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Fast lady sets pace for Astra OPC

2013-02-13 07:24

FAR CRY FROM ITS PREDECESSORS: The 2013 Opel Astra OPC has the looks to match its 'go' with a sleek body, colour-matched rear roof spoiler and big alloy rims.

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LES STEPHENSON

OK, so you’re GM, you have one of the hottest two-doors in the land, and you want the news media to tell the world about it. So hire the (sadly dilapidated) Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Gauteng, bring on 10 new Opel Astra OPC hatches and let a bunch of motoring journos have their way with them.

Worked for me, even if my best lap was a few seconds shy off my peers at 2min14. To be honest, it was seven seconds slower than Opel’s female Stig – 5FM’s gorgeous DJ Elma Smit (nickname for the day: the Sprig) as it turned out when she removed her dark-visored helmet.

ONE FAST LADY

She’s pretty hot behind the wheel, too, and set her benchmark time – live – with a Stig-style display piped by video into Opel’s jazzed-for-the-launch garage in the Kyalami pits: 2min07.

In fact, Elma was faster than any of the journos who got prizes for coming close to her track time.

Take a closer look at the Astra OPC VIDEO

At R435 000 a pop for the 2013 Astra OPC – yep, that’s the price and some thought it a tad on the high side – the track day was a major investment for GM SA but a touching sign of trust in the 14 motoring writers assigned a seat given the 206kW and 400Nm of torque on tap from what Opel says is the most powerful four-cylinder engine it has ever stuck under a bonnet.

Image gallery

The company pulled a similar stunt for the launch of the Opel Corsa OPC back in March 2008 on the “Grand Prix” circuit in East London with UK Touring Car driver John Cleland as the driver to beat. I didn’t – but by only 4.5sec that time.

The first Astra OPC was launched in SA in 2004 as a limited-edition model with a (back then) stompin’ 147kW on tap and capable of out-performing the benchmark VW Golf GTI. Its looks were tame compared with the 2013  version which sports a huge twin-fin roof spoiler and some seriously handsome 20” alloys shod with 245/35 rubber.

AIRFIELD ACTION

Each is held to the tar with OPC-specific gas-filled shock-absorbers, stiffer bushings and stiffer springs – along with a three-setting suspension adjustment adjustable from the cabin (see below).

The second was in 2006 with yet another track day: well, actually a tough course laid out at the Hoedspruit air force base and with former F1 driver Jo Wickelhock handing out advice along with then SA Production Car driver Grant McCleery – the latter present again at this week’s track event but this time with his private army of driving instructors.

The ’06 cars also had a quad-valve, four-pot turbo engine but capable of “only” 177kW and 244km/h, six km/h less than the latest version, and reached 100km/h in 7.5sec – 1.5sec slower than today’s car.

Price back in 2006: R256 690.

GM SA (or, more correctly these days, GM Africa, since the local operation is now responsible for the whole continent) says the Astra complements the Corsa OPC but the bigger car’s engine “is in the realm of full-blown competition engines and the highest specific power output per litre of any Opel petrol production car”.

It is 12% more powerful than the previous Astra OPC; torque is up by 25%. Fuel consumption, however, has been reduced by 12% and CO2 emissions by 14% - 8.11 litres/100km and 189g/km.

SET YOUR STIFFNESS

The engine has direct petrol injection, a twin-scroll turbocharger with intercooler, double camshaft phasing and twin balance-shafts in the 1998cc, all-alloy engine.

The excellent track dynamics the cars showed at Kyalami come from high-performance struts on the front suspension, a FlexRide suspension system, a limited-slip differential and jumbo-size Brembo brakes.

FlexRide, Opel explains, involves driver-selectable stiffness settings on the shock-absorbers which alter the car’s handling and accelerator response from “everyday driving” to Sport and then to ‘OPC’, the latter two further hardening the suspension, reducing body roll and sharpening the steering and the third the set-up for Kyalami.

GM says: “There’s a careful match between the differential characteristic and the basic locking torque specification of the LSD ensures a smooth transition between load and overrun.

“It eliminates steering kick-back and any self-steer tendency during overrun. There’s also ample traction reserve if highly varied wheel loads are encountered.”

BREMBO BRAKES

In addition to the three chassis modes available to the driver there is also a choice of three modes for the electronic stability control:

• Standard mode provides the maximum level of ride safety for everyday motoring conditions.
• Competitive mode sets the threshold at which the auto system intervenes to stabilise the vehicle.
• The third mode is “ESP-off”, which deactivates stability control and throws everything that might happen on to the driver’s shoulders.

Opel Performance Cars, GM added, worked with Brembo to design a system fully up to any road – or track – task with a huge 46cm servo booster, 355x32mm vented and cross-drilled discs with four-piston callipers at the front and special high-performance brake pads all round, all inside standard 20” forged-alloy rims.

“It is a tradition during the development of all OPC products,” GM adds, “that they’re put through their paces on the 21km Northern Loop (Nordschleife) of the Nurburgring race track in Germany - generally considered to be the toughest and most demanding race track in the world.”

The Astra OPC passed a 10 000km endurance test at high speed on the Nordschleife “which equates to about 180 000km of normal road use”.

LIGHT BUCKET SEATS

The styling of the Astra OPC, GM adds, “provides an expression of a passion for power and speed” with a sculpted aero treatment involving the front and rear bumpers, skirts, rear roof spoiler and two trapezoidal exhaust tail pipes – the basic design coming from the GTC two-door.

The driver’s office is furnished with a flat-bottomed steering wheel and light bucket seats – manual operation only, but hey, who else will you let drive your OPC? The wheel’s diameter is 10mm less the regular Astra and its spokes have been placed for maximum instrument visibility. The steering column is (also manually) adjustable for height and reach.

South African buyers will get a high-performance driver’s seat as standard with has pneumatically adjustable cushions. Pump up your performance, perhaps...

Whatever, the OPC has full leather upholstery with OPC embroidery in OPC’s signature Arden Blue or Pearl and Opel assures us that German back experts have certified the seat and its 18 settings as “healthy”.

Be seated and hold on.

Vehicle specifications

The Astra OPC is covered by a five-year or 120 000km warranty with roadside assistance. Anti-corrosion warranty is valid for five years/unlimited km. Recommended service intervals 12 months or every 15 000km or as indicated by on-board monitor. A five-year or 90 000km service plan is included in the price of R435 000.

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