Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Opel Astra GTC, 2012

  •  Opel Astra GTC, 2012

The new Opel Astra GTC´s sculpted shapes with precise accents and dramatic proportions make it the ultimate expression of Opel´s design language. And on the road, all Opel Astra GTC versions benefit from a premium front axle layout with HiPerStrut - High Performance Strut - that ideally combines with the clever Opel patented Watt's link rear axle to provide unmatched stability and the sharpest driving precision. Other innovations in the new Astra GTC include driver assistance systems based on the second generation Opel Eye front camera with expanded functionality and the new, fourth generation Bi-Xenon Advanced Forward Lighting (AFL+).

Unlike many three-door versions of existing compact hatches, the GTC will be a standalone model in Opel's range and the ultimate Astra in design and driving dynamics. It does not share any exterior element with other members of the Astra family, except for the outside rear view mirror housing and the rod antenna. Six of the seven 17- to 20-inch wheel designs on offer are also GTC-only features.

Also exclusive for the new Opel Astra GTC is the panoramic windscreen. For the unique feature, which successfully made its production debut 2006 in the previous Astra GTC generation, Opel engineers filed a total of 11 patents during its development. The large panoramic windshield extends seamlessly from the hood up into the roof as far as the B-pillar. With no cross-member to spoil the view, it offers driver and passengers a unique driving experience and a completely new sense of space and visibility with an almost unlimited field of vision, similar to the view from a jetplane cockpit.

Sharp looks enhance Opel's design language
The Opel Astra GTC manages to combine the best of both worlds: on the one hand passion and emotion, on the other a high degree of utility in day to day usage. Its sleek looks are very striking and are the very essence of Opel's design language. The atmosphere of the roomy interior is sporty and classy. The loading capacity (1.165 liters) is considerably greater than that of its direct competitors. "The Astra GTC expresses our passion for cars," the Opel/Vauxhall Vice President for Design, Mark Adams, explains. "This represents our most emotional vehicle so far, yet it does not sacrifice on the emotional with the functional side."

In contrast to many other coupés which are often merely hatchback variants of a sedan, the Opel Astra GTC is a standalone car within the Opel product spectrum. It is the sharpest looking Astra when it comes to design and the very essence of what a coupé should be, because of its extraordinary usefulness in day to day situations. None of the components in the Astra GTC have been lifted from other Astras, apart from the mounting of the rear mirror and the aerial.

The design team was tasked with giving a new and dynamic expression of its mission statement of "sculptural artistry meets German precision". They came up with a car that is as uncompromising as a wild cat, crouching down on the street, ready to leap. However, at the same time it can be gentle and playful. "The essence of the new Opel design language is to reduce everything to the maximum. And the Opel Astra GTC is our most radical interpretation of that," says the Opel Exterior Design Director, Malcolm Ward. "We wanted to create a really attractive car made up of only a few key dynamic lines."

There are only three lines that create tension and define the outline of the silhouette.

A fine, crisp line sweeps downward from the front door to the bottom of the rear fender and energizes the body side. A second line encapsulates the door handle and stretches to the rear, emphasizing the GTC's dramatic stance by spreading the surfaces to a fine undercut and a broad shoulder. The third line follows the clean, sporty silhouette of the roof.

No compromising on design
The designers' unwillingness to compromise, particularly when designing the GTC shoulder area, put the whole engineering team up against a challenge. The sheet metal sections needed to be pressed unusually deeply to enable realization of the wide shoulder and dominant wheelhouses from the sketch and clay model. Just a few years ago, this would have been technically impossible. A "real" door made of steel was built earlier than usual, so that new production methods could be tested - and to help determine if the final car could do justice to the initial vision. And it did.

Panoramic windscreen offers unique vistas
The Opel Astra GTC is a standalone car in its own right and its striking design re-enforces that impression. The Vice President of Design, Mark Adams, wants to avoid what he calls the "Russian Dolls" effect, where all models look the same and just differ in size. He states that "It is important that each vehicle in our portfolio has its own personality, because each has a unique role in our portfolio and appeals to different customers."

Therefore the panoramic windscreen was reserved exclusively for the Opel Astra GTC within the Astra family. The windscreen gives the racy compact coupé a dynamic look and a luxurious note. The large front windscreen stretches all the way to the middle of the car roof and gives the driver and the passengers an extraordinary visual, space and driving experience. In contrast to other glass roof solutions, in this case there is no transverse spar that reduces visibility. On the contrary, the roof boosts the roominess of the interior, thus improving the driving experience. The driver, his co-pilot and the passengers in the rear are able to enjoy a vista, similar to what pilots experience under the light plane canopies.

From the outside, the panoramic windscreen together with its black metallic steel roof looks like a continuous surface. The A and B pillars are also coated in black as well as the roof liner, reinforcing the impression of a homogenous surface. In the event of very powerful sun rays a roller blind can be lowered inside the cabin which sits under the panoramic glass. This helps create a pleasant atmosphere. The device which is continuously variable can be easily adjusted and then may be attached with a turning handle. The solar protection comes complete with an integrated sun visor which even in its opened state disappears behind the rear roof component.

Athletic powerhouse with practical strengths
In contrast to its competitors, the Opel Astra GTC is not handicapped by its coupé pedigree to deal with every situations on the road. The flexible boot that can load between 380 and 1.165 liters, comes in addition to the room for five passengers. The storage space inside the cabin was increased by 50 percent in comparison to its predecessor. In the Cosmo variant, the electric parking brake (EPB) is a basic feature and contributes to an efficient space distribution in the Opel Astra GTC. Specifically in the central console, where storage capacity is normally much in demand, the EPB pays off. It means that depending on which features have been added to the car, there are up to 19 storage facilities on board.

The flowing and sculptural shape of the outside body work is continued on the inside with curved surfaces and circular features. The wing-like instrument panel embraces the front seats in a wide arc. Similar to wing tips the upper segments of the door panels give the impression of a broad span that offers protection. The sickle shape, associated with Opel, is also reflected in the design features, for example in the shape of the shiny, chrome door knobs and the gear stick cover. The elegant central console has been fitted with a flat angle, creating a harmonious, flowing transition from the dash board to the gear box.

This in turn enhances the roominess of the interior. The overall atmosphere is very pleasant thanks to décor details such as the chrome instrument fittings and knobs or the juxtaposition of the user-friendly surfaces and the pleasant back-lighting.

New materials, colors and patterns give a further boost to the very sporty nature of the Opel Astra GTC. For example, the color combinations include Imola, Red/Morrocana, Black or Imola, Black/Morrocana, Black for the middle seat segments and the side panels. They are the ideal combination with the décor panels which are painted in piano-lacquer style. Further leather accessories are also available, including the elegant velour leather "Dinamica-Black". The sports steering wheel which is easy to grip is part of the basic features and fits perfectly with the nature of the Opel Astra GTC. The front seats have the highest degree of flexibility in the segment in order to do justice to every style of driver. Another optional extra is the ergonomic sports seat which can be adjusted in eight different positions. The seat carries the quality seal from the German healthy back association "Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V."

Bespoke layout for the ultimate driving experience
Like its predecessor, the new Astra GTC is a standalone model in its own right within the Opel product spectrum. Its breathtaking looks and dynamic handling were the focal points at the development stage. The bespoke chassis layout of the sporty compact car delivers a sense of fun and precise handling. The chassis of the new GTC is 15 millimeters lower than that of the 5-door Astra, while the wheelbase has grown by 10mm, from 2685mm to 2695mm. Both tracks are wider, too, at 1584mm (+40mm) front and 1588mm (+30mm) rear. The end result is that the Opel Astra GTC has a strong presence on the road.

High-tech front suspension appeals to sports fans
Right from the start of the GTC's development program the target was to deliver a driver-oriented feel to the car. The precise response of steering and dampers should not reduce comfort and performance in daily traffic. The solution is called HiPerStrut (High-Performance Strut). In all its versions, the Opel Astra GTC possesses this exclusive high-performance suspension strut. It is based on the system currently seen on the 239 kW/325 hp Insignia OPC. In its newly adapted form to the compact coupe, the new front suspension provides better handling and more responsive steering - just what sports car drivers are looking for. The HiPerStrut uses the same pick up points, but achieves a reduction of the inclination angle by 44 percent and shortens the spindle length (kingpin offset) by 46 percent with a reduced lever arm. This helps prevent torque-steer - a trait of many powerful front-wheel-drive cars - allowing drivers to make more use of the GTC's performance without the steering being corrupted.

Rear axle with Watt's link optimizes comfort and car handling
The combination of compound-crank axle and Watt's link which has proven successful in the 5-door Astra, is also being used in the Opel Astra GTC. This rear axle system is lighter and more compact than a multi-link rear suspension and provides better lateral stability. The Watt's link is fitted to a small cross-member attached to the underside of the car, just behind the rear wheel center line. It comprises a short, pivoting center link with a ball joint at each end, to which the lateral links from the wheels are bolted. In a straight line, the set up ensures excellent stability, but during cornering it minimizes lateral deflection in the same way a modern multi-link system would do. Opel's engineers estimate that the linkage absorbs around 80 percent of all lateral loads on the rear suspension. In addition, the Watt's link allows for softer bushings, which no longer have to compensate for toe changes at the rear of the car, and thus there is a reduction in annoying factors such as vibration from the road surface and noise level.

In summary: the unique combination of lateral and camber stiffness, especially when driving in bends, give the Opel Astra GTC steering precision and stability. Friction is reduced within the suspension, while elasticity in the direction of travel mean the vehicle is well sprung and ensures good absorption.

Mechatronic FlexRide boosts safety and driving fun
The lay out of the Astra GTC chassis has been designed to perfectly integrate Opel's intelligent, fully-adaptive FlexRide chassis control system. FlexRide links the separate electronic driving assistance components to one another, including the ESC stability control and the adaptive dampers, CDC. In this way, the chassis automatically adapts to road conditions, cornering speed, vehicle movements and individual driving style. Better handling and vehicle balance also enhance driving safety in emergency situations. In addition, the driver can chose from three different FlexRide settings at the touch of a button: one can choose anytime between the balanced Standard mode, the comfort-oriented "Tour" mode or the more active "Sport" mode.

Precise steering with electric power steering
Precision, feedback and confidence: these were the three target elements for the GTC's bespoke steering program. The challenge was to optimize the Rack-assist electric power steering REPS in such a way that it would feel lighter at lower speeds while at the same time offering closer contact with the road surface at higher speeds. The Opel Astra GTC uses a rack and pinion steering system with speed sensitive assistance. But in order to provide drivers with a more precise steering response, the system's electric motor was mounted directly on the steering rack, as opposed to the base of the steering column. At higher speeds, the power steering assistance is automatically reduced so that the driver can steer in a more precise fashion than with conventional power steering. The second important benefit is that, because it does not require an energy consuming hydraulic pump and responds directly to the amount of power needed at any speed, fuel consumption is also reduced.
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