The secret to the handling of Vauxhall’s 155mph Astra VXR hot hatch is a German-made Drexler limited-slip differential that’s said to be the first of its kind employed in a production front-wheel-drive road car.
The diff employs circular plates that lock to prevent the 276bhp VXR from spinning away power in corners and over cambers when driving hard. Plate-type diffs have been used in motorsport in front-drive cars since the 1960s, but they usually work with an aggressive action and are difficult to drive.
However, Vauxhall says the Drexler Motorsport unit is very easy to drive. “There is very little snatching of the wheel,” says VXR boss Volker Strycek, a former touring car racer. “We are tuning it so you can hardly feel the operation.”
Strycek has also driven front-drive cars that use torque-sensing front diffs, such as the Ford Focus RS, and says the VXR has much nicer steering. Also helping to reduce torque steer is the VXR’s HiPerStrut front suspension, which decouples the front wheels from the steering axis.