With 400Nm of torque and power output of 280PS there is no question that the 2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR will be properly quick, but look past those figures and you’ll see that the VXR offers much, much more than straight line performance.
That figure of 400Nm means the Astra VXR has the highest specific torque of any of its rivals. Extracted from an upgraded version of the Insignia’s 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injected petrol engine, the Astra VXR will hit 60mph in just 5.9 seconds and reach 155mph flat out.
That high torque output is no accident as Vauxhall’s mechanics have concentrated on mid-range ability rather than all-out power. Peak torque is available from 2,450rpm up to 5,000rpm, which should give the Astra VXR a very muscular feel on the open road.
The engine revisions include a new air intake system, new turbocharger running at 25% greater boost (1.5bar) and a unique aluminium cylinder head fitted to the Insignia’s aluminium block.
With that huge dollop of torque being channeled through the front wheels you would expect there to be some torque steer. However, Vauxhall are serious about taking the fight to Renault and Ford and have gifted the VXR with a proper mechanical limited-slip differential. This is a revised version of the same system fitted to the Corsa VXR Nurburgring which, as I discovered recently, transforms the Corsa into a proper weapon with an insane appetite for corners.
The Astra VXR is also fitted with a modified version of Vauxhall’s HiPerStrut system that has seen action on the Insignia and Astra GTC. It helps to reduce camber changes in cornering, improve steering feel and (more importantly in the VXR’s case) filter out unnecessary torque steer.
Look through the spokes of the standard 19-inch alloys and you’ll be able to see a Brembo logo on the brake calipers, another feature that the Astra VXR shares with the Corsa Nurburgring. Fitted as standard, the Brembo system uses larger drilled discs and calipers to improve stopping power and reduce brake fade.
The suspension has been fettled by ZF Sachs, who have worked on the dampers, while Vauxhall have fitted stiffer springs for more body control. The result is a 10mm lower ride height than the GTC model, and new stiffer suspension bushes and rear suspension promise to deliver a more connected feel to the ride.
Just like the Corsa Nurburgring, the new Astra VXR has spent a lot of time testing on the Nordschleife. It has covered over 6,000 miles on the northern loop of the Nurburgring at race pace to prove that the engine is strong and reliable enough.
Vauxhall’s FlexiRide adaptive damping system is also standard on the VXR. This gives you the choice of three different chassis settings with the press of a button, from ‘Standard’ for everyday driving, ‘Sport’ for more controlled feeling and the new ‘VXR’ mode. This switches the suspension to its stiffest setting, sharpens up throttle response and illuminates the dials with a red glow.
The damping system has three settings and so does the ESP stability control system. Normally it is set to maximum safety mode to make sure you don’t throw your Astra into a hedge. Switch it to ‘Competitive’ mode and the threshold at which the system steps in is increased, although it’s always there in the background, ready to help out if really necessary. Then there’s ‘ESP off’, should you feel brave enough.
Friendlier To Polar Bears
Finally there’s the question of economy, not a top priority for prospective hot hatch buyers. Despite the increases in power and torque, the Astra VXR reduces its official thirst for fuel by 14%, thanks largely to the Start/Stop technology fitted as standard. The official EU combined cycle figure 34.9mpg, while CO2 emissions drop down to 189g/km.