Tag Archive | "Vauxhall"

Convertible Cruising


In the UK, sadly, there’s not a lot of point in having a convertible when it rains. Yet when the sun does come out there are few things more fun that cruising in a convertible. Many soft-tops only have two seats – or at best are 2+2 – which isn‘t the most convenient thing in a daily driver, so how about a more family friendly option – the Vauxhall Cascada?

Forget what you knew about badge snobbery. The fact is that Vauxhall make very good cars these days and no longer should be out of the running simply because of some lacklustre cars from the past. The Cascada has a premium feel. Although there are some company styling similarities as is usual these days, this is a new car from the ground up.cas1 Convertible Cruising

The inside is spacious and refined. The leather sports seats are supremely adjustable and super-comfortable. I especially liked the pull-out seat squab for extra support beneath the thighs. The two passenger doors are wide and allow easy access to the back thanks to the auto-operation of the front seats. Tilt the back rest and the seat glides forward. Push it back and it reverses. Easy. The rest of the interior is well designed and made with little evidence of cheap materials and there is absolutely loads of kit – sat-nav, connectivity, climate, heated leather steering wheel and plenty more – as standard.

cas2 Convertible CruisingThe large, steeply raked windscreen and rising window line give the Cascada a purposeful stance. The fabric roof creates a low roofline, although the steeply raked back window means a somewhat narrow view in the rear view mirror. Lower the hood and you get frameless windows and a flat rear deck not unlike the stern of a pleasure cruiser.

The roof stows itself very neatly in about 12 seconds into a recessed area which inevitably compromises the boot space although there’s still room for an overnight bag and some shopping. With the roof in place the boot is deep and capacious although not the easiest to access. It’s a convertible – you can’t have it all ways.

Driving with the top down, the Cascada is pretty refined. As speeds increase so there is some wind buffeting, although front and rear wind deflectors are available. The model featured in our images is in Elite trim and drive comes from a 1.6L turbo-petrol engine with 170PS. Inevitably, the car is heavy but the engine still delivers lively performance but, alas, is not the most economical choice. Thinking about economy I rejected the ‘Sport’ mode button in favour of ‘Tour’ but still only achieved an average of 30mpg in mixed motoring. As a long distance tourer I would think that the 2.0L diesel engine would be a better choice.

Handling is good thanks Vauxhall’s ‘HiPerStrut’ suspension but it’s not a sports car so don’t expect sharp cornering attributes. For Motor Blogger, the very lightly weighted power steering lacked feel although the ‘Sport’ mode weights it up a bit. Overall though the Cascada has a composed and supple ride making long trips a pleasure.

So, the Vauxhall Cascada is a poised and comfortable four-seat drop-top. It is quiet and spacious enough for everyday use whilst remaining a great long distance tourer. None of the currently available versions cost over £30,000 which seems like value for money. An excellent convertible.

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Viva Vauxhall!


A very long time ago, in days when men wore hats and jackets with leather patches on the elbows, Vauxhall motors made a car called the Viva. That’s a version of the 1963 original in our image. It was designed to compete against the Ford Anglia and the Minor from Morris Motors and very popular it was too, right from the word go.

New car buyers were struck by its modern (for the time) looks which made the competition look dowdy and old fashioned. It was to mature in two new versions over the following sixteen years, following the design fashions of the time and influenced by the upstart imports from Japan.

Those who remember the car look back with fondness whilst viewing their memories through rose-tinted glasses. More down-to-earth folk don’t recall it being that good. It has to be remembered that the British car industry was in freefall at the time and nothing special was being produced anywhere so buyers took what they could get.

Vauxhall have clearly been thinking about this car from another age and have decided that enough time has passed to resurrect the name so let’s hear a hearty ‘viva!’ for the new Vauxhall Viva. After all, other companies have brought back iconic names like Mini or Fiat 500, so why not?

Vauxhall has long since been a part of the mighty General motors empire and the emphasis now is on the idea of ‘world cars’. Vehicles that can sell around the globe with little or no revision. The plan then is to make the new Viva a city car; an automotive  sector that is booming just now.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be a new car from the ground up but rather a rebadged version of something already in the company’s range – the Chevrolet Spark, perhaps. This is interesting because GM have already said they are withdrawing the Chevrolet brand from Europe owing to poor sales. So it would appear to be a plan to keep selling cars – in the UK at least – by revisiting an old British name.

GM/Vauxhall believe that the Viva name will work because it was a long time ago and ‘nobody will remember it’. Well, here’s the news – we do remember it and not especially fondly. This rebadged relaunch might not be as popular as they think.

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Vauxhall’s Monza Concept Teaser


Opel/Vauxhall (themselves subsidiaries of GM) are not giving away too much in the image above which features Company Chief Executive Karl-Thomas Neumann alongside the Monza concept, but there’s a fair amount of information on offer regarding the future direction of this long-established company. Their philosophy in the usual auto-speak – that has evolved like an alien language over the years – is going to be: The evolution of sculptural styling with innovative connectivity for individual mobility.

This then is the future and it pretty much falls in line with the general trend. The cars of the future are changing even as we watch although they still can’t make a decent cup of tea.

The Monza Concept will appear at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It is part of the ongoing development programme of next-gen cars being worked on by a large workforce of engineers and designers. This is thanks to the not inconsiderable sum of $4 billion handed over by GM America that has been earmarked for future European developments.

Aerodynamics are clearly playing a big part as the car sits very low with a very defined bonnet and fluid shape. We have to admit it does look good. Although we have to assume that this is simply a design exercise it may herald the future ‘family’ look for Opel/Vauxhall products or even presage a new GT car. Expect a low-capacity, high-powered range of petrol engines with electrical assistance.

The Company are saying that we can also expect a ‘quantum leap’ forward in material use and of the infotainment systems. There’s a suggestion that the car may be based on the front-wheel drive Cascada platform although first whispers said rear-wheel drive. We’ll see.

It is interesting how these design philosophies filter down through the years. A long time ago, at the Geneva Salon in 1966 in fact, the company showed the world its XVR concept. That’s it in the bigger picture – note that the test driver is wearing a suit and tie! The design is widely indicative of the things that have actually come to pass. With its wide, low profile tyres you can see the design cues of cars to come.

monz2 Vauxhall’s Monza Concept Teaser

No major details yet, then, on the Monza Concept and none at all on the interior but Opel/Vauxhall are saying that with trend-setting technologies they will change the driving experience. We are very much looking forward to Frankfurt.

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Bucking The Trend


These days the trend is increasingly toward cars with small engines and low emissions and they have become the primary considerations when it comes to buying a new car. We, the drivers, are encouraged and cajoled to put our personal preferences to one side and buy the cars we are meant to buy. It has become almost a form of green bullying.

Thankfully there is a small but determined band of enthusiasts out there who still passionately pursue power for power’s sake and require their drive to a bit special and, hopefully, unique. This means that there is still a market for cars that stick their tongues out at accepted thinking and slap the thighs of EU politically biased green-o-crats. One such car is the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS.

This mighty vehicle has been with us for a while but has now undergone a bit of a makeover. In a manly way, obviously. Not content with the addition of a bit more horsepower the company have coaxed an extra 150bhp from the supercharged 6.2L V8 which now delivers an adequate 576 horses and 0-60 in under five seconds. This is essentially the same engine as is found in the recently launched Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

The rear-wheel drive VXR8 GTS is the most powerful car to ever have emerged from the Australian continent; it is made by General Motors and sold under the Holden Special Vehicles badge down under as the Gen-F GTS. The car can be ordered now for delivery at the end of the year and will set the buyer back around £55K. This is peanuts compared to the price of similarly powerful cars from European manufacturers.

At the heart of the engine is an Eaton supercharger rather than a turbo. This apparently provides stronger and more linear performance right across the rev-range and works in conjunction with an array of improvements to the power plant. The new front end of the car is designed to emphasise aggression, width and stance, like a pugnacious boxer. There is, it seems, some 130,000 square millimetres of open frontal surface, which is needed to cool down the beast within.VXR2 Bucking The Trend

The VXR8 sits on twenty inch ‘Blade’ forged alloy wheels and sports a performance spoiler at the back to augment the other aero body parts. Inside, the cabin has undergone changes to make the incumbents as comfy as possible and offer a premium feel that belies the brutal nature hidden beneath. All the expected and latest safety features and gadgetry come almost completely as standard. The bad news is that this is rumoured to be the last of the line. GM are considering – the horror – front wheel drive for the next version. Not the same thing at all.

Technically, this is a car for the outback. The Thunder from Down Under. It is likely to be a bit of a handful on our crowded third world roads but don’t let that stop you though. If you want to buck the trend and go for power, you go right ahead – you little ripper!

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Topless Cascada From Vauxhall


The designers at Vauxhall have obviously been working tirelessly lately. They’ve gone electric with the terrific Ampera, made much of the Mokka and the funky Adam; now they’ve got the wind in their hair with the, it has to be said, sensational looking Cascada, which is Spanish for waterfall. Let’s hope they don’t mean coolant.

If we’re honest, Vauxhall’s choice of car names may not be to everyone’s taste. There is a trend, to be fair, for being a tad left field – a bit out there – these days when it comes to the naming of products generally but, well…

Anyway, if this new convertible drives as well as it looks they surely are onto a winner. It’s a big car, comfortably seating four, and its underpinnings are a mixture of Astra and Insignia bits. Crucially, the body has been strengthened to minimise scuttle shake. This is a problem that still assails some convertibles even with today’s build integrity, so it will be interesting to see how the Cascada deals with it.

The hood is fabric but is multi-layered and has thermal lining. Vauxhall state that it will withstand the worst that the British winter can throw at it. Not that you’ll find out this winter because the car won’t be in the showrooms until March next year – just right for the undoubtedly glorious summer in 2013.

This car is bigger than an equivalent A5 ragtop but should undercut the German car on price. It will be powered initially by a 1.6L petrol turbo shoving out a relatively modest 168bhp, which probably means leisurely rather than sporty progress. A smaller 1.4L is on the cards coupled with the now ubiquitous two litre diesel. Don’t despair though because at least one more powerful version is in the pipeline. A six speed auto box will keep everything under control.

Previously seen on the hot VXR Insignia, the Cascada will offer the proven technology of the company’s HiPerStrut front suspension which, in combination with adaptive dampers, is designed to rein in any tendency for torque steer. This is the phenomenon whereby engine torque under heavy acceleration seems to pull the car to one side -  a common enough experience with more powerful front wheel drive cars.

Also in the box will be the usual extras you’d expect in a premium car with the added bonus of a heated steering wheel. This is Vauxhall’s first foray into this premium sector since the 1930s. Judging by the image above they are on to a winner. Even in our climate.

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Maloo Madness


Most people, given a bit of notice, can tolerate an Australian around the place for a while provided they don’t do anything loud or say anything crass. Australia is one of those countries that you feel you ought to visit but probably won’t because you can’t face the trip to the far side of the world; and yet it has much to recommend it. Assuming you like spiders and snakes, of course.

First off, no trip down under would be complete without a visit to a round of the V8 Supercar championship. This has probably got to be one of the most exciting bumper to bumper spectacles in motor racing and is often supported by the truly bonkers V8 Ute Racing Series. If there’s one thing Aussies love it’s their Utes (trans: Utility Vehicles), although we more refined Brits would probably refer to them as pick-up trucks. If this sort of thing is what starts your motor then you’ll be delighted to hear you can buy one here thanks to our friends at Vauxhall. Enter the Maloo!

Down there in the Land of Thunder, General Motors vehicles are badged as Holdens but here the car will be sold under the Vauxhall VXR banner. See the image above which doesn’t really do justice to its magnificence. Originally developed by Holden Special Vehicles – which was established in the 1980’s by the Tom Walkinshaw organisation - this latest incarnation sports a 6L V8 engine that develops a whopping 425bhp and 406lb ft of torque through a six-speed manual gearbox. Surprisingly, given its pedigree and its driving prowess, this ute has benign handling and, although it appears to be front heavy with an empty load bed at the back, has, in fact, an almost 50/50 balance. Doesn’t mean it is not capable of biting back though, should you overstep the mark.

This probably wouldn’t be your first choice if you were looking for a work horse yet the car retains its original function by offering a fully useable 1208 litre load bed under its lid, damped with gas struts. The statistics don’t unfortunately show how many cans of lager it can accommodate which seems to be an oversight. Meanwhile the two seat interior has all the usual appointments laid out, as you would expect, in a manly fashion, but you do get the nicely old fashioned addition of three cool gauges on top of the dashboard for oil pressure, oil temperature and battery voltage. The most pointless accessory prize goes to the function on the info-tainment unit which tells you when the car is in understeer or oversteer – a fact that should be blindingly obvious.

This spectacular vehicle will cost around £50,000 or so and return about 18mpg, so you’ll need to ensure that running costs are not your first priority. It is hard to see who this car is for and what its purpose is. Which is actually a pointless statement since the Vauxhall VXR Maloo is clearly the most desirable vehicle on the market. For real men only.

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