Driven: Opel Astra OPC | EVO Magazine

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Opel Astra

Driven: Opel Astra OPC

Posted on July 19, 2013 by content-editor in Reviews with 2 Comments

What is it?

Opel’s take on the premium hot hatch, the Astra OPC was introduced to us earlier in 2013 and completes the local Astra range. A General Motors subsidiary, this is the first time the Astra nameplate has appeared in Australia without a Holden badge.

Tech highlights

Power comes from a 206kW turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot, which also happens to produce 400Nm. It drives the front wheels via a Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential.

In something of a brand-name feast for motorsport fans, Brembo supplies the brake package and ZF Sachs have developed the FlexRide damping system, which offers three levels of damping force.

Opel’s HiPerStrut front suspension design, which separates the steering axis from drive in a similar way to the system in the Renault Megane RS 265, and a hydraulic steering rack complete an impressive on-paper technical package.

What’s it like to drive?

After an adrenalin-soaked road drive, my jangling nerve-endings are matched only by the Astra OPC’s exhaust pinging as metal cools. It’s a lively thing on-road, the punch above 3500rpm eliciting an involuntary giggle, especially as the punch is accompanied by a ferocious ‘whoosh’ akin to an old-school Sierra RS Cosworth as the engine demands more air.

That comparison extends to the engine’s power delivery. Despite claims of ‘quick throttle response’ the twin-scroll turbocharger is laggy until north of 3000rpm, when it really begins to kick towards the 6500rpm redline. Combined with a reluctant shift on the six-speed manual gearbox, overall progress lacks the consistency of others in this segment.

Opel Astra

Despite the advanced front suspension, the OPC never completely disguises its high-power, front-drive limitations. Under load on a straight road the nose can succumb to torque steer – it’s definitely ‘two hands on the wheel’ at all times. Thankfully, under cornering the Astra lifts its game, resisting understeer to corner flat and maximise the grip of the 245/35ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tyres fitted to the ($1000) optional lightweight wheels of the test car.

Exit traction is exceptional.

Each drive mode tightens body control and offers keener throttle response. OPC mode also alters the level of assistance for the steering but, in honesty, OPC is best left to smooth-track hot-lapping, being overly taut for regular Aussie back-roads. Sport is a great compromise, revealing a superb mix of compliance and capability.

Braking, via the cross-drilled discs and four-pot front calipers, is tremendously strong with detailed pedal feel.

How does it compare?

At $42,990 (RRP) the Astra OPC is marginally more expensive than its key competitor, the aforementioned Megane ($42,640 in Cup form). The Opel is a hairier proposition and better equipped, however, for overall ability we’d lean towards the Megane. A manual Volkswagen Scirocco R is more refined, but at $47,990 is more expensive and, frankly, less thrilling.

At $38,290 Ford’s five-door Focus ST is also worth considering even if it lacks the ultimate edge of the others.

Anything else I need to know?

The standard-fit race-style leather seats offer wonderful adjustment and support, but are positioned quite high in the car. We’d take some lightweight, low-set seats to improve the driving position and sacrifice the heating and electric adjustment – how ’bout it, Opel?

Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
Opel Astra
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