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Reader test: Opel Calibra

2010-10-26 07:13

RIDE AND JOY: Camiel Baijnath's Opel Calibra is still going strong after clocking more than 300 000km.

Camiel Baijnath, Durban

Is it imported? When driving the Calibra, you have to get used to answering this question. Aside from the Opel fans, not many people - enthusiasts or not - are aware this car was on sale in South Africa from 1992-1994. There is some sort of pleasure derived from answering “yes, it’s imported” and it’s not completely a lie.

The Calibra was built in Germany but utilised many parts that the local audience was used to. If I popped the hood, you would recognise the red-top 2.0 16-valve engine from the Kadett Big Boss. In the inner sanctum it is codenamed the C20XE. Code names such as 007 or E36 exist for a reason. You have certain expectations and standards once someone mentions them.

The C20XE was regarded widely as one of the best naturally aspirated motors in the world, and trust me, it is. Many a variable-tec or run-si were still coming on cam, when the Opel simply cruised away on its instant torque.

The tractability is only second to high torque diesels, and this leads to another positive aspect. Having your cake and eating it. With the wick turned up, the Calibra performs flawlessly, but is economical enough to use every day.

In terms of load capacity, I have fitted more into this car than some double cab owners dare to, including bricks, cement, and over 100litres of cool drink. With the back seats down, it turns into a serious hauler, the only drawback being the high loading lip.

After 300 000km you do expect some niggles, and it’s not perfect at this age. But as soon as you strap yourself in and the gearlever falls to hand, you can feel those years peel away. Not that you would feel short-changed compared to a modern car.

When launched, the Calibra came standard with full on-board computer (including a GT3-esque lap timer), 10-disc CD shuttle and electric sunroof. Take a look at your latest car magazine and you would find models upwards of R250 000 that don’t have these as standard.

So why is this car so special and why is it still being used 300K on? The beautiful shape is still eye-catching, the technology and engine still inspiring and the ride...still not so smooth. The modern E92 M3 has already seen four special editions and tweaks in its four-year lifespan, giving you the sense that even though it is mighty capable, it doesn’t hold our interest for long. The Calibra may have its flaws and niggles, but never does it leave you feeling that you need to upgrade.

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