The scorching 277bhp Vauxhall Astra VXR has been unveiled at the Geneva motor show. The new Ford Focus ST rival promises best-in-class performance to ecplise its well-established front-drive rivals. Powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection two-litre ‘Family II’ engine boasting 295lb ft of torque, the latest hot VXR is the most powerful production Astra ever.
Distinguished by a sporty lower air intake with dominant outer brake ducts and 20inch multi-spoke alloys that push right to the edge of the arches, the VXR sits aggressively on the road.
Inside is a sporty cabin with high-back seats, trimmed in leather with contrast stitching and a sporty VXR-badged steering wheel.
Like the rest of the GTC range, the VXR gets GM/Saab’s HiPer strut at the front to retain steering finesse while the front wheels cope with transmitting a large-degree of torque.
An adaptation of a conventional front-strut, the VXR’s design features a separate knuckle joint that stops the ‘steering fight’ or torque steer that high power front-drive cars usually suffer from. Ford and Renault use similar designs in their rival hot hatches.
The VXR also employs a mechanical limited slip differential, which cuts wheelspin and improves traction from a standing start and out of corners. Although it remains to be seen whether this diff will introduce its own steering effects, both generations of Ford Focus RS have suffered this problem, although the more recent car was less susceptible.
Like the last-generation hot Astra, the cockpit features a VXR switch to adjust the FlexRide adaptive dampers to an uncompromised, track setting. A less hardcore Sport setting is also available. Also improved on the new GTC VXR are the brakes, where the standard stoppers are replaced with competition-derived models from Brembo.
Dougie McColm, product manager for VXR said: "VXR should account for around 10 per cent of the sales of astra GTC in the UK, which is the biggest market for VXR. It's been in development for about 18 months, and we've covered around 10,000km on the Nurburgring as well as on roads that simulate those you find in the UK."
Some of the development work was done by racer Le Mans winner and former Opel DTM racer Jo Winkelhock. "We have devised a great package that will convince even the most enthusiastic drivers," says Winkelhock, ‘and not just on the Nurburgring."