ASTRA OPC

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From the front the Opel Astra OPC is defined by a deep front spoiler and large central cooling air intake. Fog lights flank the air intake. Honeycomb mesh screens cover the air intakes in the grille and front spoiler for engine and brake cooling.

The rear view is defined by a rear spoiler, and a large bore trapezoidal centre mounted tailpipe, a characteristic OPC styling element, that provides a clue to the raw energy available under the bonnet.

The side view is dominated by the 18-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels shod with 225/40 R18 Y tyres. An insight to the massive braking power of the Astra OPC is provided by the17 inch brake discs, with their “OPC blue” callipers, visible behind the wheel spokes. Visually the Astra OPC literally screams dynamic competence.

The interior styling conveys the same message with its form fitting Recaro seats with their combination leather/fabric covering. Full instrumentation with chrome surrounds and LED illumination keeps the driver fully informed – as the ignition is switched on the system performs a visual self-check routine to advise the driver that all is well and that all instruments are set and ready to go. Aluminium pedals and door-sill trims, a three-spoke leather covered sport steering wheel, and leather covered gear knob round off the sporty interior image.

The turbocharged 2-ltre engine fitted to the Astra OPC is the latest, and to date most powerful, evolution of the Astra ECOTEC range of engines from Opel. This engine is based on the 2-litre unit fitted to the Astra 2-litre turbo. In that application it develops 147 kW. For the OPC version with its 177 kW output a number of significant modifications are implemented.

Among these are oil-spray cooling for the forged aluminium-silicon pistons, revised piston rings, a pressure-optimised turbocharger, an intercooler with a greater air flow rate, and larger fuel injectors. The balance shafts fitted to the lower powered engine are redundant in the OPC engine.

A feature of this advanced four-valve per cylinder engine is the integral turbocharger system. The exhaust manifold, turbo housing and wastegate are combined in one single assembly. This system offers a lighter and more compact form than conventional turbo systems and also makes a significant contribution to engine performance.

The compact design of the turbo housing allows for a short gas flow path between the engine and the turbo. Together with a low inertia turbine this results in an engine characteristic where the torque curve rises steeply from idle speed with an immediate response to even small load changes. This high ‘low-end torque” characteristic is fundamental to the driveability of the Astra OPC.

At just 2400 r/min and at maximum boost of 1,2 bar, the Astra OPC produces 320 Nm of torque and sustains this level right up to 5000 r/min. Maximum power of 177 kW is achieved at 5600 r/min.

Smooth throttle response is ensured by the electronic “drive-by-wire” butterfly actuator. The electronic engine management system features high precision hot film air mass measurement, sequential fuel injection and individual coils for each cylinder. Cylinder selective knock control ensures that engine performance is continually optimised without any tendency to knock or ping. A double exhaust catalyst with its metal substrate and two lambda sensors ensures effective exhaust gas cleansing from start up when temperatures are low right through to full operating temperatures.

The styling and advanced engine technology are matched to the state-of-the-art chassis technology introduced by Opel on the Astra and further refined for the Astra OPC. The spring/damper system has been given a stiffer performance accent to provide a sporty feel and excellent response. The ride height has been lowered by 15mm for a lower centre of gravity.

The steering geometry is revised and the stabiliser is set with a higher preload. Together with the lower body height these changes reduce body roll and provide a more sensitive steering response with more precise handling and a neutral handling characteristic.

Opel uses an advanced hydroforming process to manufacture a number of components for the Astra chassis. This process uses hydraulic pressure to form components rather than a stamping process and enables the manufacture of a torsion-beam rear axle with a double-walled U section, as well as the more efficient manufacture of the hub carrier assembly. The more stable behaviour of these components in the chassis allows for more precise tuning of the rear suspension whilst retaining the advantages of compact form, light weight, and high camber stiffness that are associated with a conventional torsion beam rear axle.

To ensure ample stopping power with good feel and durability the Astra OPC boasts a high performance brake system with massive 17” internally ventilated discs at the front (actual dimensions 321 mm X 28 mm) and 278mm X 10mm solid discs at the rear. The electro hydraulic power steering features a setup specific to the Astra OPC to ensure the best possible feed back and precise steering inputs.

The Opel IDSPlus (Interactive Driving System) chassis concept is optimised for the Astra OPC for absolute dynamic control. The IDSPlus networks all electronic driver aid systems, including the Electronic Stability Programme (ESPPlus), Traction Control (TCPlus), Understeer Logic Control (UCL), ABS and Brake Assist.

The Astra OPC boasts a feature that allows the driver to further enhance the dynamic performance and feel of the vehicle at the push of a button. The “SportSwitch” acts to provide a more direct action for steering and throttle inputs. For those that want to take on the raw power and performance of the Astra OPC without the assistance of driver aids, the ESPPlus system can be deactivated.

While the prime focus of the Astra OPC is on outright performance, luxury features are not overlooked. A full compliment of creature comforts and luxury items are included in the standard equipment list. Automatic air conditioner, radio CD combination with MP3 compatibility and six speakers, electronically adjustable and heated side mirrors, electrically operated windows, tilt and telescope adjustment for the steering column, remote central locking system and 60:40 split fold-forward rear seats are all included in the standard equipment list.

Safety features, aside from the comprehensive list of electronic driver aids, include front and side airbags for driver and front passenger, active head restraints on the front seats, curtain airbags for the front and outer rear seats, and seat belt force limiters and pre-tensioners for the front seats. Opel’s renowned pedal release system provides protection for the driver’s feet and lower legs by folding away in the event of a sever collision, and ISOFIX child seat mounts are provided at the rear.

The Astra OPC provides an exciting mix of performance driving and around town suitability that rank it high on the list of desirable vehicles for the enthusiast motorist.