The new Vauxhall Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition costs over £1500 more than the standard – and already excellent – VXR. The changes seem limited to some new wheels and tyres, another 15bhp and endless Nurburgring badging that reflects the obsession that carmakers – and some car magazines – have with the lengthy, lethal German racetrack. Is the Astra VXR Nurburgring Edition worth the extra when you can buy a ‘Ring sticker at the track shop for a fiver? We drove it to find out.
Hang on, I’m more concerned about those nasty graphics…
Ah, we neglected to mention the chequered flag that runs from nose to tail. The good news is we’re pretty confident you can peel it off, leaving you with a very cool plain white paintjob. Otherwise, Nurburgring branding abounds; it’s on the fake carbon kickplates as you get in, it’s stitched into the headrests of the excellent (and all-leather in this case) Recaros, it’s on the fascia and on the numbered plaque that reminds you that your car is one of a limited run of 835. Might have been useful if one of the circuit graphics had included pace notes and the location of medical help for novices.
But this is more than a sticker-job, right?
Indeed. There’s a new Remus exhaust tuned by Vauxhall’s touring-car team Triple Eight which releases another 15bhp, but as it’s essentially an aftermarket conversion Vauxhall can’t quote official new performance or torque figures. There’s a slightly wider track and new white wheels and Dunlop tyres, which cut unsprung weight by an impressive 3kg per corner, which ought to aid ride and handling.
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But does it drive sufficiently differently to justify the extra money?
It certainly sounds different. The new exhaust has a deep, loud burble from the first stroke of gas, and develops into a sharp rasp with a very naughty crackle as you lift off at the top end, or hit the limiter. And it feels faster than the claimed extra 15bhp suggests, not that that 240bhp standard car was ever underendowed. We have to guess here, but we’d put the sixty time at under six seconds now; the stock VXR claims 6.2.
How much difference can wheels and tyres alone make to the handling?
Quite a bit; nothing else has changed but the Nurburgring edition manages the provide a more fluid ride with sensational grip and traction levels and even more precise, immediate steering than the standard car. It’s partly the reduced unsprung weight, partly the increased sidewall compliance and grip from the new boots. It doesn’t transform the old car – which doesn’t need transforming anyway – but there’s a tangible difference.
So is the VXR Nurburgring edition it worth the extra outlay? We think so, but you’ll need to move quickly; a reliable Vauxhall source reports that although the car has only just been officially launched, only a few are still available. Just remember to speak to your dealer about stripping off those nasty graphics…