Vauxhall is planning to turn the three-door Astra you see here into a 300bhp, hardcore VXR that can take on mega-hatches like the Ford Focus RS and Renaultsport Mégane.
Sources say Vauxhall is keen to regain ground lost to the Focus RS; when the original VXR was launched, it was a rival for that car’s tamer stablemate, the ST.
One insider said: “The VXR brand is about extreme performance. It’s safe to say that the next Astra will build on where the current car is and react to market trends. It’ll be quite a power hike over the current car.”
That means a hefty gain from the current VXR’s 237bhp to match the Focus’s 300bhp — but GM engineers think they will be able to achieve this with a more highly tuned 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged powerplant, instead of switching to a V6.
Like the current Focus RS, the VXR will stick with front-wheel drive, so expect some form of electronic differential to help cope with the increased power and torque. But that drivetrain solution is likely to seem conventional when compared with the next-generation RS, which is tipped to be a hybrid, combining a 250bhp petrol engine with an electric motor.
The hot Astra won’t go on sale until late next year. But although it will share the rakish roofline shown in these spy images of the regular Astra Sport Coupé — due to be launched at the Paris show in September — the VXR is likely to get flared wheel arches, a larger roof spoiler and deep front airdam.
These images show that while chief designer Mark Adams has kept the ‘blades’ on the Astra’s flanks, he has reversed the three-door’s to the same layout as the Insignia’s. There’s also a sharp crease that runs from the door handle back to the tail-light.
The Vauxhall VXR brand is the undoubted performance hit of GM Europe’s line-up. Around 3000 VXR models were sold in 2009. That’s triple the figure posted by the next-best market, Germany.