VAUXHALL Astra VXR
Generations Timeline, Specs and Pictures
Based on the Vauxhall GTC, the VXR version was the sportiest model in its range and, when it was launched, it was the most powerful front-wheel-drive car in the U.K.
The compact hot-hatch market evolved from power to look factor. When Vauxhall/Opel understood that, it made the GTC model, a sportier version of the Astra. But it did some more! While it had some predecessors with sporty engines, it installed it only on the GTC version, which was more of a coupe rather than a regular hatchback.
On the outside, the VXR took the same bodywork from the GTC version but improved it with a more aggressive body kit. A larger front spoiler, more profiled side sills and a roof-spoiler in the back completed the image of a “bad-boy-racer”. A twin exhaust in the back with chromed tips was offered to amplify the sporty image. Moreover, an option for aerodynamic package added a second spoiler over the roof-spoiler.
Inside, there was the regular Astra dashboard with some VXR badges on the gear-stick lever and the flat-bottom steering wheel. They also redesigned the dials, which were lit in red when the VXR mode was engaged. But the most attention was attracted by the sport-bucket seats with holes in the integrated headrest, like those for race harnesses.
For the drivetrain, the VXR retained the same struts in the front and DeWatt linkage in the rear, but with adaptive dampers. Power came from a 280 hp engine and went to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual and, most important, through a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Vauxhall introduced its contender in the hot-hatch segment with a highly tuned Astra GTC in 2005 and brought more than just a set of wheels and a body kit.
Opel built a highly respected hot-hatch in the mid-’80s, the Kadett GSI, but over time it lost its edge in front of Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, or the Renault Megane Renault Sport, to name just a few. In 2005, GM decided to return with a highly tuned version for the Astra GTC, which, in the U.K., it sported the Vauxhall badge.
Unlike its main competitors, which were more or less just the three-door versions of the five-door hatchbacks, the Astra GTC featured a different bodywork than its siblings. At the front, it sported a wide mesh-grille flanked on the sides by scoops with fog lights. From its sides, the 18” light-alloy wheels made a clear difference compared to the rest of the range. The carmaker installed a center-mounted exhaust at the back, under the bumper, and a roof spoiler on top of the tailgate to complete the sporty image.
Inside, the sport-treatment continued with high-bolstered Recaro sport bucket seats. Vauxhall applied the VXR badges on the tachometer and on the bottom of the steering wheel. The aluminum pedals were also a standard feature of the car.
But the most important part of the car was the drivetrain. It was the most powerful turbocharged two-liters in its class, outperforming the Renault Megane with its 225 hp and killing the Golf GTI with its mere 200 horses. Moreover, Vauxhall offered an adaptive suspension, which stiffened the dampers and made the car handle even better on a race track.