Opel

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Opel Vectra

Related models : new Saab 9-3 - both derived from GM's Epsilon platform
Picture Gallery: Vectra Related topics: Nil
Versions included here: General,  GTS,  OPC,  Signum
 
The automotive world changes rapidly. When I wrote about the outgoing second-generation Vectra in 1998, it was still the European top seller in its class, beating the contemporary Ford Mondeo and Peugeot 406. During the last 4 years, the car slipped gradually behind Volkswagen Passat and new Mondeo. If not because of fleet and company car sales, it could be worse. Why did it fall so dramatically ? most believe due to its lack of image. If I mention Passat, you will think of quality; If we talk about Mondeo, you will think of handling; Renault Laguna may be linked to ride quality; Nissan Primera will remind you how a spaceship look like; Holden Commodore is all about space; Chrysler Sebring is, well, famous of cheapness. At least it has an advantage. So what about Vectra ? it had no character at all. It scored 70 or 80 marks in every department but it did not shine in any area either.  

Despite that, Opel did not learn a lesson. What you see now might be a hugely improved Vectra, better than the old one in every way, but again it has no character. This is a common problem for many GM products. Some analysts criticized the giant company cares too much about surveys and without its own vision. Had product chief Bob Lutz arrived earlier, what we would have seen might be a completely different Vectra, but now we have to accept the reality: new Vectra is again a soulless machine. 

We said the new car has huge improvements over the old one. This start from a new chassis. The new Vectra is the first product built out of GM’s Epsilon global platform which will be shared with new Saab 9-3 and others. Being 100mm longer, 90mm wider, 35mm taller and boosting 60mm longer wheelbase, the new car can enlarge its cramped cabin considerably. At the same time, chassis (torsional) rigidity has been up by 74% to 18,000 Nm / degree. This is achieved by using large amount of high-strength steel in the structure. The Vectra has as much as 52% of its monocoque body made of high-strength steel, compare with 37% of the new Mercedes E-class. On the other hand, to compensate the weight gain, it also employs quite a lot of aluminum (around 100kg, mostly in suspensions and a few panels) as well as magnesium. 

Both front and rear suspensions are now mounted on subframe for NVH isolation, though this is just a predictable development that everybody else is doing. The front MacPherson struts are adapted from Astra, but now have cast aluminum control arms to improve ride quality. The rear is a new multi-link setup consisting of 3 lateral and 1 vertical link. New generation stability control called ESP+ can brake up to 3 wheels instead of 1, bringing quicker response. Lastly but not least, it is known that Rüsselsheim again seek help from Lotus for tuning the car’s handling. 

Exterior design is another area of improvement. Its high shoulder line and bold profile are obviously learned from Audi A4, while the swoopy roof of the hatchback model has some resemblance to A6. However, the dull corporate grille and big headlamps do not deliver much elegant feel. The most beautiful part is the tail, where the sharp taillights match perfectly with the boot lid. Model name and company logo are stamped on a chromed, horizontal strip at the lower edge of the boot lid, which is a nice detail.  

The cabin is also a big improvement in terms of space and quality. Anyway, this is not a difficult task considering how poor the old Vectra was. Basically, the new cabin is not big by class standard, although it can swallow 5 six-footers. 2700mm wheelbase means that it can hardly challenge the huge rear legroom of Mondeo and Passat, while high seating position does not favour headroom. In addition to the less-airy environment, the Vectra feels much smaller than its main rivals.  

Quite surprisingly, the cabin employs plastic materials of rather good quality and assembly is faultless. Switches and buttons have damping to pass the touch feel test. Design, however, is as dull as ever. Look ! the whole dashboard, console, door panels and even air ventilations are dark and rectangular, having no sense of beauty at all. Really can’t believe that its designer came from Audi. The control panel at center console was carried over straight from Omega, so it is a little bulky to the smaller car. However, the ugliest element is the tiny LCD screen mounted high between a pair of air vents. Isn’t it too small ? 

Despite of the compact size and the aforementioned weight-saving materials, the Vectra is a complete failure in terms of weight control. Installed with an all-alloy 2.2-litre four and it weighs 1455kg. A Mondeo 2.0 weighs almost 100kg less, thus goes quicker (0-60 needs 9 sec versus 10 sec) and drinks less fuel (35.3mpg versus 32.8mpg). It is a shame, because the 2.2 engine has always been a smooth and willing performer in other models. It just fail to overcome the weight problem. 

As a result, forget about the company-car-friendly 1.8 (120hp) and a pair of outdated turbo diesel (still no common-rail). For better performance you have to wait for a new light-turbo 2.0 derived from the all-alloy 2.2 or the performance flagship GTS, which is powered by Omega’s 3.2-litre V6 good for 211 horsepower. We shall wait for a test report to see whether the extra burden at nose will deteriorate handling, but it could be a potential rival to Mondeo ST220. Expect 0-60 in 7.5 and a top speed of 154mph. 

How does the new Vectra drive ? it has some traditional goods and bads of German saloons. Suspension setup is firmer than Laguna, though not as firm as Mondeo. This give it a good high-speed stability and motorway refinement. The latter is enhanced by the vibration-free steering, strong chassis and muted cabin. Vectra enjoys motorway cruising, but once it enter twisty roads it fails to deliver as much fun and eagerness as Mondeo. While the driver is busy dealing with the slightly notchy gearshift, he will find the electro-hydraulic steering - though precise and well-weighted - lacks communication. Not only lacks the sharpness of Mondeo, even loses to the Laguna.  

Again, this is a characterless Vectra. Overall speaking, it has similar abilities to Laguna, C5 and Passat, if eclipsed by Mondeo in all area. However, because of the lack of character I would rate it below its rivals. 
 

The above report was last updated on 23 Mar 2002. All Rights Reserved.
 

Vectra GTS (GSi)

Vectra GTS (Vauxhall calls it GSi instead) is the hottest version of Vectra family. If you remember, the last generation Vectra GSi was powered by a highly-modified 195hp 2.5-litre V6. It was already seen as powerful enough for a front-drive family saloon. Today, GTS sought power from a much larger 3.2-litre V6, actually coming from the big Omega. Why? because the whole new Vectra lineup becomes so heavy - in the GTS trim it weighs a hefty 1578kg or some 120kg more than direct rival Ford Mondeo ST220! no wonder it needs a lot more cubic centimeters to achieve the same level of performance. Disappointingly, the 3175cc V6 is not tuned any hotter than the executive-class Omega. In fact, installing transversely instead of longitudinally into the Vectra’s engine bay actually limits its exhaust routing thus loses a few horsepower to a total of 211hp. With 221lbft of torque, it is tractable at low rev yet provides remarkable overtaking power at mid-range. However, it is too quiet and civilized for a performance car like the GTS. 

Well, maybe we should adjust our focus. Opel claims GTS is not a direct rival to Mondeo ST220 because it is "deliberately" tuned to be a comfortable fast car. No wonder it never feels sporty enough to ignite sparkle. Compare with ordinary Vectra its suspensions are set firmer and 20mm closer to the ground. Both steering rack ratio and power assistance are reduced. Brakes are bigger. Wheels are larger. Despite all these, its tuning still bias towards the soft side compare with rivals. It rolls a lot in corners and understeers early. Its suspensions feel softer thus more comfortable than ST220. Gearchange is rubbery. Ratios are widely spaced, letting the superior torque to compensate. It feels more like a big executive saloon than a nimble sports saloon. 

Drive it on highway and it feels good. The claimed 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds might be hard to replicate, but 154mph should be no problem, thanks to good aerodynamics. On highway, where you rarely use the gearbox, rarely build up enough g-force, Vectra GTS proves to be fast and sweet to travel in. But this task is better to be fulfilled by a proper German premium car rather than the mainstream Vectra, especially the hottest GTS. We hoped the GTS to be exciting to drive and give Mondeo ST220 a close fight. Sadly, it isn’t. 
 

The above report was last updated on 27 July 2002. All Rights Reserved.
 

Vectra OPC

Undoubtedly, Opel Vectra OPC, or Vauxhall Vectra VXR, is the hottest version of the Vectra family. The question is whether Opel Performance Center can convert the boring character of the regular Vectra into a really inspiring drive.

Heart of the fastest Vectra is transplanted from the latest Saab 9-3 Aero: a 2.8-litre 24-valve single turbo V6 adapted from Holden. Like that in the Saab, it has variable timing at intake valves and a twin-scroll turbocharger to compensate the lack of twin-turbo. Though running at a light, 0.6 bar boost pressure, the engine pumps out slightly more output than its Saab cousin - 255 horsepower at 5500 rpm and a flat torque curve topping 262 lbft from 1800 to 4500 rpm. Thanks to the abundance of torque as well as a 6-speed manual gearbox, the heavy, 1580 kg Vectra OPC can sprint from rest to 60 mph in about 6.4 seconds, which is brilliant for an entry-level sports sedan. Unfortunately, the turbocharged V6 revs rather low and sounds rather uninspiring, just like what we found in Saab 9-3.

Naturally, the OPC has 18-inch wheels wrapping with 235/40 tires and larger brakes (345 mm diameter front and 292 mm rear) to enhance grip and stopping power. It also added IDS-Plus2 chassis control and CDC adaptive damping to the chassis, just like the smaller Astra. Press the Sport button on dashboard will speed up the response of the drive-by-wire throttle, firm up the damping and weigh up the electro-hydraulic steering.

However, the Sport mode is actually a gimmick. It might have showroom appeal, but in reality it brings too little improvement to body control but too much harshness to the ride. It adds weight to the steering, but hardly anymore feel. In fact, the lifeless steering remains the biggest flaw of the Vectra, preventing its driver from getting involved. Moreover, the added power to the front wheels leads to some mild torque steer under acceleration.

This means the Vectra OPC is not a driver's car as Opel claimed. It does best on Autobahn, where Opel claims 260 km/h (161.5 mph) is achievable. Interestingly, it breaks the voluntary limit of 250 km/h agreed by German car makers, so at least it can claim itself faster than all BMW M cars, Mercedes AMG cars, Audi RS lines....

Remark: in summer 2006, the OPC engine was boosted to 280hp, leaving space for a non-OPC version using the 250hp version of the 2.8 V6 turbo.
 
The above report was last updated on 3 Nov 2005. All Rights Reserved.
 

Signum

A few years ago, mainstream car makers realized they no longer own the big car markets. Premium brands like BMW, Audi and Mercedes ate into the market and eventually led to the death of Ford Scorpio. In the view of dark future, GME cancelled its plan for the Omega replacement, leaving Vectra to be the largest car in its future lineup. That leaves a black hole above the Vectra. 

To fill that black hole, Opel decided to introduce a roomier and more luxurious spin-off from the Vectra. This is Signum. Like Renault Vel Satis, Signum is not a conventional sedan. It is a life-style half-luxury hatchback and it targets at younger customers than the Omega. From the front to B-pillar, it is purely a Vectra - no wider, no taller. The whole front cabin, including dashboard, is unchanged from the Vectra too. Thereafter, it begins to differ: the wheelbase is stretched by 130mm to 2830mm, longer than a Volvo S80. All the extra length is spent to the rear passenger legroom. The rear bench can slide back and forth to alter the distribution of legroom and luggage space (from 480 to 550 litres). At the rear most position, legroom matches that of the Omega-class cars.  

In the name of "life-style", the rear seat becomes a 2-seater - it does have a middle seat, but it is too high, narrow and hard for anyone to sit in comfort. Well, the Signum is no wider than the Vectra, so it won’t sit 3 people side by side in comfort anyway. Using a 2-seater rear bench helps releasing shoulder room of each passenger and enables the installation of a refrigerator, a storage cubby and a pair of fold tables under the middle rear seat. Flip the seat base and all these are revealed. So, this is "life-style". As for "luxury", Signum offers an optional DVD player with LCD screens and separate audio controls for rear passengers.  

With the rear bench folded, luggage volume is increased to 1410 litres, although this is still smaller than most estate cars. This is the outcome of short rear overhang - the car is just 40mm longer than Vectra despite of its 130mm longer wheelbase. Anyway, the luggage floor is flat and the tailgate cuts deep into the bumper, which helps loading. 

Unfortunately, all these limited "life-style" and "luxury" features are achieved in the price of dynamics. The Signum is not only heavier and slower than the equivalent Vectra, but its soft suspension and loss of chassis rigidity generate severe problems to handling as well as ride quality. It rolls heavily in corners. Its body is unsettling over bumpy roads where Vectra would damp out. As speed rise, NVH transmitted into the cabin becomes increasingly annoying. Besides, the steering is even more lifeless than the Vectra’s. 

Signum is powered by the same range of engines as Vectra, starting from a 2.2-litre four (now added with direct-injection to boost 155hp), a 175hp 2.0-litre light-turbo (from Saab 9-3), a 211hp 3.2-litre V6, a pair of outdated four-cylinder diesel and a 177hp common-rail 3.0 V6 diesel turbo (from Isuzu). The 2.0 turbo is the pick of the range, for it offers respectable torque and good refinement while returning remarkable consumption. The V6 won’t add much higher performance, just add more weight at the nose and deteriorate handling. 

The Signum is sold at 10% in premium over the equivalent Vectra. That seems reasonable, but its downgraded ride and handling says otherwise. It does offer more room and life-style features, but just limited to the rear seat. Cabin quality stays at the Vectra level, failed to match the larger segment cars from which it is supposed to steal sales. Furthermore, it sits just 4 people. All these weaknesses lead to one conclusion: look elsewhere. 
 

The above report was last updated on 24 May 2003. All Rights Reserved.

Specifications

Model
Vectra 2.2
Vectra GTS
Signum 2.0 Turbo
Layout
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4596 / 1798 / 1460 / 2700
4596 / 1798 / 1440 / 2700
4636 / 1798 / 1466 / 2830
Engine
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl,
bal shaft.
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl,
var intake.
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl,
turbo, bal shaft.
Capacity
2198 cc
3175 cc
1998 cc
Power
147 hp
211 hp
175 hp
Torque
150 lbft
221 lbft
195 lbft
Transmission
5M
5M
6M
Suspension (F/R)
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
Tyres (F/R)
All: 215/55 HR16
All: 215/50 WR17
All: 215/55 HR16
Weight
1455 kg
1578 kg
N/A
Top speed
133 mph (c)
154 mph (c)
137 mph (c)
0-60 mph
10.2 sec*
7.1 sec (c)
8.4 sec (c)
0-100 mph
29.1 sec*
N/A
N/A
AutoZine's rating
Click Here
Click Here
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See illustration to spec.
Figures tested by: * Autocar
    
Model
Vectra OPC
-
-
Layout
Front-engined, Fwd
-
-
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4611 / 1798 /1460 / 2700
-
-
Engine
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT,
turbo.
-
-
Capacity
2792 cc
-
-
Power
280 hp
-
-
Torque
262 lbft
-
-
Transmission
6M
-
-
Suspension (F/R)
strut / multi-link
-
-
Tyres (F/R)
All: 235/40 R18
-
-
Weight
1580 kg
-
-
Top speed
161.5 mph (c)
-
-
0-60 mph
6.1 sec (c)
-
-
0-100 mph
N/A
-
-
AutoZine's rating
Click Here
-
-
See illustration to spec.
Figures tested by: -
  

Copyright© 1997-2005 by Mark Wan
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