Vauxhall Astra

Improved handling from attention-grabbing special-edition Astra

Evo rating
from £21,295
  • Better chassis; 251bhp potential
  • Dubious styling; noisy with back-box fitted

It’s an odd proposition, the Astra VXR Nürburgring Edition. On the one hand its name suggests a car methodically, relentlessly honed by unsmiling German engineers on those 13 miles of tortuous asphalt in the Eiffel mountains. Most enthusiasts will recognise the stylised Ring logos on the B-pillars and embossed into the seat backs, and probably also guess why 835 of these limited-edition Astras are being built, reading the number as eight thirty-five.

On the other hand the Nürburgring Edition looks like an ’80s throwback with its colour-coded white wheels and chequer decals. And, by golly, you’ll hear it coming long before you see it, thanks to its Remus sports back-box. True, the Honda NSX-R was also honed at the Ring and had white wheels, but visually and aurally the Astra seems to align itself more readily with the sort of cars that mooch along our high streets on a Saturday night.

Subscribe to evo magazine

If you're passionate about the world's greatest performance cars, experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Try your first 5 issues for £5.

Still, 8min 35sec is an impressive lap time. Thing is, it doesn’t relate to this car but to a lap driven by ex-racer Manuel Reuter at the wheel of an Opel Astra OPC (the German version of the VXR) back in 2005. The lap time was actually 8:35.94 too, so there ought really to be 836 of them. Oh, and Vauxhall isn’t shouting about it too much because it is no longer the benchmark time for a fast hatch. On the face of it, then, the Nürburgring Edition has been cooked up to sell a few more VXRs.

The mechanical changes that turn a regular VXR into a VXR Nürburgring are few. The turbocharged in-line four is unchanged and therefore the car is still officially rated at 237bhp. Yet, rather vaguely, Vauxhall says that the new back-box that is ‘provided’ with each car is worth ‘up to 15PS’ (14bhp), suggesting a tally of 251bhp is possible when (if) you get it fitted. The suspension, meanwhile, is standard VXR. The only chassis change is the fitment of those new ATS alloys, but they might be more significant than they seem as they increase the track by a couple of millimetres front and rear and, more significantly, are said to be a thumping 3kg lighter per corner.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Dynamically, there is something about this Astra, too, an edge that is lacking in the standard model. Where the ride of the regular VXR can be a little choppy over B-roads, the damping occasionally taking two bites at bumps, the Nürburgring edition feels better planted. It also tacks into turns with more poise, responding keenly and with less roll and less taking up of slack than I recall. Shame the steering is devoid of real feel, then, the fat wheel rim offering little indication of how the new Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres are coping. Traction control keeps things nicely in check without being too nannying, but switch it out (by holding down the ‘Sport’ button for a few seconds) in search of a little more rear-end mobility and you won’t find much at road speeds, but you will lay some impressively long lines on the corner exit as the inside wheel spins up furiously. That can be avoided, but what’s inescapable is the attention-grabbing noise of the Nürburgring VXR when equipped with the Remus. Push the start button and the centre-exit exhaust blares loud enough to make you wonder if the silencers have been replaced with a straight pipe, and when it’s on-boost and pulling hard it sounds like the throttle is working the slide of a trombone sticking out the back. This is a turbo engine that offers all the effects, too – if you back off at low speed as boost is building the turbo makes a classic, sighing ch-ch-cherrr, while if you hit the limiter or change up briskly, there are crackles and bangs that make it sound like anti-lag is fitted.

If you like to be noticed, and the standard Astra VXR just doesn’t do it for you, the Nürburgring Edition most certainly will. You’ll have to be quick, though, because according to Vauxhall three-quarters of the 835 cars are already sold, even though at £21,295 they cost £1575 more than the standard one. I wonder if it’s the kudos of the Nürburgring name or that the ’80s are now cool again…




Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris GR-4 hot hatchback teased – successor to the GRMN and a true WRC homologation special

6 Nov 2019
Audi R8

Entry-level Audi R8 V10 RWD added to the range

6 Nov 2019

Track-only BMW M2 CS Racing unveiled 

6 Nov 2019
Volvo V90 estate

2019 Volvo V90 T6 R-design review - the great estate?

5 Nov 2019

Most Popular

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo culls sports car programme in wake of FCA merger

Italian’s future performance models killed off in favour of more profitable SUVs
11 Nov 2019

Caterham 620R v Ariel Atom 3.5 v Elemental Rp1

Flight Club - lightweight track day toys with heavyweight powertrains, Steve Sutcliffe compares them on track at Anglesey circuit in Wales
5 Nov 2019
Maserati GranTurismo

Maserati GranTurismo Zéda run-out model revealed

It’s out with the old, in with the new as the final GranTurismo paves the way for Maserati’s ambitious electrified future
12 Nov 2019
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 N versus Hyundai i30 TCR

Can Dickie Meaden beat Steve Sutcliffe in a straight(ish) race? We sent them to the Circuit Nuvolari with a pair of Hyundai i30 Ns to find out.
20 Sep 2019