For a start, the appearance of the gritter lorry suggests things are about to get hairy from a grip point of view. Especially as the VXR runs on wide semi-slick Yokohama trackday tyres, not designed for the frozen, muddy, possibly about-to-be-snowy back roads of Lincolnshire. And there’s no traction control to keep the 220bhp in check either.
Then there’s the windscreen wiper and water jets of the VXR, which work in perfect harmony, firstly to dissolve the salt slightly, then to smear it in an opaque film across the screen.
Why on earth am I, a sensible fleet journalist, driving this thing? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Vauxhall’s brand manager Paul Adler said I should and, when someone invites me to try a car that does 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, it’s rude not to accept.
Secondly, the VXR220 Turbo represents something that fleets have been starting to see over the past year or two. Vauxhall is becoming exciting again.
For years, Vauxhall has been producing good, solid cars but no car company that wants to attract new business can afford to just do dependable. There needs to be some fizz to the brand. Not only does that attract new drivers, but it keeps used buyers interested, which in turn strengthens residuals, which in turn makes new cars more attractive to fleets. It’s a virtuous circle.
And recently, Vauxhall has been sticking its neck out with cars like the VXR220 Turbo and the Monaro VXR. Then there’s the new Astra Sport Hatch, possible the best-looking hatchback on the market. These are sexy cars.
And of all its cars, this is the sexiest. Available only in red, on lightweight black Speedline alloys, the VXR220 Turbo drips with speed. There really is no other purpose for it.
Certainly, comfort is not a major issue. Getting in and out with the roof on requires a set number of moves. Get them out of sync and bits of your body will have to flap around outside the car for the duration.
Once everything is folded in, though, the grippy bucket seats are comfortable enough, and the driving position is low and long. The tiny little steering wheel doesn’t adjust but it is already in the right place, while the ride is harder than a Glaswegian bouncer.
Get moving and comfort is way down the list of priorities. Up at the top is survival. This car is savagely fast.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine doesn’t have a lot of character but makes up for that in volume and explosive energy. The lightweight plastic body rockets forward with manic, fidgety abandon, while the steering is worth trying just to realise how much road chatter ‘normal’ cars filter out. I drove it on roads I barely recognised and yet I travel them every day. This car alters your perspective of the world.
The steering has no delay to it. Twitch your hands and your body shifts instantly in the seat as the nose darts in the intended direction. The gearshift is clanky but racing car precise, while the powerful brakes haul it to an abrupt stop. Oddly enough, it’s pretty decent on fuel, thanks to its light weight, its CO2 emissions are a reasonable 202g/km, and at £26,495 on-the-road is at least £80,000 off comparably-paced machinery.
But if this is a company car, then I’m Brad Pitt. Running this as a day-to-day car would be hard work and, after a week of driving in freezing conditions, I’ll be honest and say I was glad when the VXR went back and I and it were both still in one piece.
Fortunately, Vauxhall has other cars to do the daily business. But thankfully, it has cars like this to let the world know the firm is being run by enthusiasts, people who love their cars rather than see them as a commodity to be traded like any other. And that can only bode well for the future of the firm.
Engine: 2.0 16v Turbo
Max power (bhp/rpm): 200/5,400
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 184/1,950
Max speed (mph): 151
0-62mph (sec): 4.2
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 33.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 202
Price (OTR): £26,495