What we’re led to understand about Vauxhall VXR buyers is that they don’t mind one iota if the cars they buy get noticed in a crowd. In fact, we’re told that it’s a disappointment to them if they don’t. How much life is left in this GTC VXR remains to be seen as Vauxhall has teased that the seventh-generation Astra is set to spawn a GSi and new VXR derivatives in the near future.
This latest GTC VXR, then, is one they should like. It builds on the already taut and athletic shape of the three-door GTC hatch (which Vauxhall wants you to think of as a coupé). Louder colours enter the fray, as do beefed-up bumpers at each end and side skirts down the middle, added to which are 19-inch alloy wheels. For a touch over £1000, the alloys get bigger, the skirts become deeper and a prominent roof spoiler is fitted; Vauxhall expects some 85 per cent of buyers to take it up.
The hardware looks sufficient to back up the promise of the appearance. Those wheels – as striking as any we’ve seen – are not just about looks and being wilfully easy to kerb. They weigh just 1.86kg each and are backed by sizeable cross-drilled and ventilated Brembo discs. Across the front axle alone, this set-up saves 14.5kg of unsprung mass over the equivalent wheel size on the regular GTC.
The engine is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four, derived from that used in the Vauxhall Insignia 2.0T but considerably beefed up for this application to provide its power and torque.
That it drives the front wheels only is no longer the cause for concern that it once might have been. The VXR gets a mechanical limited-slip differential and Vauxhall’s HiPerStrut front suspension, which, like a similar system used on the last Ford Focus RS and the Renault Mégane 265, acts to reduce torque steer. At the rear, the VXR retains the torsion beam with Watt’s linkage fitted to other Astras.
The steering itself is hydraulically assisted rather than electrically as in other Astras, and there are magnetorheological adaptive dampers with three modes: Normal, Sport (in which they’re tighter) and VXR (in which they’re tighter again, and coupled to enhanced throttle response).