Vauxhall is aiming to outscore Renaultsport’s benchmark Mégane 250 hot hatchback on power, handling and coupé-like styling, judging by these exclusive images of the next-generation Astra VXR and details on the car obtained by Autocar.
The next-gen VXR will get around 50bhp more, taking its power output to just shy of 300bhp, and will also feature a UK-honed and track-developed chassis designed to give it circuit performance to match that of the highly rated Renault, and take on Ford’s forthcoming four-pot Focus ST.
The images are high-resolution renderings, believed to be part of an internal planning document or an early draft of promotional material. Vauxhall declined to comment on the shots, but Autocar sources have confirmed that they are accurate in all bar the alloy wheel design, which has yet to be finalised.
They show that Vauxhall has stayed true to its stated intention of keeping the hot version of the forthcoming three-door Astra — likely to be badged GTC — as close as possible to the extreme looks of the Paris motor show concept that previewed the new model.
Several of the GTC Paris’s more intriguing styling cues look set to make production. They include sharp creases that emerge from the door handles and run across three different panels to the edge of the tail-lights, and a particularly complex tailgate shape.
There’s also an integrated roof spoiler, a small rear diffuser and Vauxhall’s signature ‘blade’ along the flanks, positioned towards the front of the car, like the Insignia, instead of at the rear like the five-door Astra’s.
GM’s chief designer, Mark Adams, admitted to Autocar last year that his team had “pushed the boundaries” on manufacturing tolerances with the GTC concept’s curves. “The technology to make cars has improved,” he said. “The body side, the stamping and the complexity is incredible. Five years ago the blade wouldn’t have made production.”
The styling of the car is designed to give the entire Vauxhall range a ‘halo’ product. Of the GTC Paris, Adams said, “I think we’ve got great products; what we need to achieve is to get people to believe in the brand. We want to build on our quality attributes — the rational elements — but make it much more emotional.”
This style-focused attitude is likely to transfer to the entire production GTC range, not just the VXR — but the high-performance variant will get a heavily modified chassis over its more mundane stablemates. “This VXR will be much more extreme and hardcore than the old one,” an insider told Autocar. “It’s being designed to offer a track-day experience far beyond the outgoing model’s.”
One of the key elements in this is the removal of the old VXR’s electronic ‘artificial limited-slip differential’ and the use instead of a mechanical Quaife-type unit. This will be mated to HiPerstrut front suspension, a set-up not dissimilar to a double wishbone layout that has proven successful on the Insignia in providing steering feel and accuracy, but minimising torque steer.
The GTC is expected to appear in production form at the Frankfurt show in September and will go on sale early next year. The VXR will follow around six months later; a debut at next year’s Geneva show is likely, with cars in showrooms by summer 2012.