Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



Track testing the Astra VXR888. Image by Alisdair Suttie.

Track testing the Astra VXR888
This is more a farewell to the Astra VXR than a test drive; touring car ace Giovanardi came along for the ride.

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Vauxhall reviews

As farewells go, the Vauxhall Astra VXR888 is quite a way to send off the outgoing Astra before the new car arrives towards the end of 2009. Just to make sure Car Enthusiast didn't get too maudlin over this 305bhp hot hatch missile, we met up with British Touring Car ace and two-times BTCC champion Fabrizio Giovanardi at Scotland's Knockhill circuit to pay our respects to the Astra VXR888 and go for one last hoon.

Any hot hatch with 305bhp is worth a bit of cap doffing. The standard Astra VXR kicks out a healthy 237bhp, but the Triple Eight version has a new Remus exhaust that's responsible for 20bhp extra on its own. Add in the re-programmed ECU and a total of 305bhp is freed up, along with an exhaust bark that has lesser hot hatches scuttling for shelter.

Heading out on to Knockhill's fiercely undulating tarmac, the VXR888 feels very brisk, which isn't always the case when you take a road car onto a track. Even with the wide open space of a race circuit, the VXR lets the driver know it's quick: 0-62mph comes up in around 5.5 seconds, which is significantly less than the standard VXR's 6.2-second time. There's also 317lb.ft of torque available, which can overwhelm the Toyo Proxes tyres all too easily coming out of corners on the tight Knockhill track. This is especially the case when the rain comes down and, for once, we're grateful for the traction control taking up much of the strain of modulating so much power while also trying to steer.

The result is the traction control backs off the power until the front wheels are in a straight line and there's some semblance of grip. Then, with a manic roar from the engine and bark from the exhaust, the VXR888 lunges for the next corner like a rabid dog going for the water trough. It's not subtle and the driver needs to learn restraint, but it's very effective and Fabrizio shows what this Astra can really do as he threads it around Knockhill's fearsome SEAT Esses and John R Weir Chicane.

This latter element of the track is approached uphill and blind, the driver relying on prior knowledge to take a straight line and keep the throttle hard down. Giovanardi remarks that this section of the track is usually accomplished on two wheels in his Vectra touring car racer. Today, we keep it on all four.

Despite the wet surface and its pugnacious power delivery, the Astra VXR888 heads round corners with quite some finesse. There's plenty of grip from the sticky tyres; the slightly lower suspension is firm without being brittle over the raised kerbs and the steering doesn't suffer the torque steer we expected from such a potent front-drive car. It could do with some more feel and less assistance, but it's not the wriggling barrel of fighting snakes we thought it would be.

What impress us most on track, though, are the brakes. The VXR888 comes as a set of packages the customer can pick and choose. These include the 850 Remus exhaust, 550 ECU upgrade and a hefty 1,600 for the brakes. If you opt for only one package, make it the larger discs and callipers. They give immense confidence on the track and suffer next to no fade, which is a massive compliment for a road car. The pedal has good feel too and offers enough movement to moderate the braking to exact standards. The pedals are also positioned well for heel-and-toe manoeuvres, which are needed for smooth on-track progress.

All together, the Triple Eight version of the Vauxhall Astra VXR is a honed hot hatch. It won't suit everyone with its excitable nature and raucous exhaust, but for those who want a properly tuned machine that still retains most of its everyday usability, the VXR888 is a good choice and the options can be retro-fitted to any Astra VXR. What you can't buy is Fabrizio Giovanardi to sit alongside and guide you around a circuit used for the British Touring Car Championship. Even so, the Astra VXR888 is one hell of a last hurrah for this generation of Vauxhall small hatch.

Alisdair Suttie - 14 Aug 2009



  www.vauxhall.co.uk    - Vauxhall road tests
- Vauxhall news
- Astra images

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.



Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 

Alisdair Suttie hitches a ride with Fabrizio Giovanardi. Image by Alisdair Suttie.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©