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AIMS: Opel locks in Astra OPC

Fired up: Opel’s Astra OPC develops 200Nm of torque per litre, putting it ahead of many supercars in specific output.

Hottest Opel Astra confirmed for Sydney show – and 2013 release in Australia


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9 Oct 2012

EUROPE’S hottest four-cylinder front-drive series production hatchback is headed to Australia, courtesy of Opel.

The German-based arm of General Motors last night confirmed the latest Astra OPC – packing 206kW of power and 400Nm of torque from its turbocharged direct-injected engine – will make its Down Under debut at next week’s Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) in Sydney ahead of its showroom arrival in early 2013.

The exclamation mark to the curvaceous Opel Astra GTC three-door hatchback range that was launched in Australia along with the rest of the Opel line-up in September, the Astra OPC (Opel Performance Centre) will provide a dollop of Euro dash to the Opel brand that is still finding its feet against well-established European marques in this country.

The Astra OPC will go head to head with the likes of the next-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI that was unveiled at the recent Paris motor show, the recently refreshed Renault Megane RS265, Ford Focus ST that is being launched in Australia this week and the upcoming Volvo V40 T5 R-Design that touches down in Australia in early 2013.

But with its 206kW and 400Nm, the Astra eclipses all of the front-drive four-cylinder rivals currently on offer, in raw power at least.

The newest Golf GTI that is due in Australia in the second half of next year gets up to 169kW and 350Nm, while the Focus RS has 184kW and 360Nm, the Megane RS265 198kW and 360Nm, and the Volvo – which has a five-cylinder engine – will have 187kW and 360Nm.

Upcoming all-wheel-drive hatchbacks from Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes-Benz will have higher performance, but most likely with a significantly higher price as well.

Opel Australia is yet to name its price for the Astra OPC, but it will sit above the current GTC performance leader, the $34,990 GTC Sport that is powered by a 132kW/230Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo engine.

While the GTC Sport manages the 0-100km/h sprint in 8.3 seconds, the OPC slices that to a neat six seconds – faster than the anticipated Golf GTI acceleration performance of 6.6 seconds but the same as the Megane RS265.

The Astra OPC is one of three models enhanced by Opel’s hot house in Russelsheim, near Frankfurt. The others are the Insignia OPC – powered by a blistering Australian-made 2.8-litre turbo V6 and on the radar for the Australian market – and the Corsa OPC, which is less likely for Australia, at least in this ageing generation.

Although the Astra OPC is new to this market, a predecessor was sold under Holden Special Vehicles badges here for three years as the VXR between 2006 and 2009.

That three-door version of the Astra was propelled by a turbocharged 176kW/320Nm four-cylinder engine and sold for a hefty $42,900 when new.

The latest generation gets Opel’s acclaimed HiPerStrut front suspension design that helps to tame the dreaded torque steer traditionally suffered by high-performance front-drive cars.

This system is already available in Australia on the newly launched Astra GTC, but in the OPC gains a limited-slip differential as well.

To help stop the beast, the OPC is equipped with Brembo high-performance disc brakes, with 355mm front discs gripped by four-piston callipers.

Opel’s FlexRide adjustable suspension system is standard on the Astra OPC, providing three chassis settings with the push of a button – standard, sport and ‘OPC’.

The latter not only beefs up the dampers and enhances throttle and steering responsiveness but also changes the instrument backlighting from a benign white to a threatening red.

Opel says that, even when set to the extreme OPC stiffness mode, the suspension can allow for severe bumps on uneven roads, while also helping to control body roll in cornering.

The ‘compound-crank’ rear suspension gains a Watt’s link for stiffer location. In Europe at least, 19-inch alloy wheels are standard.

Australian fuel consumption figures are yet to be divulged, but the European combined cycle reading is 8.1 litres per 100km (down from 9.2L/100km in the previous generation) and 189 grams of carbon dioxide (previously 221g/km).

Opel Australia managing director Bill Mott said he and his colleagues had been constantly asked if and when the OPC was coming.

“From early 2013, Australians will be able to experience what we think is the ultimate drivers’ car,” he said.

“The Astra OPC offers drivers unparalleled driving dynamics combined with sleek, sporty, couple-like styling.

“It is a car that driving enthusiasts can comfortably commute in during the week, and on weekends enjoy on the track.”

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