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Joachim Winkelhock is a two-time winner of the Nürburgring 24 hours. And he reckons the new Vauxhall Astra VXR is a smashing bit of kit.

That’s right, the new Vauxhall Astra VXR. The kind of car Internet forums were made for. It has finally come amongst us, and it has been built with an approving eye from a very fast man with a legendary smoking habit.

Gallery: the new Vauxhall Astra VXR

The important bit first: the new VXR gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot petrol engine developing 280bhp - some 40bhp over the original - and a considerable 295lb ft of torque. No performance times have been supplied, save for its 155mph top speed, but you can expect it to hit 62mph in under six seconds.

Making a valiant attempt to harness this new found strength will be the same chassis as the three-door Astra GTC (a very good thing), but with added oily bits. Vauxhall has bolted on a specially developed mechanical limited slip differential on the front wheels, to work in conjunction with the High Performance Strut (HiPerStrut) from the Insignia VXR; a standard fit on all GTCs.

The chassis also benefits from Brembo brakes and Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive damping suspension, which equals two buttons inside the cabin to play with: one labelled ‘Sport’, the other ‘VXR’. Both dial up the dampers, throttle and steering.

Inside, Vauxhall has fitted a pair of bespoke performance seats with embossed logos, a flat-bottomed VXR steering wheel and upgraded instruments. The external flashpoints include specially sculpted front and rear bumpers, beefier side skirts, an aerodynamic roof spoiler and twin exhaust pipes.

“We have devised a great package that will convince even the most experienced and enthusiastic drivers,” assures ‘Smokin’ Jo, “and not just on the Nürburgring.”

It might be wise to listen to this man. He won the 1999 Le Mans race in a 580bhp V12 BMW.

So, a new hot hatch is born; a new hatch that is the most powerful production Astra ever built. A new hatch that promises to be less mad than its psychotic predecessor…

It’ll hit UK shores next year, with prices to be confirmed in due course. Excited?

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