In this age of smart diffs, let’s hear it for the Mk5 Astra VXR, a 237bhp hooligan with muscle-building torque steer.
In 2008, former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Manuel Reuter piloted a production example around the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 8min 35sec, at the time a record for a hot hatch. Given how popular the car is with tuners today (specialists Courtenay Sport once showed off a VXR producing 560bhp), one has probably since lapped the M25 in the same time.
It was launched in 2005 in much the same form as it bowed out in five years later, save for a mid-life tweak in 2007 that brought a redesigned front and rear lights, a new front bumper and keyless entry. During its life it kept the same 237bhp 2.0-litre engine (series name Z20LEH), fed by a Borg Warner K04 turbo and driving the front wheels through a Getrag M32 six-speed manual gearbox.
Much was made of its Lotus- developed suspension but, yes, that is a beam axle at the rear. Still, for an extra £400, you could have the Driving System Plus featuring Continuous Damping Control, a system that monitors roll, pitch and yaw, and changes the rate of damping on each wheel to optimise handling.
To ensure there was no mistaking it for its 103bhp 1.6 SXi sibling, the VXR had a fully encompassing bodykit (unique grille, revised bumpers, front splitter, side skirts and rear spoiler), a carbonfibre- effect B-pillar, 18in ‘snowflake’ alloy wheels (most buyers chose the optional 19s with a different design) and a signature VXR boot badge.
Inside, it had half-leather Recaro seats, a unique steering wheel and air conditioning. Full leather, climate control and rear parking sensors were optional extras.