TYPICAL. I’d been waiting with anticipation to be handed the keys to our long-term Vectra and the glorious Monday morning had finally arrived.
Visions of driving down country roads with the booming turbocharged V6 singing at the red-line filled my mind. And then a colleague who had borrowed it for the weekend dropped the bombshell – ‘sorry, but I’ve pranged it’.
So instead of enjoying driving the VXR, I spent the day on the phone sorting out some ‘smart’ repairs to the nearside front wing, door and lower sill extension.
AutoRestore, mobile paintwork repair specialist and winner of this year’s Fleet News Innovation of the Year Award, came to our rescue.
After an initial inspection, paintwork technician Matt Mardell returned a few days later with his van of tricks and set up an ingenious mobile workshop in a quiet corner of the Fleet News car park.
Six hours later, the VXR emerged like a butterfly from its car park cocoon with factory quality hard-baked paintwork that included a clear lacquer topcoat.
With its flamboyant looks back to as good as new, I finally got the chance to hit the road. Within a few miles, I’d decided that the Vectra VXR has got to be the performance car bargain of the decade. In real road driving, it’s a honey.
The best thing is you can have all your fun legally. Aside from the class-leading acceleration, find a long road tunnel to drive through with the windows wound down and just listen to the V6’s full melodious range from a metallic snarl on the overrun to the full, spine-tingling, rich yowl when exploring the higher reaches of the engine’s rev band.
Switch the VXR to its Sport setting and it’s like a prizefighter before a fight. The car bristles with a nervous energy and immediacy to any driver input – too much at times because the VXR is such a powerful front-wheel drive car that it is plagued by torque steer tugging at the steering wheel during acceleration and, in damp road conditions, wheelspin. This in turn highlights how over-light the steering is.
Even so, it is an entertaining car to drive and I love its bad-ass attitude.
Price: £25,180 (£26,355 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 247
Company car tax bill (2006) 40% tax-payer: £291 per month
Insurance group: 18
Combined mpg: 27.4
Test mpg: 23.0
CAP Monitor RV: £5,800/23%
Contract hire rate: £590
Expenditure to date: £1,027
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles