The love between a man and his car is a bond only appreciated by someone who has experienced it. A car becomes more than a means of travel, more than a sum of its parts. It becomes a member of the family, a friend. To like-minded petrol heads, this makes perfect sense. What might not make sense, is that someone could experience this bond with a Magna…
The 6G74 engine sported by the TJ Magna range is a 24 valve SOHC V6 producing power starting at 150kW. The VR-X shares the same 3.5 litre ‘High Output’ V6 found in the Sports variant, producing 163kW and 317Nm. Extra power found in these models over the standard engines comes from a more free flowing 2.5” exhaust and tweaks to inlet and exhaust valve timing. The torque produced from this engine can be found right through the rev range.
The freer flowing 2.5” exhaust gives the VR-X arguably the most charismatic six cylinder sound ever produced in Australia. It is docile and understated at low revs such as around town or on the freeway, but roars to life higher in the rev range. Coupled to one of the sharpest throttles ever fitted to any car, the VR-X makes for an exhilarating drive.
Whilst not quite as powerful as rival six cylinder Falcons and Commodores, the VR-X has less weight. When new, reviewers rated it as the best six cylinder Australian sedan available. 0-100km/h times vary, but manual variants with a good driver can achieve sub-eight second sprints. For a large car, economy can be quite good. Highway driving will see 7.9L/100km with around town peaking to 11-12. A spirited drive with a heavy foot will see that number climb, much like any other car.
The VR-X has uprated springs and a stiffer rear sway bar compared to standard Magnas, resulting in a slightly firmer ride and sharper turn into corners. The VR-X’s suspension is an almost faultless balance between comfort and sportiness. It is an extremely able long distance GT car, while still being firm enough to enjoy a spirited drive along a twisting road. Around town, the ride can be harsh over uneven road surfaces.
The interior is beginning to feel dated compared to modern cars. There is a lot of plastic, and controls such as ‘fresh air to recirculate’ feel heavy to operate. The odometer is a traditional analogue unit. The VR-X can take five people with relative comfort any distance. Rear leg room can be an issue for taller people, especially if seated behind a tall driver. The front seats are comfortable and easy to get in and out of, but on twisting roads lack lateral support.
For the time, the VR-X was very well equipped, featuring cruise control, air conditioning, CD player and ABS as standard. The trip computer is a very well rounded and easy to use unit, showing average fuel economy, average speed and range to empty to name a few. Its major flaw is, in my view, that after 19 hours and 55 minutes of vehicle running time, without a reset, the car will continuously beep until you reset it.
Whilst mechanically very similar to the Sports, the VR-X boasts more aggressive styling including front and rear bumpers, side skirts, wheel arch extensions and chrome exhaust tip. In 2001, VR-X received new 17”x7” wheels (pictured), replacing the shared 16” wheels found on the Sports. Combined with the rear wing and parabolic headlights also found on the Sports, the VR-X has an unmistakeable presence on the road.
When new, the manual VR-X sold for $34,490. Today, VR-Xs can cost one tenth of that, starting at as little as $3,500. As the years pass, VR-Xs are becoming few and far between with age and accidents often getting the better of them. Automatic examples are plentiful, whereas manuals are much harder to find.
I have often remarked that I will never sell this car, and I stand by that. No car, in my view, offers as much performance, practicality, charisma and economy for less money.
A car should, at every possible opportunity, make you smile. My VR-X has a character, a personality, a soul. When you start to think of a car as a being, you think of it as a friend. This is what makes a car special to a true petrol head. You form a bond which cannot be quantified. As a result, you start to love it.