Vauxhall Vectra (2008)

Published: 17 May 2007

The 2008 replacement for Vauxhall’s Vectra

Remember the Opel GTC concept car shown earlier this year? It was a teaser to show Vauxhall and Opel’s answer to the perennial dullness of today’s Vectra – and it looks as if they’ve managed to carry it through to production, judging by our exclusive shots. Our spies were on hand to catch the first pictures of the production car testing in Germany, shorn of the heavy disguise that’s protected prototypes so far from prying lenses. So for the first time, we can judge whether Vauxhall is doing enough to fix its dullard in a rapidly changing marketplace…

So what will Vauxhall’s newcomer be called?

We don’t know yet. It certainly won’t be called Vectra – GM reckons this car represents a step change that requires a new badge. Front runners so far include Insignia (used on a previous GM concept), although the concept’s GTC tag is unlikely as it’s too similar to the Bentley Continental soft-top’s moniker. The new name heralds a fresh, slicker design. Vauxhall hopes to repeat the success of its Astra hatchback, whose edgy shape has gone down well in the Golf/Focus segment. The GTC’s show-car forms and shapes are all present and correct, with only minor changes to jewellery items such as lights and air vents. Those front headlamps, in particular, look like last-shape S-class’s and are understood to have some clever detailing. This car pictured is the four-door saloon, but five-door hatchbacks and estates will be offered, too. Expect the wagon to adopt a more lifestyle, profiled shape, rather than today’s boxy load lugger.

So this is Vauxhall’s answer to the Mondeo?

It certainly is. Cars in the dwindling D-sector have been dull for too long, and manufacturers are finally getting round to jazzing them up. The new Mondeo won’t set your trousers alight, but it is a damn sight more interesting than its predecessor, while Renault is giving its Laguna much more sparkle next time round too. This profile shot shows that the Vectra replacement has a more coupe-like stance, with a flowing roofline and a kicked-up tail. Although the surfacing is hidden by the zebra-stripe disguise, the finished cars will boast strongly sculpted side details just like on the GTC, according to those in the know.

So why is Vauxhall persisting with a Vectra successor if sales have collapsed so badly?

It’s true that sales have slumped somewhat in the D-sector, but in fairness this has affected every manufacturer, not just Opel/Vauxhall. Taking the UK market as a litmus test, you can almost hear the sharp intake of breath at GM UK’s Luton headquarters when you hear that Vectra sales precisely halved to 44,000 in the past decade. That’s a big loss, but it still represents a sizeable market place and GM officials talk about defending those sales from further migration to premium brands and new niches. ‘We hope to repeat what we did with Astra, by offering a good-looking mainstream model that majors on style,’ said one insider. Speaking of inside, the interior of the Vectra successor is said to be very closely related to GTC concept’s. When we sat in that car at its Geneva unveil, it felt suspiciously production-ready, with little show-car frippery or incredible details. It’ll be bigger, too, as the new model has grown to around 4.8m long, with a corresponding jump in wheelbase.

The next Vectra: a global story

This car is underpinned by the upgraded Epsilon 2 architecture – and is a big step forward for GM’s global ambitions. This car will be sold as a Saturn in the US, while the package will be used as Buick in China, and will be borrowed by the next Saab 9-3 and 9-5 in Europe. European Opels and Vauxhalls will be built in Germany, and the goal is to have full flex manufacturing; each factory can in principle build any variant, allowing GM to switch and mix construction as demand waxes and wanes in different markets throughout any model’s lifecycle.

Aha! The GTC concept that spawned it all. Looks like a range-topper to me…

And to us. Insiders whisper that this butched-up model points to the next-gen VXR model. It will include four-wheel drive and V6 power with up to 300bhp for some startling performance figures. The 4wd system will be retained for performance variants, and GM has ruled out a butched-up off-road version of the next Vectra. Most models will be front-driven. Those chromed ‘fangs’ will survive on the sportiest version, too, and there could even be a diesel VXR next time round, powered by a CDTi V6. Most models will ride on 18in wheels, although this prototype appears to be on smaller rims.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet

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