Two weeks ago, General Motors issued a solitary teaser image of the concept car it would be unveiling on Geneva motor show press day; now, just as the covers come off the car in the Palexpo centre, Autocar can publish exclusive details and pictures of the car (see gallery) – and bring you our own video.It's called the Opel Gran Turismo Coupe Concept, and this is it. Autocar got an advance preview of the car recently at Opel's European design centre in Russelsheim, where we learned that this could be the most important Opel concept for four years. The Gran Turismo Coupe, say its designers, previews the look of every new Vauxhall until the end of the decade. It also heralds the return of one of the UK's most missed affordable performance coupes, the all-wheel drive Vauxhall Calibra Turbo.'This concept's primary purpose is to signal the next chapter of Opel's aesthetic,' explains GM Europe's Design Director Bryan Nesbit. 'It's got signature styling cues you're going to see throughout the next generation model portfolio.' Elements of its styling will therefore appear on various Opel models, and among them, you may have guessed, will be the next Vauxhall Vectra.The GTC also represents a change in direction for GM's biggest European brand. In line with the trend established by many other volume car-makers recently, both Opel and Vauxhall are heading upmarket. They're aim is to make their cars much more stylish, more 'fashion-relative' and therefore more desirable in pretty short order, and more than anything else, this contoured two-door shows us how they'll go about it.
Moving Vauxhall onward and upward
At 4830mm long, 1867mm wide, and on a wheelbase than runs to 2737mm, the GTC is longer, wider and more accommodating than the current Vectra, suggesting that a small growth spurt is planned for the next iteration of the brand's D-segment entrant.However, bigger should definitely not necessarily mean slower. Powered by a tweaked, 300bhp version of the current Vectra VXR's turbocharged 2.8-litre V6, the GTC hits 62mph in six seconds, is limited to 155mph, and has four-driven wheels propelled by an electronically-controlled four-wheel drive system and a rear-axle limited slip differential.The GTC's design does not totally disregard that which has gone before; note the Antara-inspired front grille and Astra Twintop-style rear lights. With those exceptions though, it is a real departure for Russelsheim.What really sets its apart are fang-like vertical air intakes than run downwards from the inside edge of its headlights, creating a new and distinctive family face for Vauxhall that will be recognisable on the next Astra, Vectra, Meriva and Zafira. They're echoed by similar cut-outs in the GTC's rear bumper, and create, as Nesbit puts it, 'a unique down-the-road graphic' that you'll recognise whether the car's tearing down the road towards you or accelerating away into the distance.Elsewhere you'll notice proportions that aren't very far removed from those of the current Vectra, however, the way the GTC's panels seem to flow one-into-another is new. Whereas the current Vectra's sharp edges and expansive surfaces combine for an impression of strength and solidity, the GTC exhibits a much more complex surface language to communicate sophistication and dynamism.
A more inviting cabin
If you thought the changes on the outside were drastic, wait until you see what Opel's done with the cabin. The challenge here, according to Nesbit, was to take something solid but staid and turn it into a cabin you'd actually want to get into.Get in this Vauxhall and you're greeted by none of the geometrically rigour of straight lines, right angles and consistent radius curves that you find in most of Vauxhall's current range. The Gran Turismo Coupe's fascia is canted towards you and wraps around you in a gentle, free-flowing arc that ends up, if you follow it with your eye, part of the centre console between the front seats. The instruments are backlit in red instead of Vauxhall's traditional amber, and there's a U-shape in the aluminium of the steering wheel that's echoed in the gearknob design.The cabin's made up of a rich blend of materials, too. 'If we're going to drive the brand upmarket, we have to be able to call on a broader range of cabin fittings,' says Nesbit. 'The GTC demonstrates the bandwidth of materials that we're talking about; there's piano black veneer, matt black plastic and brushed aluminium inserts on the fascia, and we've got black leather on the seats and on the primary controls with red detailing.'
So when can we buy one?
Well, certainly not until a while after the launch if the next Vectra, that's for sure. If that car arrives on schedule, it'll be in showroom by the tail end of next year, and once it's on stream, Opel can think about what other variants it can spin off the new D-segment platform. Think late 2009, or thereabouts. It wouldn't be called the Calibra, of course; Opel would have to dream-up a contemporary label that would be to Vectra what Calibra was to Cavalier. Something alliterative to communicate a close relationship with the Vectra, but that also suits the GTC's sleeker, more exotic, and slightly more threatening appearance.So… Vauxhall Vampire, anyone?