3 June 2004

More details are emerging about Vauxhall’s VXR programme as the company strives to emulate the success of Ford’s RS brand. The first two VXR models were launched in Birmingham last week – the hottest version of the VX220 and Monaro – but hot-hatch fans will be raising an eyebrow at the thought of the next model in the chain, an Astra with up to 235bhp. Due to arrive in the UK next summer, four months behind the rest of the three-door Astra range, it will get the full Lotus development treatment. That will worry Honda, whose Civic Type-R is the main target now Ford’s Focus RS has ceased production. Vauxhall is expecting 2500-3000 sales per year, which would seriously threaten the Honda.

But that’s not the end of it. Six months after the Astra, in late 2005, there will be a Zafira VXR, based on the next-generation model. The Vectra VXR arrives in early 2006, a hot mini-MPV Meriva in late 2006 and the next-generation Corsa gets a VXR variant in 2007.

Although the quickest Vauxhalls will be sold abroad as Opels, the UK is getting the final say on set-up because most of the cars will be sold here. ‘We are the lead market,’ said Stuart Harris, VXR brand manager. ‘Normally we get 90 per cent of what we want and there’s a 10 per cent compromise for Europe, but with these cars there is no compromise.’ European tuning HQ Opel Performance Centre may tone down the cars for Europe.

The first VXR Monaro and VX220 models were sold at the motor show, with initial deliveries beginning in the next few weeks.

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