) of power and 740 Nm of torque, making it the most powerful car in the history of Vauxhall. It's the same engine you'll find in the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, albeit fitted with a unique four-lobe supercharger. Although the basic concept – a big, thirsty V8 – isn't exactly new, the engine in the GTS-R is actually quite clever. It has a standalone water-to-air charge cooler, along with dedicated transmission and differential coolers.
Power is put to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard, but we'd be stumping for the optional manual six-speeder. Big, old-fashioned V8 cars are rare enough, but finding one with a stick shift is like catching a unicorn in 2017.
When we say old fashioned, don't think that means the GTS-R doesn't handle. In spite of its weight, the big Australian immigrant knows how to dance in the corners. It has brake-based torque vectoring to cut down on understeer and dinner-plate sized (410 mm front) brakes. There are even magnetic ride control dampers for a ride you can tweak on the fly, just like you can in a Corvette.
Inside, the Holden Commodore cabin has been treated to lashings of leather, shiny aluminum trim and Alcantara. All the technology you'd expect to find in an expensive German sedan is present, from blind-spot warning to a heads-up display with g-force display. A forward-collision warning system is also standard, something Vauxhall claims is a first for its cars in the UK.
Just 15 examples of the GTS-R will be imported to the UK, making this one very rare muscle car. It isn't cheap – pricing starts at £74,500 (US$95,700) – but it makes sense if you think of this car as an investment. If you want to celebrate the end of Australian muscle, there's no better way.