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XCAR: The Vauxhall Astra VXR is one wild ride

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XCAR: The Vauxhall Astra VXR is one wild ride

5:09 /

The first generation Vauxhall Astra VXR pushed the power boundaries in the FWD hot hatch arena. The newest take on it does the same, and then some.

Vauxhall. It's a plan that comes off an image of a frustrated carpet salesman cursing his decision to take the M1 home as he will, once again, miss his ever growing son's bedtime. Well, that's not strictly true. And I'm pretty sure people can buy carpets online now. But you get my point. Vauxhall's not exactly the coolest of brands. I mean, it hasn't really been cool since, well, the VX220, the Monaro, and the last generation Astra VXR. Which is why Vauxhall wants you to fall in love with this-- the all new or shiny Astra VXR. It's a follow up to the last quite mad Astra VXR-- which, if memory serves, came with more power than is strictly necessarily for a hatchback of its day, and force of torque steer. No idea when the competition in the form of the Renault Sport [unk] and the Ford Focus ST. It's a hot hatch, so it's got to do five things. It's got to be fast, it's got to be practical, it's got to be affordable, it's got to look good, and it's got to make you feel good. So, this new Astra VXR, we've been waiting for this-- what? Since the dawn of time-- well, since 2009, at least, when the current-generation Astra was launched. The old car, well, it did have a little bit too much power, and it was quite torque steer. And this one, well, power's up. It's now got 279 brake horsepower, and it's got 295 pound per foot of torque, which is definitely up on the old car's, well, 240. It's nearly as much as the old Ford Focus RS, and it's certainly more than the current Focus ST is endowed with. It also do 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, and top out where legal, of course, at 155 miles an hour. Now, that sort of powerful German saloon performance. That's impressive. Though, it really live up to its forbearer and developed too much torque for its fronts to handle. Vauxhall has a plan to try and fix the torque steer problem. They've used two very special little devices. The first is the HiPer Strut suspension, which is brilliant. It makes the GTC-- which this car is based on-- handle absolutely amazingly. It also should dial some of the out. The second-- and going back to the old school-- they've used a very expensive Drexler mechanical differential. So, in theory, torque steer should be dialed out. Right. So, torque steer issue. Second gear, hand on the wheel to make sure we don't fall off the road and [unk] on full control, and boot it. There is a little bit. There's-- there is a little bit, but you don't have to wrestle it. It just sort of gently nudges the car. Still torque's theory, but not as bad as the old one. Most important of all, though, is how it makes you feel. Noise. Oh. I like this car a lot 'cause it makes me feel like I might actually vaguely be able to do stuff like this. I can't, but it's nice to think so. Oh. It handles so beautifully. 40, 50, 60. So, it's got the grunt, but it doesn't have those other hot hatch attributes. Is it practical? Well, I can fit a cameraman and his inside the boot, and even the lid before he even realizes what's going on. Does it look good? Well, I think so. See, it's based on the Astra GTC coupe. And it carries over three of its main design line. So, you got these blades down here, the arrow headlight here, and it's sort of swooping roof light. This car has the optional arrow kit, which means you get this side skirt down the bottom, giant 20-inch alloys, and double-bubble spoiler there. Then, round the front, you get giant air dams and a big blacked out angry grill. Then, you go around the back, this sort of triangle shape. It's all very pretty, especially those exhaust. And the entire car itself has been lowered by 10 millimeters to give it a lower, angrier, meaner stunt. And finally, is it affordable? So, to be a Diesel hot hatch, it has to be affordable. And in the U.K., at least-- VXR's biggest market-- it's going to cost a [unk] shy of 27 grand. Now, that is quite lots of money for, well, a hatchback. But you do get quite a bit for your money-- you get 279 brake horsepower, you get something that will seat five people and their stuff, you get a fully mechanical diff. I mean, it's a bit more expensive than the Focus ST, but it's a bit more mad, as well. And some people-- also including me-- do quite like mad stuff. It's a silly car. It will fit lots of things inside and will go from 0-62 as far as the German saloon. It looks madder than a mad thing, as well. It brings out your inner lunatic and makes you feel as though you have far more talent than you actually do.

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