A promising start but still a way to go
Looks fantastic
Room for improvement
Not as fast as rivals

First Drive review: Vuhl 05 (2015)

Forget the sombrero and grab a crash helmet

More Info

James Mills reviews the Vuhl 05 track day car for The Sunday Times Driving

2015 Vuhl 05 at a glance

  • Handling: ★★★☆☆
  • Performance: ★★★☆☆
  • Design: ★★★★☆
  • Interior: ★★★☆☆
  • Practicality: ★★☆☆☆
  • Costs: ★★☆☆☆

2015 Vuhl 05, £59,995

The Vuhl 05 is in the vanguard of what wags are calling a Mexican wave of sports cars arriving in the UK. They have already gained notoriety, thanks to Richard Hammond’s suggestion that they might be feckless, lazy or flatulent if they resembled stereotypical Mexicans — a remark that prompted a minor diplomatic incident.

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The former Top Gear presenter was referring to the Mastretta sports car, and the gag prompted the Mexican ambassador to complain to the BBC. Even though it was four years ago, rumour has it Mexicans are still muttering under their sombreros.

However, the new Vuhl 05 is no crude lash-up, built in a stifling lean-to under the midday sun. It is constructed around an extruded aluminium chassis that’s bonded and wears reinforced plastic body panels, or comes with the option of bodywork fashioned from carbon fibre. And up close, the chassis, engine and other components all look well made.

Many of those ingredients – 40% in fact – are sourced from the UK. The 2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged Ford Ecoboost engine, six-speed manual gearbox, steering rack, Bilstein dampers and Tillett carbon fibre seats make this a BritMex mashup – in a far more appealing way than mixing the two nation’s favourite dishes.

Depending on your point of view, the interior is either simple or spartan. A digital display sits behind the removable steering wheel, the seat adjusts fore and aft and there are some retro-looking toggle switches that cost $100 (£64) each, sourced from helicopter suppliers so that they’d be weather-proof.

The pedals may be a little too offset to the left for some tastes, and the 05 is missing a foot brace to the left of the clutch and padding for the centre console. But Vuhl says these are things that have been added to customer’s cars. (Our test car dated back to 2013.)

In a nod to the car’s likely use on track days, there’s an inbuilt GoPro video camera, just over the driver’s left shoulder, and its images are stored on a memory stick that slots, neatly, into the dashboard behind a water-tight screw cap.

You can also choose an optional titanium bolt pack for the 05, which shaves 4.5kg off the car’s weight, and should be a good talking point when indulging in a spot of one-upmanship at the Kentagon bar during a track day at Brands Hatch.

The car’s styling is fantastic. It’s the work of designers from Esiste, an Italian design house that works for the likes of Audi, Lamborghini and Ducati, and the brief from Vuhl was to create a car that looked great rather than sucked itself to the road like a Formula One racing car.

Even so, it’s the driving experience that impresses the most. For a newly formed company, led by brothers Guillermo and Iker Echeverria who have no previous experience of designing and building cars — but were influenced by their father, Guillermo Senior, a racing car designer and driver for 30-odd years — the 05 feels every inch a polished performer.

Review of the Vuhl 05 sports car, by James Mills of The Sunday TImes Driving

Its 2-litre, turbocharged Ford Ecoboost engine boasts 285bhp and 310Ib ft of torque. Unsurprisingly, it powers the 725kg, mid-engined machine along with gusto.
After a slight pause while the turbocharger rubs its eyes and wakes up, there’s a rush toward the horizon and the rapid illumination of green, orange and red LEDs on top of the digital, racing car-style instrument display. When they all blink in unison, you know it’s time to shift up a gear; easily done as the manual gear change is as easy-going as, well, a Mexican (just joking, Mr ambassador).

A crash helmet and earplugs are essential, unless you particularly enjoy flies going up your nose and a sensation that’s not dissimilar to having a vacuum cleaner nozzle placed inside your ear at maximum power. On our test car, the air intake system was placed between the protective roll-over bars to gulp down cold air for the engine, which is directly next to the driver’s left ear.

There’s an option to position it on the car’s boot lid, but this sucks in air warmed by the engine, losing about 10bhp, says Iker Echeverria.

You need those rev indicator lights, because it’s hard to hear what the engine’s doing once the car builds speed. The noise is dominated by the violent whoosh of the air intake system, which makes a Javelin anti-tank missile sound like a small firework.

Yet pleasingly, for anyone who doesn’t make a living racing cars, the handling has been tuned to be safe and steady – up to a point – with understeer acting as a warning to the driver that they’re overstepping the mark, and a lift of the throttle returning the car to a nicely balanced stance.

Get into a muddle, though, and much like an Ariel Atom, the tail can act like a pendulum because 63% of the weight is over the back wheels. Mercifully, there’s plenty of feel through the steering and seat of the pants and those hip-hugging Tillett carbon seats to warn drivers when the tyres are losing their hold of the road.

The brakes don’t have any anti-lock system, and stability control is down to the driver’s intelligence and skill at the wheel, rather than any clever electronic safety nets. That’s how buyers of such toys like it, but happily the stopping power on offer by the braking system is impressive.

Review of the Vuhl 05 sports car, by James Mills of the Sunday Times Driving

We can’t tell you about matters such as fuel economy or CO2 emissions, because the car is sold under low volume Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) type regulations, so is exempt from homologation that most cars must attain.

Even so, by the end of our test session with the Vuhl 05, we came away impressed. It’s a great looking machine and surprisingly good to drive for a first-time effort.

However, at just shy of £60,000, it’s more expensive than masochistic models from Ariel, Caterham and Lotus, to name but a few. And they’re faster and more exciting still.

In a market where there’s no shortage of playthings for petrolheads, you’ll either have to crave the exclusivity the 05 offers – less than 60 a year will be built – or be a Mexican ambassador to pick it over those rivals.

2015 Vuhl 05 specifications
  • Engine: 2000cc four-cylinder turbo petrol
  • Power: 285bhp
  • Torque: 310 Ib ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Performance: 0-62mph in 3.7sec
  • Top speed: 152mph
  • Kerb weight: 725kg
  • Fuel: n/a
  • CO2: n/a
  • Road tax band: n/a
  • Price: £59,995
  • Release date: On sale now

Vuhl 05 rivals

Ariel Atom 3.0 Supercharged, from £40,000

  • For As much a work of art as a thrilling driving machine
  • Against You’ll need a wetsuit if it’s raining

Caterham 620R, from £49,995

  • For Completely and utterly bonkers in the best possible way
  • Against Needs the sequential gearbox for maximum mind-warp

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