Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition: Spotted

When it emerged that Vauxhall was about to be absorbed by PSA last year, the news appeared to make only a modest dent in the national psyche. Naturally there was concern for those working in Luton and Ellesmere Port, but there wasn't much handwringing about the future of the badge - in spite of the fact that it boasted a manufacturing history which stretched back even further than the inauguration of the Vauxhall Iron Works in 1897.

The reasons for this are manyfold. While it may very well have been producing cars longer than Rolls-Royce, the firm had been under foreign control since 1925. And while it enjoyed considerable independence from General Motors for the best part of fifty years, the last model which could call itself completely homegrown was launched in 1972. From then on, Vauxhall's output generally heralded from Germany - or was originally engineered there.

While this did not dent the brand's sales volume - far from it, in fact - it did help to ensure that the relationship between buyer and badge eventually boiled down to pragmatism. For as long as the cars were worthy, affordable, well-made and cheap to run, British buyers bought them. But when they ceased to be - or when the competition appeared to be doing it better or more stylishly - there was often precious little sentiment involved in disregarding the flag-waving griffin.

The logic was unimpeachable, and when the French strolled away from GM with the keys in 2017, it was reflected in the nation's ambivalence. Vauxhall, though, did not fully deserve all the shoulder-shrugging. Sure, it was guilty of more than its fair share of dross - far too much of it in recent memory - but it had done memorable and madcap things, too. It collaborated with Lotus; not once, but twice and at length. It imported the Monaro. Then it imported the HSV Clubsport R8. It even had a go with the Maloo.

More importantly, it had a long, storied history with the hot hatch - specifically the excitable sort that liked a quarterly visit to the nearest Kwik Fit. Granted, these too were eventually the work of the Opel Performance Center in Russelsheim, but because they were aimed at enthusiasts, they garnered a proper enthusiasts' following - one helped no end by the tuner's proclivity for building cars that were never short of trouser length.

Which brings us not very swiftly at all to 2008 and the subject of today's Spotted, the Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition. In 2005, just a year after launching the Mk5, the manufacturer dropped a 240hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine - the Z20LEH - into it, and sent the result around the Nordschleife with Manuel Reuter at the controls. The former Le Mans winner came back in 8min 35secs, a stupendous, record-setting time for a front-drive hot hatch.

Where another car maker might have tripped over its spreadsheet trying to conceive of the best way to take advantage of such a feat, Vauxhall went straight for the special-edition jugular. The Nurburgring version, which was limited to 835 examples, got a Remus exhaust that liberated an extra 15hp, a slightly wider track and a marginally lower unsprung mass thanks to its new wheel and tyre combination.

The outcome, which rasped and crackled and went like stink, was probably an acquired taste when all is said and done (as everything with a chequered flag motif on it must be) but the point is that it was intended from the outset to appeal to the very small corner of the sales volume marked 'diehard fan' - and in the most unapologetic way. We like that about the old Vauxhall - together with the fact that £8,750 buys you more power than can be currently had from a Golf GTI - and it'll almost certainly be what we miss when PSA finally gets through with the job of turning the century-old griffin into something new and very different.

1,998cc, turbo, 4-cyls
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 255@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 236@2,400-5,000rpm
MPG: 30.7
CO2: 221g/km
First registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 62,000
Price new: £21,295
Yours for: £8,750

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Comments (86) Join the discussion on the forum

  • forzaminardi 18 Jul 2018

    Good hot hatch for the price, imo.

    I recall there being an owner of one on PH who insisted on referring to his car as "The 'Burg" - anyone else remember that?

  • MagicalTrevor 18 Jul 2018

    I hope this one has been thoroughly detailed. I couldn’t bear it if there was dirt and gunge behind the panels.

  • ShampooEfficient 18 Jul 2018

    MagicalTrevor said:
    I hope this one has been thoroughly detailed. I couldn’t bear it if there was dirt and gunge behind the panels.
    hehe I think I know what you're getting at...

  • FD3Si 18 Jul 2018

    Came here to make the above reference, beaten to it. biggrin

  • underwhelmist 18 Jul 2018

    Article said:
    cars that were never short of trouser length.

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