Vauxhall is set to launch its most powerful Astra yet. The second-generation Astra VXR is a considerably heated up version of the new GTC hatchback; power comes from a turbocharged, direct-injection two-litre petrol engine producing 277bhp and 295lb ft of torque. A 155mph top speed is promised.
The Astra will be distinguished from its less powerful siblings by 20in multi-spoke alloys and larger brake ducts. Inside, high-backed leather seats and a VXR steering wheel ensure the driver has a sporting environment.
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The impressive ‘HiPerStrut’ front suspension that makes the Astra GTC and Insignia VXR such pert handlers is present and correct, with Vauxhall also fitting a mechanical limited-slip differential; this should reduce the VXR’s propensity to spin its front wheels and will improve traction out of corners. It remains to be seen whether torque steer will be a problem (277bhp is quite a lot to send to the front wheels), although Vauxhall has fitted a separate knuckle joint that stops ‘steering fight’.
Much of the VXR’s chassis setup has been tuned at the Nurburgring (by 1999 Le Mans winner Jo Winkelhock), and Brembo brakes and FlexRide adaptive dampers will be standard fit. The latter boasts both ‘Sport’ and ‘VXR’ modes, yielding two choices of damper, throttle and steering settings.
The VXR will face tough competition when it launches in early 2012, chiefly from the new 246bhp Ford Focus ST and 261bhp Renaultsport Megane Trophy. We can’t wait to see how it fares. Prices and firmer spec details will be released closer to its on-sale date.