2005 Vauxhall Monaro

The name ‘Monaro’ may not mean much to many Brits, but in Australia, it holds similar sentimental connotations as ‘Capri’, ‘Mustang’ and ‘Charger’ – i.e., an affordable, unpretentious, uncomplicated way to go pretty damn quickly. General Motors’ Aussie branch, Holden, dusted off the badge again a few years back for a new rear-wheel-drive coupe based on its Commodore hot-rod saloon, fitted a Chevy-sourced 5.7-litre V8 (329bhp, also used in the last-series Corvette) and counted the cash as it hit the spot with blokes across the southern hemisphere. Yes, make no mistake: the Monaro is most definitely a bloke’s car…

The saying has it that good things come to those who wait. Well Vauxhall certainly kept us waiting for the Monaro, there being about a year between me first approaching them about testing it for PistonHeads and actually getting one.
Basically, after getting us all excited by saying that they were considering selling the Aussie built muscle coupe in the UK, Vauxhall then spent a long time umming and ahhing over whether or not to actually go ahead and do it.
In view of the dismal sales figures GM got last time they tried selling V8 engined imports (Corvette and Cadillac) through their UK main dealer network you can’t really blame them.

Anyway, after some serious thinking it was finally announced that the Monaro would be sold in the UK – and that it would have Vauxhall badges.
Inevitably some people were horrified by the last bit, but those Vauxhall badges actually sit quite comfortably thanks to the Monaro’s styling bearing a strong family resemblance to models like the Cavalier and Omega. This in turn means that it looks rather understated – possibly too understated – and hardly stands out from the crowd.

Which depending on your point of view can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Inside As for the Monaro’s interior, it gives the impression that its designers must have studied interiors of Japanese performance cars because everything is black. Seats, carpets, door panels, dash – even the headlining – all black.
Something else it shares with Japanese cars is that it’s fully specced as standard, having leather trimmed seats (electrically adjustable front), dual zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, park assist and 10-speaker six disc CD player.
It all seems to be well put together too, with solid construction and good fit and finish. With the front seats offering eight-way adjustment including height and lumbar support and the steering column adjustable for both height and reach, the Monaro should provide a good driving position for most people up to about 6’ 4”. This is aided by the wide footwell, which not only allows for large, well-spaced pedals, but also a large
footrest.

Exterior features:

Front

  • Sports grille, wide lower air-intake and bonnet scoops
  • Side sills with ‘shark gills’

Rear

  • Rear three-piece spoiler with integrated brake light
  • Dark-style tail lights
  • Large bore stainless steel 63mm exhaust system with quad exit high-flow alloy tuned sports tailpipes
  • Stainless steel sports exhaust system (extra cost option – not for use on public roads)

Style your VXR

  • Personalise your Monaro VXR with the VXR paint colour of your choice.

Interior features

  • Unique contoured electrically adjustable leather-covered sports front seats
  • Eight-way electric front-seat adjustment with driver’s seat memory
  • Seat and upper door trim in leather
  • Satin chrome on gear knob, handbrake lever and door handles
  • Satin chrome rings around dashboard instruments
  • Alloy pedal extensions
  • VXR sports instruments featuring oil-pressure gauge and voltage gauge

When it came to the back seats the Monaro’s designers wisely eschewed the ‘cram them in’ approach in favour of two supportive individual seats. With the front seats set to suit average size adults, there’s more than ample legroom for average size adults in the back too, though headroom is less generous, with little clearance between skull and rear window. Even so, it looks like up to average size adults should be able to travel long distances in the back of the Monaro very comfortably.
Odds and sods are also pretty well catered for, with a decent size lockable glove box in the dash, various cubby holes in the centre console, two small pockets in the doors and two rather more capacious elasticated pockets on the backs of the front seats. Main stowage space though is of course the boot, which in the Monaro is impressively big. In fact if I was a mainstream motoring hack trying to be Jeremy Clarkson I’d
probably say it was bigger than the outback, but as I prefer to talk facts rather than bollocks I’ll just say it’s 370 litres. Which is big enough to take a lot of luggage.

Up Front
It’s also a lot bigger than what you’ll find at the other end of the car, which is a mere 5.7 litres.
5.7 litres of Chevrolet LS1 V8 that is, which produces 329bhp, 343lb ft and a wonderful noise.
In a world of four valve per cylinder multi-camshaft engines, this two valve per cylinder pushrod unit might initially seem somewhat outdated on paper, even if it is all alloy, but it’s still eminently capable of delivering the goods out on the road. Or track for that matter, as it’s the same engine that powered the Corvettes to class victory over the Ferraris at Le Mans this year. Transmitting the V8’s power to the back axle’s standard LSD is a 6-speed close-ratio manual gearbox, and stopping more of it being transmitted than the 235/40×18 Bridgestone Potenza RE040s can handle is switchable traction control.

Although those Bridgestones provide plenty of grip in normal circumstances, give that V8 full reign and the power overwhelms them, with drag race style starts with the traction control off resulting in the Monaro snaking down the road leaving tyre smoke and long, wavey black lines in its wake. Well, it wouldn’t be a real muscle car if you couldn’t do that would it?

Vauxhall are rather coy about just how fast the Monaro is, quoting 0-60 in ‘under’ six seconds and a top speed ‘over’ 160mph, but when you really put that V8 to work you don’t need printed figures to know that it’s quick. Grunt And you do have to really put that V8 to work to get the most from it because in comparison to most American pushrod V8s it’s relatively high revving, with peak torque at 4,000rpm and maximum power at 5,600rpm. Consequently low speed pull in upper gears is surprisingly sluggish, but use the lower gears and the upper end of the rev range and it goes ballistic.

So just like the muscle cars of the 1960s that inspired it, the Monaro is quick in a straight line, but unlike them it isn’t just about straight line performance, so let’s now look at two aspects the designers of the original muscle cars largely overlooked – ride and handling.

The suspension fitted to Vauxhall’s Monaro (McPherson struts front and what Vauxhall call control link independent suspension rear, with coils, gas dampers and anti-roll bars all round) is exactly the same as that used by its Australian cousin, and all in all it seems well suited to British roads.
Ride

Yes, there is some bumping and thumping over manholes and potholes, which frankly you’d expect with 235/40×18 tyres, but there’s no jarring and crashing, even over the lines of protruding bricks acting as speed humps on a local industrial estate. Ride comfort is also maintained at high speeds along bumpy A-roads, where the chassis also displays impressive levels of composure and minimal roll through the turns.

For such a big heavy car (188.5”/4789mm long and 1647kg kerb weight) the Monaro proved surprisingly nimble along winding B-roads, tackling tight s-bends at challenging speeds without drama and clearly capable of doing so faster than I was prepared to risk pushing it.

When I did finally risk pushing it to the limit round a large roundabout the handling proved to be unexpectedly neutral with no trace of understeer – although of course with the traction control switched off you can provoke it into power oversteer on demand…
But when you don’t want it to be a wheel spinning muscle car, the Monaro is equally adept at playing the comfortable GT.

We’ve already dealt with the ride, so now let’s deal with the controls.The clutch pedal is no heavier than your average modern saloon, which makes it easy to cope with town driving or road works queues on the M25, while the gear change is both light and precise.

Also light is the speed sensitive power assisted steering, which makes for easy parking manoeuvres but does feel rather remote during high speed cornering and could usefully stand quicker gearing than its existing 3 turns lock to lock.

  • 6.0-litre GEN4 LS2 V8 petrol engine (5967cc)
  • Maximum power: 403PS (297kW) @6000rpm
  • Maximum torque: 530Nm (390ft.lb) @ 4400rpm
  • Compression ratio: 10.9:1
  • Bore/stroke: 101.6mm x 92.0mm
  • Aluminium alloy cylinder block and cylinder heads
  • Revised engine calibration for improved power and torque
  • Sequential fuel injection with coil-per-cylinder distributorless ignition and twin knock control sensors
  • Cast steel roller rocker arms, roller cam followers
  • Cross-bolted five main bearings six bolts per bearing cap
  • Large bore stainless steel 63mm exhaust system with quad exit high-flow alloy sports tailpipes

Acceleration

  • 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 170+mph
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Six-speed manual transmission

Fuel economy – mpg (litres/100km)

  • Urban: 11.6 (21.9)
  • Extra-urban: 24.9 (10.3)
  • Combined: 17.6 (14.5)
  • CO2 emissions: 384g / km

Suspension and brakes

  • Fully independent multi-link rear suspension with linear-rate springs and matched damper calibration
  • Uprated linear-rate front springs with unique sports damper calibration
  • Front strut brace
  • Front ventilated disc brakes: 330mm diameter
  • Front calipers in red
  • Rear ventilated disc brakes: 315mm diameter

Wheels & tyres

  • 19-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels with 245/35 R 19 Pirelli P Zero directional ultra-low profile tyres
  • Car supplied with space-saver spare steel wheel


“Clarkson reviews the Vauxhall Monaro VXR”

Stopping Power

No complaints about the calibration of the brakes though. The servoed pedal is nicely weighted and the 296mm vented front/286mm solid rear discs have a good initial bite, and while the Monaro did sometimes suffer momentary lock-up or slight weaving under extreme braking, overall the brakes are very effective and confidence inspiring.

With top gear giving it a long legged 40mph per 1,000rpm, the Monaro makes for a laid-back long distance cruiser, with negligible wind noise at high speed and tyre noise only noticeable over some more open road surfaces. In fact if you haven’t got the stereo on, the main noise you’ll notice in the cabin is the subdued rumble of that big V8.

That high top gear helps fuel economy too, and with the cruise control set to 80mph on the motorway the Monaro’s computer display hovered around the 30mpg mark. Of course it’s somewhat thirstier overall, and in normal mixed driving generally averages less than 20mpg.

OK, so you don’t expect a 5.7 litre car to be cheap to run (certainly not in the UK!) but at least the Monaro is comparatively cheap to buy at £28,650, making it a lot of car for the money. But worth the wait? I’d have to say yes. With the Monaro, Vauxhall have added another desirable performance car to their range, though as with the VX220 Turbo it’s a performance car for those with the sense to buy one for its capabilities rather than its badge.

And its high levels of equipment, practicality, performance and relative bargain of a price undoubtedly make the Monaro a very sensible buy – at least for people who don’t want to be entirely sensible…

Wheels/Tyres

  • 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels with 245/35 R 19 Pirelli P zero
    directional ultra-low profile tyres
  • Car supplied with space-saver spare steel wheel

Interior

Facia, instruments and controls

  • Satin chrome on gear knob, handbrake lever and door handles
  • Satin chrome rings around dashboard instruments
  • VXR sports instruments featuring oil-pressure gauge and voltage gauge
  • Tachometer
  • Steering column adjustable for reach and rake
  • Cruise control
  • Service-reminder indicator
  • Oil pressure and voltage gauges
  • Multi-function display panel
  • Trip computer
  • Piano black inserts on facia
  • Twin fold-out cup holders in facia
  • Leather-covered gear knob and handbrake lever with satin chrome-effect inserts

Seating and Upholstery

  • Unique contoured electrically adjustable leather-covered sports front seats
  • Eight-way electric front-seat adjustment with driver’s seat memory
  • Seat and upper door trim in leather
  • Anthracite headlining
  • Suede lower door, lower facia and centre console trim
  • Leather-covered front centre armrest with storage facility and 12-volt accessory socket
  • Driver’s and front passenger’s seats with manual lumbar adjustment
  • Map pockets on front seat backs

Additional Features

  • Alloy pedal extensions
  • Electrochromatic interior rear-view mirror
  • Centre console compartment with 12V socket
  • Electrically operated front windows with one-touch facility
  • Rear passenger compartment heating ducts
  • Electronic climate control incorporating air conditioning with variable side-to-side temperature settings
  • Map reading lights integral with courtesy light
  • Time-delay courtesy lights operated by door switches on entry; ignition key removal on exit
  • Driver’s and front passenger’s illuminated vanity mirrors
  • Front footwell lights
  • Front map-reading lights

Audio

  • Blaupunkt stereo radio/six-disc CD autochanger and 10 speakers
  • Steering-wheel mounted audio controls
  • Speed-dependent volume control

Exterior

  • Sports grille, wide lower air-intake and bonnet scoops
  • Side sills with ‘shark gills’
  • Rear three-piece spoiler with integrated brake light
  • Dark-style tail lights
  • Large bore stainless steel 63mm exhaust system with quad exit high-flow alloy tuned sports tailpipes
  • Twin electrically adjustable door mirrors
  • Rear parking distance sensors
  • LED centre brake light
  • Projector-style front fog lights
  • Dual Ellipsoidal (DE) projector-style headlights
  • Automatic headlight activation with manual override
  • Bonnet scoops
  • Stainless steel door sill covers
  • Brake callipers finished in red with VXR logo
  • Dark-style headlights

Mechanical

  • Fully independent multi-link rear suspension with linear-rate springs and matched damper calibration
  • Uprated linear-rate front springs with unique sports damper calibration
  • Front strut brace
  • Front ventilated disc brakes – 330mm diameter
  • Rear ventilated disc brakes – 315mm diameter
  • Pagid brake pads
  • Front callipers in red
  • Six-speed manual gearbox
  • MacPherson strut front suspension with progressive-rate coil springs, gas-pressure dampers and anti-roll bar
  • Sports suspension
  • Speed-sensitive electric power-assisted steering
  • Limited-slip differential
  • Control-link independent rear suspension with progressive-rate miniblock coil springs, gas-pressure dampers and anti-roll bar
  • Rear-wheel drive

Security

  • Locking wheel nuts
  • Electronic engine deadlock immobiliser
  • Visible Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate
  • Remote-control security alarm system
  • Remote-control two-stage central deadlocking (doors, boot lid and fuel flap)

Safety

  • Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
  • Four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Switchable traction control – prevents wheel spin by reducing torque when accelerating
  • Driver’s and front passenger’s front and side-impact airbags
  • Height-adjustable front seatbelts with force limiters
  • Two lap and diagonal inertia-reel seatbelts for rear seats
  • Pyrotechnic front body-lock seatbelt pretensioner system
  • Active-safety front-seat head restraints
Scribbled on November 8th 2008 in Vauxhall, Vauxhall Monaro
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