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#POLSKIPUNCH

11 August 2015

Mick McWilliams
GMInsidenews.com
Australia Correspondent

Designed in Germany, built in Poland and migrated to Australia, the Astra VXR is a bucket of exhaust growl, corner grip and sweat. Is this an ill fated consolation prize or a proper response to the cries of detractors that Holden is the one trick pony Commodore company?


The automobile, AKA horseless carriage, and occasionally AKA perambulator, was originally put on this earth to transport goods and people from one place to another. At some point, the urge to transport packages and pax was influenced by the need to arrive with great haste. It was somewhere here that someone realised that going fast has more benefits than just efficient logistics. Finally someone recognised that going really fast is a shed load of fun!

Enter the sportscar.

I'm not going to pretend that I have the knowledge necessary to point to the first car designed for sport, but it's a pretty safe bet that once drivers got over the fear that they would burst into flames above 60mph, the sportscar has been as essential to a company portfolio as the family sedan. This is the very spirit of a vehicle like the Astra VXR. It is built for fun. Speed. Excitement. Every other capability strives for relevance.


The intent is apparent from every point. Behind the massive supersport rubber (245/35 ZR 20s) sits cross drilled rotors and Brembo calipers. Inside the black on black cabin are a pair of slick multi adjustable Recaro pews, alloy pedals and a 6 speed manual shifter (no auto option sorry...not sorry).

Even the assault of buttons is punctuated by the VXR and Sport buttons which select the aggression of the electromagnetic suspension, steering weight and throttle response. Yes, access to MyLink is hindered by the lack of touch screen, but who cares when the entertainment is where it's supposed to be: between you and the road.

There is still the standard minimum requirement of heated seats, climate control, Nav and some weird button called "ECO". I wasn't sure what that was about but it could have been a "Extra Carbon Omissions" so I didn't press it just in case.

There is a little bit of tech hiding about the place with DAB+ digital radio (which was useless outside of Brisbane), a surprise appearance of stop-start and the aforementioned active suspension setup but again, the focus is on lifting your heart rate.


Turn the key and the immediate response from the exhaust is gritty and promising. A few blips of the right foot are compulsory and give a good sense of throttle response.

I noticed a longer than expected throw merely pushing the ergonomic knob into first. Rolling off is painful because the front appears kind of low so caution is required in any driveway. It scrapes often but fortunately is only a black plastic skirt hiding out of sight. Nonetheless it places unnecessary time between you and wide open throttle. When the opportunity finally presents itself, just fang it!

The 245 at each front corner is so wide you can unleash everything it's got. There is some tugging at the wheel, as 206kw and 400nm try to peel the tyres from the front LSD equipped axle, but it's easy to keep straight ahead. Attention bounces between the aural ferocity post 3000rpm, the forces shoving you back into the black leather pews, and, the need to grab second as you rocket toward the horizon. The throw is positive but a bit on the long side, however, it delivers on the promise of excitement and is eminently manageable at the same time.

As second gear will take you past the designated speed limit though, it's important to pay attention to the speedo as well....I guess.

Have no fear. More fun is just around the corner. Any corner. The Astra changes direction like a staffordshire bull terrier chasing a rabbit. Even in "normal" active suspension mode you can slingshot from one bend to the next with supreme confidence. Hit Sport or VXR to progressively apply greater control at the expense of comfort. Again and again the front end points true and works in perfect alliance with the physics defying brakes.

If you miss the apex, it's not the VXRs fault.


However, let's not pretend this is a new piece of gear. The OPC Astra was here previously and is basically one and the same. Some of the plastics are cheap, with the worst perpetrator being the silver inserts in the steering wheel which you grab every time you get in the car. Other scattered parts of the interior are hard but are hidden by the drama of strategically placed red LEDs. Ooooh squirrel!

Also the silver inserts in the brake vent slots in the front didn't quite sit right. There's a black spoiler on the roof which probably doesn't do a real lot below 200kph, but I guess it looks cool.

I could have done without these touches but none of it diminishes the ridiculous amounts of fun you can have in this car. Although Holden have the SRi Cruze for budget sportsters and the the big bopping V8 SS/SSV/Redline, the Astra sits right in the middle of the traditional Holden fans without stepping on the toes of either.


At 40k it's also priced right against competition like the Renault RS250 which it is in constant battle against in Europe. Other choices in the Australian market include the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo+, Golf GTI and a whole bunch of warmed over family transporters (such as Mazda SP25 etc). Park the Astra next to any one of them and (aside from the Veloster which is constantly screaming for attention) most others will fade into ambiguity: "is that a Comfortline or a GTI?"

Only the Renault provides the same balance of lunacy, capability and overt sex appeal as the Astra.

So that really answers our question.

The Astra has the potential to bring European fans into show rooms. This is a product that mixes it with the Europeans and even leads its segment. When was the last time you could say that about a Holden? Back when they had the TS Astra and it won every comparo for as long as it was on the market.

This is no consolation prize. This is no attempt to placate an angry mob.

This is a home coming.



More pics of the Holden Astra VXR on INSTAGRAM: #POLSKIPUNCH


Full Size pics available in THE GALLERY

 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Nice write-up! Great car with stunning looks, wish we had it here in the USA. But I'm assuming the price point it will sell at will bump it up against low end BMW's (and dare I say ATS's)....
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

It's a shame that it will never come over to NA.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Really don't understand how this isn't a Buick. It's essentially a Verano GS coupe. Why not have it as a GTI/A3 alternative? It would bring the kind of buyer that Buick seems to want to attract -- willing to pay for a premium product but not necessarily interested in something as bold and showy as a Cadillac (or Mercedes CLA).
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

So much want :dro:
Me to I would pass up so many more expensive car to own one of these. It just fits my taste perfectly.....and they lied when they said they were going to give it to us a few years ago.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Really don't understand how this isn't a Buick. It's essentially a Verano GS coupe. Why not have it as a GTI/A3 alternative? It would bring the kind of buyer that Buick seems to want to attract -- willing to pay for a premium product but not necessarily interested in something as bold and showy as a Cadillac (or Mercedes CLA).
Something is up with GM on these cars. Either it's financial and they are taking a bath on cars like the Saturn Astra, Pontiac G8, and Buick Regal (add Chevy Caprice and SS) so they don't want continue the practice. It could also just be GM doesn't designing these vehicle for international markets.... But it certainly seems like great product they aren't sharing.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Sweet!
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Nice write-up, mikmak. Btw, don't underestimate these little extra wings. The first gen Audi TT without the extra wing is called widowmaker in Germany. ;)
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Btw, don't underestimate these little extra wings. The first gen Audi TT without the extra wing is called widowmaker in Germany. ;)
I think they also said the same thing about the landing gear on the Bf-109. You must know how the dramatic the Germans can be...
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

I think they also said the same thing about the landing gear on the Bf-109. You must know how the dramatic the Germans can be...
You know that we have highways with no speed limit and the first gen Audi TT was unstable at high speed without the extra wing. After more and more accidents were reported, Audi recalled all TT's and glued a wing on every car and installed a ESP system too.

Before and after recall.

 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Something is up with GM on these cars. Either it's financial and they are taking a bath on cars like the Saturn Astra, Pontiac G8, and Buick Regal (add Chevy Caprice and SS) so they don't want continue the practice. It could also just be GM doesn't designing these vehicle for international markets.... But it certainly seems like great product they aren't sharing.
I sometimes got the feeling that GM USA is trying to find profitability by copying TOYOTA / BMWE and NOT venturing out at all
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

It's a shame that it will never come over to NA.
Yep, like we got a fully loaded SS come over why not this model only to spice up the Buick line a bit.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Yep, like we got a fully loaded SS come over why not this model only to spice up the Buick line a bit.
As Magenta sings in Time Warp from Rocky Horror 'Not for very much longer...'



But yes, it does appear GM is turning into Toyota America.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

It could also just be GM doesn't designing these vehicle for international markets.... But it certainly seems like great product they aren't sharing.
Agreed, this car more than any other international GM should be in the US. It just should.

Another car (non-GM) that should have been sold in the US was the last Suzuki Swift. The fact that it wasn't designed for sale in the US was lunacy. When it came out in 2004, it won many awards, and would have been perfectly timed for a return to the US (when all manufacturers were re-adding subcompact cars to their lineups). Missed opportunity for sure...
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Agreed, this car more than any other international GM should be in the US. It just should.

Another car (non-GM) that should have been sold in the US was the last Suzuki Swift. The fact that it wasn't designed for sale in the US was lunacy. When it came out in 2004, it won many awards, and would have been perfectly timed for a return to the US (when all manufacturers were re-adding subcompact cars to their lineups). Missed opportunity for sure...
The Swift Sport with the 2.0 NA engine was on my short list, but at the end the Corsa GSI was the better deal for me.

Btw, today, I saw the first new Corsa OPC in the flesh. Arden blue. Nice.

 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

Agreed, this car more than any other international GM should be in the US. It just should.

Another car (non-GM) that should have been sold in the US was the last Suzuki Swift. The fact that it wasn't designed for sale in the US was lunacy. When it came out in 2004, it won many awards, and would have been perfectly timed for a return to the US (when all manufacturers were re-adding subcompact cars to their lineups). Missed opportunity for sure...
While this is an idle speculation, I don't know it would fly in the US. It's too hard-ass - and it's not fast enough or exotic enough for a true trackday car, and the people who do that would probably get RWD. The people who would want it, couldn't swing the payments. It'd be over $30K to be viable based on the parts list. As Americans keep telling us, they don't do hatches. When you break down Cobalt SS numbers I think only about 1/5 were coupes.

Put it this way: this car has essentially lasted one generation, six years. Next gen, it's dead. So even in Europe, they don't especially want it. It's a pity, great car, possibly the best modern Opel out of five or six I've driven and seriously competent, more than the sum of it's parts.

I don't think Opel has the cachet to sell cars like VXRs - pure and simple. In mainland Europe, they are fleet/discount vendors. In England, Vauxhalls mainly sell to retired mums and dads who 'don't like continentals' - yes, even my working class relatives. When I pointed out their Vauxhalls are rebadged Opels and their noughties Vectra was made in Germany they changed the subject.

The only GM I saw across Italy recently apart from a few older Astras were things like Agilas and minimal Corsas - probably 1 in 20 compared to Fiats and Renaults, Citroens, Peugoets plus a lot of Cruze taxis (obviously how they blew them out - wagons are especially popular it seems). You see Golf and Polo GTIs, you see Renault Megane 250s and Club Clios and the like. Bugger all Opels of any type.
 

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Re: GMI Drives: Holden Astra VXR MY15

In mainland Europe, they are fleet/discount vendors. In England, Vauxhalls mainly sell to retired mums and dads who 'don't like continentals' - yes, even my working class relatives. When I pointed out their Vauxhalls are rebadged Opels and their noughties Vectra was made in Germany they changed the subject.
I'm surprised that any Brits thought that Vauxhalls were anything other than re-badged Opels.

In the UK most new Vauxhalls are fleet sales, 60+%, with retail only accounting for a limited volume - but of course the ex-hire and ex-lease cars are sold secondhand into the retail market. Ford is very similar in the UK.

Most of the Vectra-B sold in the UK were built in Ellesmere Port UK, Luton UK or Antwerp Belgium - the GSi's were probably built in Russelsheim Germany but few were made in total - the Vectra-C was built in Ellesmere Port UK and Russelsheim Germany but I don't know in what numbers
 
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