THE wraps are off the hottest Astra ever! In a world exclusive, Auto Express can reveal the high-performance version of Vauxhall�s new family car � the eagerly anticipated Astra VXR.
Taking over from the current model � one of the most ferocious hot hatches in its class � the flagship is even more aggressive. It has a rakish look and a raft of new technology, including a fresh turbocharged powerplant and uprated suspension that will offer even sharper handling.
The Astra VXR arrives in showrooms in 2010, and will go into battle with the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen�s all-new Golf GTI, which is due at around the same time. Other manufacturers will be bringing out revised and uprated hot hatches by then, too, so the VXR needs to be on top of its game. As you can see from these images, it builds on the styling of the Astra, adding an array of go-faster items to the three-door family hatch�s sleek, coup�-like shape.
As befits the VXR brand, it gets a ground-hugging bodykit and massive air intakes at the front, as well as a diffuser-style rear bumper, complete with a central exhaust.
Details such as 19-inch alloys, a roof spoiler and a range of bright body colours finish the hot hatch look. Inside, as with the rest of the Astra range, the newcomer gets a totally redesigned cabin, as seen in our exclusive spy shot (see panel, opposite). High-quality soft-touch materials will be used, while equipment including a Bluetooth phone connection and a stereo compatible with MP3 players is set to appear.
Each Arctic Edition also gets a generous �1965 worth of options included in its price. Heated leather Recaro front seats, tinted glass and Black 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels all now form part of the Astra VXR Arctic Edition�s armoury.
And for the first time on a VXR product, customers can also specify their Arctic Edition with the Panoramic Windscreen, a �920 option that offers a window on the world that extends back over the front seats with heat-absorbing glass. And if the skies are grim, a full-length shading system with pull-out sunblinds is also included.
Of course, none of this diminishes the Astra VXR Arctic Edition�s exceptional performance. With 240PS of power and 320Nm of torque between 2400 and 5000rpm, it�ll hit a top speed of 152mph, with 60mph arriving from standstill in just 6.2 seconds. Lowered and uprated VXR sports suspension, ultra-low profile 235/35 x 19 tyres and 321mm front ventilated brakes discs complete the Arctic Edition�s dynamic package.
And what better way to test a new Astra VXR Arctic Edition than at Vauxhall�s VXR Power Events. Starting this month and culminating in the VXR Power Festival at Silverstone in August, Power Events gives VXR drivers and enthusiasts the chance to test their mettle (and their metal) in a series of driving challenges.
However, with pressure to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy, the second-generation VXR will replace the 237bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged unit with a new 1.8-litre motor. It will still be turbocharged and boast around 240bhp, allowing a 0-60mph time of six seconds and a 150mph top speed, but it will be cleaner and more economical, too.
There is also the outside chance of a diesel VXR. With a new range of 2.0-litre CDTI units debuting in the Insignia later this year, Vauxhall bosses have the option of a high-perfomance oil-burner � particularly as the line-up includes a 168bhp version.