By Samuel Ee
Few hatchbacks can be described as beautiful but there is no question that the Opel GTC OPC is one of them.
The three-door GTC hot hatch has a racy coupe-like profile with flared wheel arches, muscular rear haunches and a character line on the door to add more bulk.
OPC stands for Opel Performance Centre and is the division responsible for the German carmaker's motorsport activities.
In this high-performance trim, the GTC OPC gets specially sculpted front and rear bumpers, side skirts, integrated exhaust pipes, a swoopy roof spoiler and show-stopping, 20-inch alloy wheels.
To match the sensational styling, the OPC gets a high-performance 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection engine to drive the front wheels. The unit has 280 hp - 40 hp more than the previous model - and a whopping 400 Newton-metres of torque on tap. This is 25 per cent more than its predecessor, with the twin-scroll turbo generating maximum pressure of 1.5 bar from just 1,400 rpm.
A limited slip differential ensures all that oomph is transmitted onto the road with maximum grip. The front suspension uses the HiPerStrut or High Performance Strut, which the carmaker says reduces wheel camber changes during cornering while filtering out torque steer under hard acceleration.
It is part of the Flexride chassis system, which includes electronic dampers, 30 per cent stiffer springs and a 10 mm lower ride height. Flexride offers three driving modes - Standard, Sport and OPC.
|Opel GTC OPC
|Price:$189,999 (with COE)
Engine: 1,998cc turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Max Power: 280 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max Torque: 400 Nm @ 2,500-4,500 rpm
0-100kmh: 6.0 secs
Top speed: 250 kmh
CO2 emissions: 189 g/km
Distributor: Auto Germany
With its comfortable damper settings, Standard is ideal for everyday use. Sport mode stiffens things up for spirited B-road driving, while OPC takes everything to the extreme, with a rock solid suspension to jiggle all body parts, increased engine response and heavier steering.
This last mode, which turns the instrument binnacle red when chosen, is best left for track day. But it also demonstrates amply what the GTC OPC is capable of.
On a circuit, the high-powered Opel is quick and precise. It zips away from stationary easily with the six-speed manual gearbox and is able to take a fast sweeping corner with virtually no trace of understeer. By allowing the outer front wheel to rotate faster than the inside front wheel, the limited slip differential ensures sharper "turn-in".
The GTC's tail also sticks obediently to the cornering line, thanks to the rear torsion beam suspension's additional Watt linkage (to improve lateral stiffness) and the electronic dampers' "anti-roll" feature (to reduce lean).
Working together, all these elements allow the OPC driver to take its handling to the limit because with 400 Nm, it feels like the hot Opel has much bigger lungs than the two litres of displacement.
For some aural accompaniment, the harder edge is reinforced by the "jet noise" exhaust note created in combination with the air inlets and rear bumper.
To slow things down, the GTC OPC gets Brembo front brakes as standard - four-piston callipers with higher performance pads squeeze cross-drilled discs to decelerate it from 100 kmh to zero in 36 metres.
Inside, there is space for four adults, with good rear legroom in the 4.5-metre-long GTC because of its generous 2,695 mm wheelbase. The two front occupants get lightweight bucket seats with electrically adjustable side bolsters but otherwise, the dashboard design sticks to the Opel family look.
But there is no doubt that everything about the GTC OPC exudes power and aggression. The car was subjected to 10,000 km of testing at Germany's legendary Nurburgring race track "under racing conditions", which the carmaker says is equivalent to 180,000 km of normal road driving.
Due here in Q4, the GTC OPC will be a welcome addition to the Opel range as a stylish, capable and relatively affordable halo model.
This article was first published in The Business Times.