What's it like?
The manual VXR8's Tremec gearbox wasn’t the slickest unit around but it was accurately gated and easy to use. Missed or incorrect shifts were rare as a result while factory-fit launch control made standing starts a doddle.
Consequently, opting for a conventional torque convertor-based automatic feels somewhat of a retrograde choice. It's a good transmission, make no mistake, but its softer, tardier delivery and automated nature predictably detracts from the GTS' core driver appeal.
If you dropped from fifth to third in the manual and pinned the throttle, you could indulge in the sensation of the Vauxhall's tail squirming as the boost built; the engine would bellow, the LSD would frantically attempt to meter out the torque between the rapidly spinning Continentals, and a gratifying surge of acceleration would ensue.
Attempt the same in the automatic and you'll find that the whole experience dulled a little, because the transmission softens the power delivery. Also, in some cases, the necessity for a kickdown leads to a noticeable delay in acceleration. Once you've got the Vauxhall rolling in gear, however, the transmission feels suitably direct.
The automatic does have other appealing facets. In manual mode, it won't shift up automatically when you hit the limiter while driver-commanded shifts are carried out quickly. It's also as fast as the manual, on paper, with Vauxhall claiming a 0-60mph time of 4.2sec for both versions, despite the automatic not having launch control. No doubt repeatability on that front would lie in favour of the automatic, once off the line, particularly in inclement conditions.
The paddles have a snappy, precise action, and the transmission is quite happy to engage fifth from as low as 30mph, allowing you to roam around on the LSA's stout seam of mid-range torque. A low neutral rev limiter kills some of the static entertainment, but we suspect most won't lose sleep over that particular point. It's predictably less efficient than the manual, too, but not by a noteworthy amount.
It's still an unquestionably fast car, especially when the blower's built up some boost and the V8's spun above 3500rpm, but frequently it doesn't feel as potent as the figures suggest. That is in part due to its weight and isolated cabin, but also due to the fact that it's comparatively quiet and gentle unless you stand on the throttle and wind the motor out, at which point you'll very quickly be well beyond the legal limits. Cruise around town and the GTS will softly burble along in relative anonymity, unlike, say, a raucous F-Type or C63.
You could argue that the automatic VXR8 would make a great luxury saloon, as a result, instead of an outright super-saloon, but it's one that'll struggle to better 17mpg in restrained everyday driving. Few will find that a tolerable proposition, especially when the likes of the BMW M3 - a car that will go from 0-60mph faster in the real world - can achieve almost 30mpg in conventional conditions.