What is it?
The Vauxhall Astra VXR has always been a bit of an animal. What else for the new one then, than to respond to rivals’ increasing power outputs with yet MORE thrust channelled through its chewed and abused front tyres? Enter the 280bhp Astra VXR, with a set of figures knocking everything else in the class sideways: 155mph, 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds – goodness, it even has a diesel-rivalling 295lb ft of torque, just to cook the already-melted front rubber some more. Be gone, VW Golf GTI, with your puny 220bhp!
For once, though, there may be more to the Astra VXR than just brute force. For starters, it’s based on the Astra GTC, a car we already know and admire both because of its styling and its surprisingly advanced suspension setup. So it proves: for once, there’s more to the VXR than just fireworks – and we don’t simply mean the fact it looks great. Which, incidentally, it does.
The Astra VXR has one of the most sophisticated chassis setups in this class. It has a clever mechanical limited-slip diff, HiPer Strut front suspension, FlexRide adaptive dampers – and it all combines to give a far more rounded feel. The wretched torque steer has been dialled back, the wheel never bucks in your hands and both steering and chassis give the feedback you need. There’s just a lovely balance to the VXR: it’s more reassuring and much more confident in itself.
The whooshing, gushing engine is predictably immense. After a bit of low-rev lag, it really gets into its stride, rushing you onward, perhaps with a little less subtlety than you’d like but with undeniable awesomeness. The limited-slip diff means impressive traction, allowing full use of its class-leading 280bhp, with all that torque playing a fine supporting role when it’s time to sit back and relax (or when you’re bored of stirring the slightly sloppy six-speed gearbox).
On the inside
The low-set, high-back bucket seats are brilliant and the level of sporty VXR detailing elsewhere is also impressive. Press the ‘sport’ button and the dials even glow evil-looking red. Like the VW Scirocco, it’s billed as a coupe and only comes as a three-door, but considerate design means there’s still reasonable space inside for five and their luggage.
The old Astra VXR could empty a tank as quickly as it could strip the rubber from a set of tyres. The new one still isn’t up with the class best, but economy is better: nearly 35mpg on paper. It’s £5k more expensive than a basic Ford Focus ST, the new class bargain, but standard kit reflects this. Then there’s the power, torque and acceleration advantage…