Vauxhall Astra

Dealer’s diesel Astra VXR alternative returns

Evo rating
Price
from £19,345
  • Pace, stealth and fuel economy
  • Smokes a bit, acquired taste

It’s a year since we first encountered the efforts of Lincolnshire Vauxhall dealer Thurlby Motors, when we drove its impressive but uncompromising 888 Astra CDTi (evo 098). We loved the power and the extraordinary torque, but criticised the ride, which was uncomfortably hard.

This, then, is Thurlby’s response... the subtly revised T9. The performance is still eye widening, with 200bhp and 339lb ft of torque available once the ‘Sport’ button has been prodded to switch from the mild-mannered everyday engine mapping to the full high-performance version. Put your foot down in 3rd or 4th and the T9 surges forwards with addictive insistence – albeit while laying a thick haze of smoke from the free-flow Magnex exhaust – while 5th and even 6th gears continue to offer meaningful performance. And even while caning the T9’s socks off we didn’t see less than 28mpg; more normal driving returns an easy 45mpg.

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Thanks to revised spring and damper rates, the T9 now rides the bumps with more control and compliance, making it both more composed at speed and much, much more comfortable to live with. New 18in lightweight alloys (fitted with Avon ZZ3 tyres) have brought a very slight increase in track, and there’s less torque steer than we remember in the 888 – itself better than the Astra VXR.

We’d still like a more agile, throttle-adjustable handling balance, as the T9 remains neutral at best. However, it does reward a neat driving style and feels planted through the mid- to high-speed stuff. Couple this to all that turbocharged torque and you’ve got a car that eats A- and B-roads with little effort.

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Another area of improvement is the use of yet bigger Alcon front brakes. The new two-part, fully floating 343mm diameter discs (up from 335mm on the 888 model) are gripped by Alcon four-pot callipers and deliver even more power and feel than the old set-up.It’s not for everyone, granted, but if you’ve got an open mind, not to mention a wicked sense of humour (T9 estate anyone?), there’s plenty to enjoy in this Jekyll and Hyde oil-burner.

Specifications

EngineIn-line 4-cyl, 1910cc, 16v, turbo
Max power200bhp @ 3350rpm
Max torque339lb ft @ 2750rpm
0-606.5sec (claimed)
Top speed140mph+ (claimed)
On saleNow (www.thurlby.net)
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