The Opel Performance Center (abbreviated as OPC) is a subsidiary of General Motors’ German Opel subsidiary, founded in 1997 to oversee Opel’s motorsports activities and develop performance versions of Opel vehicles. It performs a similar role to Holden’s HSV unit, but it is even more similar to Ford’s American Special Vehicle Team. The OPC operates as a separate German GmbH, based in Rüsselsheim (Opel’s home town).
The marketable vehicles developed by the Center are sold under the Opel brand, as special versions of the standard Opel vehicles. They are typically painted in a peculiar shade of blue (though other colors are available too) and are marked quite obviously "OPC". Their main competitors in Europe are perhaps the ST versions of Ford’s European vehicles.
Astra High Performance Concept was the name of the attention-getting study Opel presented at the 2004 Paris Motor Show to demonstrate how an OPC version of the Astra GTC could look. Only six months later, the sporty top-of-the-line Opel Astra OPC made its premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2005.
With the Astra OPC, Opel is penetrating far into the segment of established compact-sized sports cars. Corresponding performance provided by the 177 kW/240 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that accelerates the coupe-shaped three door hatchback from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds, and gives it a top speed of 244 km/h. A close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox transfers the power to the front wheels.
The new Opel Astra OPC is based on the Astra GTC – a real challenge for the design team headed by Ulli Hochmuth, as the original three-door model already features a very dynamic appearance. The new Astra OPC’s design is even more emphatic, reflecting the OPC design philosophy – uncompromising spottiness in a distinctive design language.
Visually, the Astra OPC can also be easily identified as one of the most powerful front-wheel drive production cars in the world, and the image boosting, top-of-the-line version of the Astra model range. The bodywork, with its deep front spoiler and central engine cooling-air intake plus the large-sized 18 inch wheels with exclusive OPC six-spoke design (tire size 225/40 R18 Y), testifies to the dynamic potential of the car, as does the rear section with its centrally located tailpipe. The interior exudes high quality and driver-focus, with Recaro sport seats available in two leather/fabric combinations, sporty instruments in OPC design, and aluminum pedals all contributing to a sporty atmosphere.
The attribute “high tech” also applies to the sporty set-up of the Astra OPC’s chassis. This features as standard IDSPlus (Interactive Driving System) with electronic networking of all driving dynamics systems including the electronic stability program ESPPlus, and traction control TCPlus , as well as numerous features of the 17 inch high performance brakes. All these systems are interconnected and harmonized with each other. Another major element in this network is the electronic CDC (Continuous Damping Control), that ensures that the damping characteristics are automatically and continuously adapted to the current road conditions, the movements of the vehicle and the individual driving style. Additionally, the driver has the possibility to select an even sportier setting by pushing the “SportSwitch”.
Like all OPC-models, the Astra OPC stands out for its fascinating design, state-of-the-art technology and first-class driving dynamics, as well as extraordinary value for money. With prices starting at 28,000 Euros, the compact sports car represents a very competitive offer, especially as the standard equipment meets nearly every requirement, and the safety features are state-of-the-art, including six airbags, active headrests at the front and the PRS pedal release system.
The new Opel Astra OPC is based on the Astra GTC – a real challenge for the design team headed by Ulli Hochmuth, as the original three-door model already features a very dynamic appearance. The new Astra OPC’s design is even more emphatic, reflecting the OPC design philosophy – uncompromising sportiness in a distinctive design language.
The front of the Astra OPC is dominated by a deep front spoiler with a large, central engine cooling-air intake flanked by fog lamps in spot-light design. Unlike the vane design used in the Astra GTC, the OPC has honeycomb openings and intakes in the front spoiler and radiator grille.
The rear of the Astra OPC is also unmistakable, defined by the distinctive rear spoiler and centrally located trapezoidal tailpipe, a characteristic styling element of the OPC design language. The most striking features of the side view are the door sills, which are more prominent than those of the GTC, the blue brake calipers as well as the large-sized 18 inch wheels with OPC exclusive six-spoke design, fitted with tires in the dimension 225/40 R18 Y. Two different 19 inch wheels with 235/35 ZR19 XL tires can be ordered as an option. Bodywork colors to choose from are arden blue, star silver, sapphire black and magma red.
The cockpit is sporty and sophisticated; boasting matte chrome-ringed instruments with special graphics, a three-spoke, leather-covered sport steering wheel, leather-covered gearshift lever, door sill trims in OPC design as well as aluminum pedals.
Ergonomically optimized Recaro sport seats not only have an extraordinary fit with precise longitudinal and lateral support, they are also examples of the high-quality materials and meticulous workmanship in the interior. There are two standard fabric/leather color combinations to choose from (blue/black and silver/black); a complete leather variant (black) is available as an option. Customers can also choose décor strips in anthracite, silver or blue.
The turbocharged 2.0 litre engine of the Astra OPC is the latest and to date the most powerful evolution version of the ECOTEC engine generation. Compared to the 147 kW/200 hp version from the Astra 2.0 Turbo, the OPC-engine with its 177 kW/240 hp has some significant modifications. Among these are oil-spray cooling and modified rings for the aluminum-silicon forged pistons, a pressure-optimized turbocharger, an intercooler with increased flow rate as well as larger fuel injection nozzles. A reduction of the engine rotating mass is achieved through elimination of the balance shafts, significantly contributing to the engine’s liveliness and responsiveness.
Another distinguishing feature of the four-valve engine is the integral turbocharger system, which combines the exhaust manifold, turbo housing and wastegate into one single assembly. This solution was first introduced in a production model by Opel in 1992 in the Calibra Turbo. The integral turbocharger system is not only lighter and more compact than conventional designs, it also makes a key contribution to the engine’s performance: the shortened gas flow paths between the turbine and the engine, as well as the use of a low-inertia turbine, result in what is known as high “low-end torque”, an engine operating characteristic in which the torque curve rises steeply from idle speed, ensuring immediate response to even the smallest load changes.
Thus, at an engine speed of only 2400 rpm and a maximum boost of 1.2 bar, the torque curve reaches a top level of 320 Newton meters, which remains constantly and fully available up to 5000 rpm. The engine reaches its top performance of 177 kW/240 hp at 5600 rpm.
High tech is also dominating in the engine bay. Gas pedal movements are registered electronically (“drive-by-wire”) and mechanically implemented by a butterfly throttle actuating motor. The electronic engine management system features high-precision hot film air mass measurement, sequential fuel injection as well as separate-coil ignition with cylinder-selective knock control. A double catalytic converter with metal supports and two lambda sensors already ensures an effective exhaust air cleaning when the engine temperatures are still low.
The Astra OPC also owes its attribute as a driving machine courtesy of its state-of-the-art chassis technology. The spring-damper system has been tuned to ensure a stiff, sporty and active feeling. Compared to the Astra GTC, the bodywork has been lowered by 15 millimeters. The stabilizer bearings have less friction and a higher preload, as well as adjusted steering-knuckle geometry. All these measures enhance roll-prevention and enable a more sensitive steering response, thus contributing to higher handling precision and neutral self-steering reactions.
The hydro forming process used by Opel, with which certain chassis components are pressed into shape using high hydraulic pressure, enables the use of a torsion-beam rear axle with double-walled U section, as well as efficient design of the wheel carrier assembly. This in turn allows for exact chassis tuning while retaining the advantages of a conventional torsion-beam rear axle (compactness, low weight, high camber stiffness).
The Astra OPC’s 17-inch, high-performance brake system, with internally ventilated front disks (diameter 321 x 28 mm) and solid disks at the rear (278 x 10 mm), provides powerful deceleration, durability and feel. The electro-hydraulic power steering features a specific OPC set-up to ensure best-possible road contact and precise response.
The chassis concept of the Astra OPC is being perfectioned by the driving dynamic control system IDSPlus (Interactive Driving System), networking and interconnecting all electronic driver aid systems, including the electronic stability program ESPPlus, traction control TCPlus, understeer control logic (UCL), ABS and the brake assistant.
Another major element in this network is the electronic shock absorber control CDC (Continuous Damping Control) that ensures that the damping characteristics are automatically and permanently adapted to the current road conditions, the movement of the vehicle and the individual driving style, thus optimizing traction and stopping power.
Additionally, the driver has the possibility to select the “SportSwitch” mode for a consequent sporty handling or for excursions at the race circuit. This gives the shock absorbers, steering and gas pedal a more direct set-up. ESPPlus can be deactivated in special circumstances.
Given its dynamic potential, the Astra OPC not only had to undergo dyno tests in the laboratory of the International Technical Development Center (ITDC) in Rüsselsheim, but also a comprehensive real life test program, including set-up tests and endurance runs at the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring and at the Opel test center in Dudenhofen. One of the members of the test crew was Manuel Reuter, with two wins at Le Mans and more than 200 DTM races under his belt Opel’s most experienced works driver, whose vast experience contributed to the set-up of the high performance cars.
The development of the latest generation of the Astra OPC was carried out in a proven way as a team effort by the International Technical Development Center (ITDC) in Rüsselsheim and the engineers and designers of the Opel Performance Center (OPC). The car is being built at the Opel factory in Antwerp, Belgium, where the car is on the same production line as the regular Astra production models. The sales target within Europe is at approx. 3,500 units per year, some 80 percent of which to be sold in Germany
Like all OPC models, the Astra OPC is offering state-of-the-art technology and top-class driving dynamics, combined with excellent value for money. At a sales price of 28,000 Euros in Germany, the compact sports car is a considerably competitive offering in its performance bracket. Even more so, as the standard equipment in excess of the OPC-specific details is almost complete, including for instance a climate control system, a CD 30 stereo sound system with MP3-compatitble CD-player and six speakers, electronically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, electrically operated windows, a shiftable and tiltable steering column, rear seat backs that fold forward in a 60:40 split and a central locking system with remote control.
The Astra OPC is also state-of-the-art in terms of safety. Standard are front and side airbags, active head restraints in front, head curtain airbags for front and outer rear seats, safety belt force limiters and pyrotechnic belt tensioners in front, PRS (Pedal Release System) as well as mountings for ISOFIX child seats in the rear.
Customers can order the Astra OPC since September; the dealer launch in Germany will be on November 25, 2005.