Astra OPC is a scorching three- door hatchback that has been given a stouter heart and a massive dose of steroids
Rubber-burning scorcher The Astra OPC’s handling is impressive, even when navigating narrow lanes and tight bends -- PHOTO: OPEL

Keen drivers who were underwhelmed by the Opel Astra GTC and its mild manners will be pleased to know that the German carmaker actually has a hotter version just for them.

Known as the Astra OPC, the scorching three-door hatchback is essentially an Astra GTC that has been given a stouter heart and a massive dose of steroids.

Its athletic prowess has been enhanced by a gruelling 10,000km high-speed test regimen on the Nurburgring circuit, which Opel claims is equivalent to 180,000km of regular road driving.

OPC, mind you, does not stand for "off-peak car". The acronym refers to the Opel Performance Centre, the marque's division responsible for creating hairier variants of regular models - much like BMW's M and Mercedes-Benz's AMG divisions.

The figures that the Astra OPC boasts are eye- opening, to say the least. The turbocharged 2-litre has been tuned to 280bhp and 400Nm of twist - double what the aforementioned Astra GTC 1.4 manages.

This car certainly has plenty to "torque" about, and there is nothing remotely "off-peak" about its nature.

Fire up the motor and you will hear an accompanying low growl - the first hint of the car's capabilities.

Its manual gearbox feels mechanical and it is easy to find the biting point of the clutch despite its weightier feel.

The transmission is like a black and white photograph that is taken using film - old school and really cool.

The throttle response is unaffected by the minor turbo lag, for the engine revs easily to keep the power plant in its sweet spot, which is at around 4,000rpm.

Bury the accelerator and the century dash whizzes by in six seconds (matching its Volkswagen Scirocco R rival and its dual-clutch gearbox).

Execute your heel-and-toe manoeuvre correctly and the resulting "blips" are positively addictive.

High-speed autobahn runs (on the unrestricted stretches, of course) further showcase the Astra OPC's penchant for velocity.

There is good mid-range when accelerating in sixth from 160kmh to 200kmh, and the car remains stable even when cruising at 220kmh.

Hit the "OPC" button on the dashboard and you will put the car's dampers at their stiffest and the powertrain's response at its sharpest.

There is a less hardcore "Sport" mode, but for everyday driving, it is best to leave the car in the "normal" setting - unless you have a back that can withstand a pummelling from road imperfections.

Despite all that torque being sent to the front wheels, there is barely any torque steer coming out of corners, thanks to the mechanical limited-slip differential.

The handling is confidence-inspiring, with narrow country lanes and tight bends despatched with speed and ease.

The Astra OPC's greatest ability, however, is remarkably uncanny: It can put a smile on the driver's face. Not many Opels have been able to do quite that in a long while.

The car is expected to arrive here some time in the fourth quarter of this year.

CAR INFORMATION

Opel Astra GTC 1.4 Turbo (A)

Price

:$146,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinders in-line 16-valves Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,362 cc

Horsepower

:

140 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 4,900 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) With Manual Select

Acceleration

:

10.3 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

200 km/h

 
Opel Astra GTC 1.4 Turbo Panoramic Roof (A)

Price

:$149,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinders in-line 16-valves Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,362 cc

Horsepower

:

140 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

200 Nm / 4,900 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) With Manual Select

Acceleration

:

10.3 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

200 km/h