Our exclusive drive in the GT X Experimental EV concept shows the boldness of Vauxhall’s vision
Steve Cropley Autocar
21 November 2018

Vauxhall is rolling ever faster towards a future of exciting and very different products, the standard bearer of which is its brand new GT X Experimental electric concept, in which Autocar has had an exclusive first test drive. 

This is no ordinary concept. It clearly shows the fresh face of future Vauxhall and Opel models, created in a new era of quick-acting creativity, kick-started just over a year ago by PSA’s acquisition of the two venerable former General Motors marques

The GT X features a plethora of new design features that have already been tested in secret on cars of all types and sizes – not just the GT Coupé and GT X Experimental we’ve seen already – to ensure that they can be the basis for the product line-up of a full-line manufacturer. 

Small wonder, as our latest meeting with the GT X in a giant aircraft hangar showed, that this multi-million-pound concept is treated by its reverent handlers as if it were made of gossamer and gold. And that it is often accompanied on its travels by the company’s British-born design director, Mark Adams, who explains its significance better than anyone. 

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“Don’t think of the GT X as a production car,” says Adams. “It’s more important than that. We call it a brand manifesto – a representative of our design vision for the company’s whole portfolio.” 

Production proposal or not, the company’s Russelsheim-based designers chose one of today’s most relevant model types for the GT X Experimental, a B-segment SUV, because such models are selling out of their skins all around the world, with no sign of a let-up. This one is just over four metres long, the same size as the current Vauxhall Corsa. It is designed to use a new, all-electric skateboard chassis and features a 50kWh battery that, in production, would give it performance and range similar to that of the latest Nissan Leaf

As I approach the car to drive it, the ideal nature of the skateboard becomes obvious. Although it’s an SUV, clearly higher than a saloon, it looks petite and shapely, because its front-drive mechanicals are more compact and easier to package than those of a piston-engined car. 

The big wheels (featuring big-diameter, yellow-edged hubcaps that make the tyres look like low-profile affairs, even though they’re not) and the generous ground clearance give the car a hint of toughness that is immediately softened by the shapely but structured surfaces above: the sculpted bonnet, the neat and unique Vizor grille/headlights treatment and the muscular haunches. Give Adams a stray minute and he’ll lecture you on the importance of perfect proportions to a car. This GT X has them. 

When the clap-hands doors sigh electrically open (revealing that there’s no centre pillars), it’s a bit of a surprise to discover so much room for entry and egress. The sills are low and there’s generous room for legs to swing inwards. The driver’s front bucket seat (already recovered once because so many Opel-Vauxhall staff bums have been using this concept for inspiration) is comfortable and the view takes you back to days when cabins lacked intrusive pillars and clutter, another of Adams’s hobby horses. 

The Pure Panel, a giant TFT screen, comes into its own when the computers start to hum and giant graphics appear. There’s a huge digital speed readout (because avoiding speeding is ever more important today). There is also a huge map, far easier to read than any I’ve seen before, with a clever portrayal of your journey related to a range meter. The clarity is exceptional and everything is touch or voice operated. 

The steering wheel boss also has a small TFT screen, as does the centre-mounted rocker switch for selecting Drive. 

Driving is a delicious anti-climax. Foot on brake, I rock the centre switch into Drive. With a gentle push on the accelerator, we roll off the mark in near-silence, the promise of electric car precision and refinement instantly obvious. The car gathers way easily. Too easily, actually, for the confines of a hangar. I back off, but there isn't much engine braking. Regenerative braking would (and will) fix that. 

The steering is pretty wooden and lacks self-centring, but that hardly matters. We know Vauxhall can make cars steer well. What’s fascinating is the amazing freedom afforded by a windscreen that becomes a roof. Also by the thin pillars and the satisfying view of a shapely bonnet. 

The car feels very small yet the view is great. The cabin is light and airy like nothing in production. The decor is elegantly simple, and the Pure Panel has a clarity I’d like in the Mercedes S-Class I’m about to drive home. Adams reckons cars of the future will be better than ever – because customers won’t accept less, and even if they did, designers wouldn’t allow it. So the future’s bright, and the GT X is proof.

Read more

Vauxhall eCorsa name confirmed for 2020 electric hatchback​

Sporty Vauxhall GT X concept hints at firm’s design future​

How to design a new Vauxhall - an Autocar exclusive​

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Comments
8

MrJ

21 November 2018

Good looker, apart from the odd styling dent in the doors. 

I ran an Astra Estate for 119,000 trouble-free miles, so hope new blood at Vauxhall reinvigorates the brand. 

21 November 2018

Why is it left-hand drive?  It's an Opel, isn't it?  Let's just have honesty, here.  "Russelsheim-based designers".  There's NOTHING Vauxhall here, ffs, so why lie?

I say my bit, then go. So although I'm interested in what you may initially say, I don't care what you think about what I've written, so I won't read whatever your reply is.

FMS

21 November 2018
That bloke wrote:

Why is it left-hand drive?  It's an Opel, isn't it?  Let's just have honesty, here.  "Russelsheim-based designers".  There's NOTHING Vauxhall here, ffs, so why lie?

 

You want to know why?. The same reasoning that a great number of new cars, their brochures and other promo material, ferature LHD, is that the vast majority of cars sold, are LEFT HAND DRIVE, so the makers are showing the majority buying group (pandering as you might stupidly call it), what exactly they will be getting. You want honesty?.

 

Why must you use swearing abbreviations?. What on earth is so frustrating you about this topic?. Honestly, these columns would lose nothing by your absence. Now, what have you got to say?.

21 November 2018

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21 November 2018

  won’t be made here will it, because if Ellesmere get shut, it’ll wear an Opel badge!

Peter Cavellini.

21 November 2018

Sory to be pedantic Peter, It is Ellesmere Port or just "the port" round these parts, Ellesmere is a Shropshire town at 'tother end of the canal.. :)

23 November 2018
Electric Opel Corsa *not* on a dedicated platform in 2020, and then this thing? Way to be a slow follower. Has PSA announced billions in battery purchases, investments, and factories?

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