ROADTEST: Astra and Vectra OPC

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This was the press launch for the VXR range which we attended in November last year. The feature never made it into the magazine, but here it is:

Right outside the airport is a cordoned off section of car park full of Arden Blue VXRs of various description. Although they are badged Vauxhall on the outside, the cars are actually LHD Opel Astra OPCs which, according to GM, have a slightly different set up. The Vauxhall version is supposed to have a bit more edge in order to cater for the differing tastes of drivers in the UK and mainland Europe. All the routes for the journey are programmed into the Sat Nav so all we have to do is follow that.


We'd had a British spec VXR at Total Vauxhall for a week and we found it to be a terrific drive. Being wary of some journos verdict on the fidgety, torque steering characteristics the car would display under acceleration, we tried not to approach it with too many preconceptions. Surprisingly, we found it to behave very well. Yes, there was an element of torque steer (240 ps will do that), but the overall drive was fantastic and we came to the conclusion that the VXR was well worthy of its hype.

The roads rapidly deteriorated from fairly smooth tarmac and the surface soon reminded me of UK roads. The Astra hopped and skipped over the bumps restlessly, a result of the stiff suspension and 19 inch wheels. It's not too hard by any means but it definitely lets you know you're not driving a normal Astra. We stopped off to take a couple of pictures and then I took the wheel. The steering, surprisingly, took on a life of its own and I had to fight to control the car as it torque and bump steered along the road. The Astra just felt like hard work on these roads the tarmac was deceptively slippery where good and falling to bits where bad. The brake pedal lacked feel too; the travel is not progressive and you have to give it a firm press to achieve the required effect. When they did bite, they worked superbly though. I am honestly surprised as the VXR we had was a lot better behaved than this OPC. Apparently its been set up for German roads where it wont have to deal with such demanding surfaces.


My initial drive of the Astra is ended as we pulled in to a coffee stop at a restaurant in the hills. It's here that GM opted to hold a press conference on the new cars. They'd set up a stage with some projectors on it. Apparently this area is now a Mafia Free Zone, and to be fair I'd seen nobody in pinstripe suits and spats. Frank H Klass of Opel introduced us to the road wed be driving. The Targa Florio is a 100 year old racing circuit and the actual route we took is almost unchanged from 100 years ago. GM were doing 14 days worth of driving here and considering how tough the conditions are, you have to hand it to them for having the testicular fortitude to host the launch here. These roads are well capable of upsetting even the most thoroughbred of sports car should you misjudge any part the relentlessly undulating surface, which, to make matters even more interesting, is covered in a strange type of non-stick tarmac.


We seriously put the car through its paces on the second leg of the journey and was no doubt that the car is extremely quick, but its also got a ragged edge to it: its responses are not fluent and in essence, the car is hard work to drive. Its this edge which will probably make the VXR a love it or hate it experience. Those who fondly recall the days when the GTE 16v was in its prime, will probably find this car a potent and exciting drive. Its worth considering though that the 200ps SRi five door is, in all honesty, probably a better all round drive, even though it obviously loses out on power. Personally, I like the VXR a lot. Vauxhall currently holds the honour of maddest hot hatch. Yes, the Focus ST may well possess (debatably) finer handling and the Golf GTi may possess better overall packaging, but the Astra VXR is a full-on fire breathing hot hatch from that fantastic eye-catching shape, to the superb seats, to that turbo engine and that slightly untamed chassis this is one car which can really get the adrenalin pumping.


The Vectra VXR is now the flagship of the range with the impending loss of the Monaro. With a 2.8 V6 Turbo engine producing a mighty 255 ps its also now the most powerful. The recent range wide facelift of the Vectra has improved things enormously in terms of styling and driving dynamics so we had high hopes for the VXR. The usual styling treatments have been applied and the Vectra looks quite menacing in this guise, particularly in black. An imposing outside lane nemesis if ever there was one. Inside, the interior quality is very high and makes the Astra look a bit downmarket. The re-profiled dash, Recaro seats and comprehensive equipment list make this a car you could cross continents in quite happily never mind countries.


Start the car and youre met with an impressive growl from the exhaust, its surprisingly loud in fact. On the slow drive out of Sicily's rush-hour traffic the Vectra trundled around easily, but when we got to some open road and managed to open it up a bit wow this new V6 engine is a gem. There is a massive surge of torque available immediately making overtaking so easy you soon start looking for cars to pass simply for the sport. Its maybe not quite as quick off the mark as the Astra but the power delivery is better and it just keeps on pulling. We had the car at an indicated 230kph and it showed no signs of faltering progress, and most impressively, the levels of refinement remained excellent. No signs of wind noise or instability here.


The Vectra is a big car, so we were unsure just how well it would cope with the twisting, treacherous hill roads. Heres the answer: brilliantly. While the Astra squirmed and snarled the Vectra was much more linear. The steering, braking and power inputs all became second nature after a few miles and it was really easy to get into a driving rhythm with the car. For a vehicle weighing almost 1.5 tonnes the Vectra VXR has an agility never before seen in a mid-range Vauxhall. For us, its the most complete package and the star of the line up. The 2.8 V6 engine is fantastic and in factory spec doesnt exactly look to be stressed. It should be very interesting to see what the new Performance Centre come up with for this car. A worthy successor to the Vectra ST200, and theres going to be more than 38 of these.


While on the launch I was taken out for a drive in the VXR with touring car driver Smokin' Jo Winkelhock. We might think were fairly talented behind the wheel of a car, but Jo was simply different class. Jo, who has won Le Mans and the BTCC Championship twice amongst many other victories, took the Astra VXR to the absolute limits of its capabilities, and them past them, one some of the craziest pieces of road Id ever seen. With the Sport button pushed on the car took off like an exocet missile, flying into bends at what seemed like a suicidal rate. Pushing at hard as he was, Jo was provoking the back end of the car to step, but it held on for dear life and at one point he even had the car fully airborne. Pushing this car so hard is definitely not for the faint-hearted (or sane for that matter, as I was busy putting permanent finger marks in the bolsters of the seat, Jo was remarking on the pleasant Sicilian scenery as he screeched round yet another off camber corner) but - honestly - the Astra VXR really is one of the ultimate incarnations of the hot hatch so far. Once we navigate the circuit, Jo gets out and sparks up a fag. Legend. I staggered back to the Vectra VXR to navigate the next section.


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Ничего не понял (точнее позже попробую почитать), но выглдит похожим на наши сходки!


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Переведите ))))


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