I have a regular Warn winch that doesn't see much use and my $0.02 is that the VR is probably an OK winch. They are not completely made in Oregon like the M-series, but they are also not 100% off shore either. Warn isn't going to ever let you know how any of their winches are designed or made, since even a 100% USA-made winch isn't 100% USA-made. Parts are going to come from all over.
The real question (and why I stuck with a higher end) is that even though we are not power users like a crawler might be, the downside of having one fail is higher since walking is not ideal or maybe even an option at all when you're out exploring, especially solo. So I decided that if I was going to have a winch, it would be one that I trust will work after sitting out there for months. IOW, it's by virtue of the fact that it does /not/ get used much why I felt the need to trust that it would when it need to.
The paradox being a cheap winch that is loaded a bunch will start to exhibit symptoms, noisy, slow, whatever, in use that warns you of impending doom. So if I was to bolt on a cheap winch I would feel the need to test it more. That's probably something that we all should do but being a realist I know it doesn't. So spending the money I looked at as insurance in a way. I will not care that the M8000 would have cost $500 more than a VR8000 when a VR is melted down 100 miles from anywhere in a Wyoming snow drift. You can't escape decades of proven and known performance.
Plus you can rebuild an M-series a dozen times over and Warn will never stop making parts that allow you to do so. VR? Maybe. How about the Tabor they used to make? I dunno. I suppose the point is buy once, cry once. Or something like that. A $400 winch that fails you when you /really/ need it is $400 wasted but a $1,000 winch that works is worth every penny.
'91 Pickup - Imelda
'08 Tacoma TRD - Donna