Opel/Vauxhall’s 155mph Astra VXR/OPC hot hatch excellent handling is attributed mostly to the German-built Drexler limited-slip differential that’s the first of its kind to be used in a production front-wheel-drive road car. The differential uses circular plates that lock to prevent the 276bhp VXR from spinning away power in corners and over cambers when the car is being driven hard.
Since the 1960s, the plate-type diffs have been used in motorsport in front-drive cars. But typically, they work with an aggressive action and are challenging to drive. But then, Vauxhall said that the Drexler Motorsport unit is incredibly easy to drive.
VXR boss Volker Strycek, a former touring car racer, said that there’s “very little snatching of the wheel” and that it has been tuned so that the operation wouldn’t be felt. In addition, Strycek has driven front-drive cars that utilize torque-sensing front diffs like the Ford Focus RS. He also said that the VXR has much better steering. The VXR’s HiPerStrut front suspension, which decouples the front wheels from the steering axis, aids in reducing torque steer.
Next month, Strycek will personally be driving the VXR around the Nürburgring as Vauxhall enters the final development phase of the Astra VXR project before its launch this summer.
Project chief Uli Pfeffer said that the new VXR is a major improvement over the outgoing car with more power and performance, and with an enhanced ride and better grip. This new bodyshell is 40% torsionally stiffer, which means that it’s a better platform for the suspension. Furthermore, the FlexRide active dampers have a wider operating range that improves the daily ride quality but with a track performance that’s much improved.