Vauxhall Monaro VXR 6.0

Don't buy a Monaro if you want to join a club. Since our long-termer arrived ten months and almost 15,000 miles ago, I haven't seen another on the road. I've seen hundreds of BMW M3s, yet while the M3 is the closest rival for the (very lightly) Anglicised, V8-engined Holden coupe, it seems that few Monaro VXR buyers actually have to choose between the two. For most, the Monaro is an unusual, affordable and rare toy that joins a stable of interesting cars, and I've no doubt that at the core of its appeal are

Don't buy a Monaro if you want to join a club. Since our long-termer arrived ten months and almost 15,000 miles ago, I haven't seen another on the road. I've seen hundreds of BMW M3s, yet while the M3 is the closest rival for the (very lightly) Anglicised, V8-engined Holden coupe, it seems that few Monaro VXR buyers actually have to choose between the two. For most, the Monaro is an unusual, affordable and rare toy that joins a stable of interesting cars, and I've no doubt that at the core of its appeal are a couple of big, round numbers: six litres and 400bhp.

They're the sort of figures that grab my attention too, and I was by far the keenest member of the evo team to run the VXR 6.0. Happily, it's mostly been good, big-hearted fun. Along the way we've liberated more of that huge V8's character with a sports exhaust, had some minor warranty and major dealership issues, monstered a few race- tracks, replaced the worn original tyres with a set that proved less well suited, and recorded a creditable average of 22.5mpg. I appreciate that it's not to everyone's taste, but I'm sad to see it go, even though it didn't prove as practical as I'd hoped.

The VXR first rolled into our car park last April and I knew instantly that Phantom Black was a good colour choice. You can't mistake the Monaro for a European coupe; it's more generously cut and, although quite simply styled, wears aggressive, jutting spoilers - which black paint renders a little more discreet. It's a back-handed compliment, but for me the Monaro always looked most evocative in twilight, its 19in alloys glinting, its scale imposing. Even in broad daylight there was an air of mystery about it. From the reactions I saw, many people had no idea what it was, and the Griffin badge on the bonnet didn't clarify things because, like the VX220, the Monaro has little in common with the rest of the Vauxhall range.

As with the outside, the cabin's style is a little less sophisticated than current European standards, but the Monaro's appeal always ramped up significantly when I twisted the key and the whole car shuddered as that huge V8 twisted into life. It took a little while to get into the groove with the Monaro, to get accustomed to the heft of its manual six-speed gearshift, the oddly elevated driving position and the feel of its dynamics. The ride was more pattery over small bumps than expected, the steering a fraction lighter, and the balance was a little less readable as a result. But after a couple of hundred miles you'd gain confidence in the grip and poise and start to use more of the torque on offer.

The traction control would catch and quell snap-oversteer pretty effectively, and if you switched it out the standard Hydratrak limited slip diff would allow you to use much more of the performance much earlier than you might think - slackening to stop abrupt oversteer out of junctions, but most of the time hooking up both rear wheels when you wanted it to. Around Donington Park it was huge fun, though the brakes needed some looking after.

Very early on I discovered that the Monaro was remarkably impractical for my circumstances. (When I wrote as much a reader got in touch to say that if I didn't like it he'd happily swap it for his aged Alfa.) My point was that the Monaro is a big car, yet a new three-door Astra has twice the boot space and is much easier to get two kiddie seats and kids into and out of. In fairness, the boot was cavernous until GM decided the Monaro might go down well in the US badged as the Pontiac GTO, which brought about a repositioning of the fuel tank to above the rear axle, halving the boot capacity.

This allowed a twin-exit exhaust to be fitted, though, each side sporting a pair of tailpipes, but the noise wasn't as inspiring as it could be, so just before the first service we had an approved, VXR-branded sports exhaust fitted. This gave us less restrictive sports catalysts, a larger bore diameter, a pair of fat oval tailpipes and the rumbling, bellowing note that a six-litre V8 ought to have. It wasn't cheap at £1970, but I'm not surprised that a third of all VXR Monaros have had it fitted.

A damaged lambda sensor needed replacing at the first service, which our closest VXR dealer, Crownhill in Milton Keynes, was informed of. I also asked them to look into the poor radio reception and non-functioning heated rear window, which turned out to be down to the same duff component, a faulty amplifier. To cut a long story short, the service we received from Crownhill was dreadful, with numerous unreturned phone calls and claims that the non-service jobs hadn't been notified in advance. It took a further visit over a month later to get those extra jobs sorted, by which time the quality of service had improved immeasurably, partly as a result of our published dissatisfaction.

The original Pirelli P Zeros were all but done for by the 10,000-mile service and I'd arranged a second set of rims for their replacements so that I could cremate the originals at an evoactive trackday at Brands Hatch. Sadly, that plan was scuppered after just half a dozen laps when the temporary bung in the exhaust where the lambda sensor should have been popped out. The replacement tyres were Dunlop's sexy-looking Sport Maxx, as fitted to the new Jaguar XK, but while there's no question that they work on the XK, the Monaro never quite felt happy on them, with much less wet grip and clumsier on-limit handling in the dry. Very peculiar.

Some long-term test cars grow on you as the months roll by, others lose their appeal, but I feel the same way about the Monaro as it awaits collection as I did a week after it was first delivered. I still get a buzz when I fire up that V8, and I love its easy-going, deep-chested performance and rear-drive balance and adjustability. It isn't as accommodating as it ought to be for its size, and there's a slightly off-the-pace, old-school feel about it, but overall it's a big, friendly, bear of a car. Rare, too, which counts for a lot with some people.

Running Costs

Date acquiredApril 2005
Total mileage14,848
Duration of test10 months
Average MPG22.5mpg
Servicing costs£104.50
Consumables£800 (four tyres), £18 (2 litres of oil)
Extra costs£1970 (performance exhaust)
Price new£36,995
Trade in value£26,000
Depreciation£10,995

Most Popular

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – rear profile
Porsche 911 GT3

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK

The Touring pack has returned, combining the 992 GT3’s set-up with more understated looks
15 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive
evo archive – LaFerrari truck extraction – stop!
Ferrari

The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive

How do you get a £1million hypercar out of the back of a delivery truck? Very, very, slowly…
15 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come
Mercedes-AMG GT53 MY22 – front tracking
Mercedes

Updated in-line six Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door revealed – hybrid V8s still to come

GT43 and GT53 4-Doors receive a refresh while we await the arrival of the V8 hybrid GT73
14 Jun 2021
MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – front quarter
BMW 7 Series

Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models

All-new saloon to feature IC and EV powertrains, but once again it’ll also lead the way aesthetically
16 Jun 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid deliveries begin – 1006bhp super saloon now reaching customers

The long-awaited Tesla Model S Plaid has finally come to fruition, with first US examples hitting the road
11 Jun 2021
Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder
Posaidon Mercedes-AMG E63
Mercedes E63 AMG

Posaidon’s 217mph Mercedes-AMG E63 RS is faster than a Porsche 918 Spyder

Three new Posaidon power upgrades are now available for Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S, bringing hypercar numbers to the four door supersaloon
9 Jun 2021
GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer
GTO Engineering interior
Ferrari

GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer

New details, including the interior, have been revealed about the GTO Engineering Squalo
15 Jun 2021
Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?
Jethro opinion header
Opinion

Can the Renault Clio Trophy beat a modern supersaloon for daily transport?

The boot struts have gone saggy and the hatch slams onto my head three times a week, but the Clio Trophy is hard to resist
8 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals 11 June 21
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
11 Jun 2021
Forza Horizon 5 confirmed for November 2021 – open-world driving game heads to Mexico
Forza Horizon 5
videogames

Forza Horizon 5 confirmed for November 2021 – open-world driving game heads to Mexico

The open-world Forza Horizon series has become a go-to for car fans, and its fifth installment is just around the corner
15 Jun 2021