The Nürburgring. Most car manufacturers these days try to associate their products with this infamous loop of tarmac, usually by driving them around it during development. But Vauxhall has gone one better with this special edition Astra VXR and named it after the circuit. Work of the marketing men trying to cash in on the Nordschleife’s kudos I hear you say? Well not quite. Vauxhall says the car has been tweaked and honed specifically for the 'Ring and has been limited to 835 units, that number relating to the time it took to get around the 13-mile circuit – 8 minutes 35 seconds.
Vauxhall invited me to Millbrook to get a first drive of car number one, which hasn’t yet been road registered. Standing there in bright white, with white wheels and a chequered stripe running from front to back, the Astra Nürburgring Edition is as subtle as a punch in the face. It certainly looked sharp, but there was something Eighties about its appearance. There’s probably a good reason why you don’t see black and white chequered stripes on cars very often and on the Astra it spoils the effect that could have been a little more un-sponsored competition car. Lose the stripe perhaps and it’s probably best to not look too closely at the lashings of fake carbon fibre, which definitely looks better from a distance.
But cosmetics are for girls and what I’m really interested in is what Vauxhall has done to the car mechanically. Vauxhall claims the car has a 2mm wider track than a standard VXR. There are lightweight 18” alloys, reducing unsprung weight, which are shod with bespoke rubber developed specifically for the car by Dunlop. Vauxhall hasn’t done anything to the already potent 237 bhp motor and officially that’s where the power stays. Unofficially, however, power output is somewhere around 257 bhp thanks to an astonishgly loud Remus exhaust that is unique to the UK cars. When revved the car rasps, pops and bangs like a rally car, leaving me wondering just how Vauxhall have managed to make it road legal. It comes as no surprise to hear the exhaust was developed with Vauxhall’s BTCC race team, Triple-Eight Race Engineering.
At £20,995 it is almost two grand more than the standard VXR, but, officially at least, the acceleration of 6.2 seconds stays the same, although the figures Vauxhall has released are for the car without the exhaust fitted. Top speed is electronically-limited to 155 mph. It will be up to the buyer to decide whether the improvements are worth the extra money.