Vauxhall Astra X-treme

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Keywords: Vauxhall Astra X-treme
Description: Road and race cars are two different things, right? Not according to General Motors. Meet the Astra OPC X-Treme, the figurehead for a new range of Vauxhall performance machines. The message is clear. The firm wants to build more sport models, and what better way to grab the limelight than a supercar? We were invited to Germany to drive the newcomer with Opel badging.

Road and race cars are two different things, right? Not according to General Motors. Meet the Astra OPC X-Treme, the figurehead for a new range of Vauxhall performance machines. The message is clear. The firm wants to build more sport models, and what better way to grab the limelight than a supercar? We were invited to Germany to drive the newcomer with Opel badging.

Road and race cars are two different things, right? Not according to General Motors. Meet the Astra OPC X-Treme, the figurehead for a new range of Vauxhall performance machines. The message is clear. The firm wants to build more sport models, and what better way to grab the limelight than a supercar? We were invited to Germany to drive the newcomer with Opel badging.

The X-Treme has been developed by OPC (Opel Performance Centre), a GM subsidiary responsible for motorsport and tweaking road cars. This time it's had the chance to fuse the two roles; the X-Treme is a heavily modified DTM (German touring car series) racer with over half the components redesigned.

It looks utterly amazing. Spoilers, skirts and wings abound, making this Astra ultra-aggressive, especially in the prototype's day-glo paintwork. The wheelarches and extended bodywork mark out a dividing line. Above that the car is recognisable as an Astra Coupe; below, the 20-inch magnesium wheels and minimal ground clearance convey a rather different impression. As do the gullwing doors. Like much of the X-Treme, they're made of carbon fibre - the same material used to construct F1 cars. The racing analogies don't end there, as the steering wheel (borrowed from a VX220 roadster) has to be removed before you can clamber into the claustrophobic environment designed for jockey-sized drivers.

Switches must be flicked and systems checked before pressing a button to fire the 4.0-litre V8 into life. The GM Northstar unit idles surprisingly well, and only the carbon clutch makes pulling away from standstill a challenge. On the move, the normally aspirated motor proves remarkably tractable considering it's also used in the Cadillac Le Mans car. This is no fiery all-or-nothing engine and has been modified rather than detuned for road use. Power falls 18bhp to 444bhp from the DTM car, but torque rises to 530Nm at 4,800rpm. And with kerbweight up only 50kg, performance has not suffered - 0-60mph takes under four seconds and top speed is 190mph. Only premier-league supercars can get close.

But the motor isn't the most amazing thing about this car; that accolade goes to the six-speed sequential gearbox. You simply tug the lever back to go up, forward to change down, with shifts taking a mere 40 milliseconds. Carbon brakes, also from the DTM car, operate well even when cold despite having no servo assistance. The whole machine gels around you, the steering is telepathic and the grip amazing. Overall, it's arguably the most intense car we've ever driven.

The downside will be the costs involved. If produced, it's likely to be in a limited run of 25, each costing more than the



Photogallery Vauxhall Astra X-treme:







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