Think Mexico and the typical list of sombreros, maracas and stunning sandy beaches come to mind, not a fantastically built street legal speed freak like the VUHL 05. Push images of Mexico City aside, the VUHL 05 burst onto the track-day scene with a bang as a concept in 2013 and we had the chance to drive the very first right-hand drive car in the world this week. The signature of ex-Formula 1 driver Esteban Gutierrez on the dashboard only added to the pressure to not get it wrong and turn the road racer into a heap of aluminium and carbon fibre shards.
The VUHL 05 is a very special package that has been designed, engineered and executed with one thing in mind, making the best drivers car possible. On paper it appears that the car, a brainchild of brothers Iker and Guillermo Echeverria, may well be just that. Weight is key to achieve such a goal and the dry weight of the car is just 695 kilograms, a very impressive figure indeed. At the heart of the structure is an award winning 2-litre version of Ford’s DOHC turbocharged EcoBoost engine. Output is 285 hp with 420 Nm of torque resulting in a weight ratio of 400 hp per tonne. For some context, that is more than a Ferrari 458 Italia, Mercedes-McLaren SLR and Lexus LFA. As a result, it will hit 100 km/h from standstill in just 3.7 seconds and if you keep your foot welded to the floor the VUHL will top out at 245 km/h.
Another element that is key to the car being driver focused is the transmission. In a world where the 991 Porsche GT3 RS no longer requires a third pedal we were delighted when we heard that the VUHL is only available with a manual transmission.
Upon further inspection the extent to remove any unnecessary weight and centre everything around the driver became more apparent. The most obvious observation is the lack of any roof, doors, windows or even a windscreen. Things are just as hardcore when you, literally, step into the cabin. There is not a creature comfort in sight, nor a tuft of carpet, just two carbon fibre seats, naked welds and a basic centre console. There are no cup holders, glovebox or even a pocket to hide your phone. VUHL did manage to create a rather generous boot under the rear wing that is 70-litres in size. Be sure to check the weather forecast well in advancen as there is not a cover or pop up umbrella to cower under.
Enough looking around, it was time to don our racing gloves and helmet and take the VUHL for a test drive around a mix of roads to see how the 05 would handle a variety of roads. Flick the Topgun style red armed switch and hit the rubber start button. The engine choked into life and we tested the weight of the pedals. The clutch is very manageable and does not require you to have calf muscles that resemble those of Usain Bolt’s. The brake pedal on the other hand was very firm and did not have a millimetre of play in it. As we cautiously edged onto the road we had the chance to depress the third pedal and things got very exciting very quickly.
As soon as you lean a toe on the accelerator pedal you are instantly and viciously met by a violent sucking sound that would not be out of place in an Alien or Predator movie. It is ungodly and instantly reminds you of just how uncompromised the car is. Stick with the throttle and the race display begins to assault your eyes with flashing change up lights just below 8,000 revs.
This is not a car for the faint hearted, but within minutes we are hooked, immersed in VUHL the experience. The steering is a tad light but is buzzing with feel and as we approach another bend we dab the brakes, dip the clutch and draw for a lower gear, blip the throttle release the clutch and reapply the throttle. The precision you can apply from the racing pedals, beautifully direct steering and stunning gear change is sublime. Time and time again the VUHL rewarded us with traction that we have never before experienced on a road car. There is no traction control, but every time you poke the throttle there is a warming confidence that the specially developed Michelin Pilot Super Sports will catapult you out of a corner faster than a scalded cat. The driving experience is so balanced and unadulterated, as you learn to handle to car bend after bend the VUHL inspires you to push that little bit more.
That is not to say that there are not a few drawbacks. Yes, it may be friendly and easy around town, but visibility behind the cabin is virtually non-existent, the side mirrors are as close to those of a Formula 1 car we have ever seen and quiver like leaves in a tropical storm anything about 100 km/h. There is, obviously, no navigation system and to use the indicators/turn signals you have to reach for a tiny flick switch in the centre console that will not self cancel. Of course, these are issues to expect with a track car and they can easily be forgiven. When driving the car at speed the intake noise can become tiresome. We also experienced the car without a helmet and the sound, that reminded us of the whoosh in a Pagani Huayra, quickly became unbearable. The intake can be moved further back but will result in a loss of 10-15 brake horsepower.
The car, upon first sight, is aggressive, bare and hardcore. The reality of the driving experience could not be more different. The calibration and feel in such a machine could not be more resolved. The use of high quality materials is apparent when looking around the interior. Every nut, weld and switch has been thought about and as a result everything looks very neat and well assembled. In such a category, the VUHL 05 manages to shine and stand out from the likes of the KTM XBow, BAC Mono and Ariel Atom as it is not as intimidating and can be explored on the road and still entertain on track. It may not be as fast on track as it rivals but as an experience it is one of the very best.