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Vauxhall's new Astra Sports Tourer tested to extremes

Vauxhall's all-new Brit-built Astra Sports Tourer has undergone extreme climate testing to enable it to cope with the coldest of winters or the warmest of summers.

A stock production model was subjected to conditions comparable to the Sahara desert at Vauxhall/Opel's International Technical Development Centre (ITDC) in Russelsheim, Germany. In the middle of winter, the mercury was at 60 degrees Celsius and the sweat was pouring. 

One day later, same place, same time: the Astra Sports Tourer was wrapped up in a white outfit covered with a thin layer of ice. The vehicle's interior was not visible from the outside, as the windows were completely frozen over as the temperature dropped to -40 degrees. 

"We want to see how the materials in the Sports Tourer react to extreme conditions. We also check if its appearance changes and if extreme heat or cold have an effect on, for example, gap width," explains Otto Hemmelmann, Lead Engineer Test Methods, "After all, our customers around the world drive the Astra in all different climate zones."

The heat and cold test bench, also called thermal cycling testing, is part of the compulsory program in Vauxhall vehicle development, just like the acoustic and electronic lab tests. 

During the two-week phase, temperatures changed daily. "Sealing, bonding, plastic parts and materials, rubber, all this has to work properly, meaning constant elastic constricting and stretching like a rubber band, without bearing any traces of it," explains the Chief Engineer.

Even direct sunlight can be simulated in the climatic chamber. "If the Sports Tourer is parked outside in the summer, interior temperatures can reach 90 degrees," says Hemmelmann. With the help of the sun simulation, the team tests the interior materials' stress tolerance. "But we also test how long the air conditioner has to be on until the temperature is bearable again." In addition, the so-called four-post test bench moves the Sports Tourer up and down under its wheels to test whether comfort in the car is compromised under extreme conditions and to ensure the interior materials don't squeak or rattle during driving despite high strain and stress. 

After the hot/cold treatment, Vauxhall engineers look at the Sports Tourer through the customer's eyes and analyse any differences. "We look at what impression the car makes on us and take measurements to determine if anything has become distorted or misaligned," says Hemmelmann.

Only once all components, body and add-on parts are tested and cleared is the Astra Sports Tourer deemed to be fit for purpose and ready for sale.

Auction, Classic car, Events, Family Car, News, Quirky

Top Gear’s Reasonably Priced Car up for auction

Bidding has opened for a piece of motoring history – the Vauxhall Astra used by Top Gear as their ‘Reasonably Priced Car’.

With proceeds of the sale going to automotive industry charity, BEN, the five-door Power Red 1.6-litre (115bhp) Vauxhall Astra Tech Line has been added to eBay. Currently at £10,301.00, bids can placed at, with all proceeds being donated to BEN.

The mileage on the Astra stands at 2,908, and comes with front Corbeau Sprint Racing seats, 5 point safety belt harness and full roll-cage. Bidders should be aware that the airbags have all been disabled to make room for the roll-cage. To re-instate the airbags would involve removing the roll-cage and seating. So, in its current state, the car is not type-approved and should not be driven on the road. The Vauxhall Technical Team will work with the successful bidder at handover to fully explain how the vehicle has been adapted, advising that converting the vehicle back into use on the public highway would incur a ‘significant cost’.

Other features, aside from the car’s celebrity status include 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, Sat-nav system with seven-inch colour monitor, and three-spoke leather-covered sports steering wheel.

With an estimated 350 million views in 170 different countries per week, the Vauxhall Astra was initiated with a star-studded barbeque, featuring celebrities including comedians Jimmy Carr and Warwick Davis, and singers Brian Johnson and Joss Stone. Celebrities such as Olly Murs, who topped the leader board, Margot Robbie, Ron Howard and James Blunt all thrashed it around the Top Gear Test Track at Dunsfold Park, Surrey.

“David Main, BEN Chief Executive commented on the auction, saying: “We are reliant on the generosity of our supporters to enable us to continue our work helping people who work within the UK automotive industry, so we are very grateful to Vauxhall Motors for this kind donation of a piece of history for a great cause.”

BEN’s goal is to make positive differences to people’s lives in the automotive industry, supporting them in times of difficulty through a wide range of free, confidential information, advice and support services.


Vauxhall signs Police deal

Vauxhall has signed one of the UK's biggest Police fleet deals with over 2,000 vehicles destined for official Police business.

The deal includes 1,200 Brit-built Astras for Police forces nationwide, with the two-year multi-million pound contract also including Corsas, Insignias and Brit-built Vivaro vans. This order cements Vauxhall's position as the largest provider of low and intermediate performance cars to the UK Police, with a 60 per cent share of competitive markets.

All Astra models can be equipped with OnStar technology which keeps the car connected via satellite and cellular networks, turning the vehicle in to a 'high-speed 4G LTE mobile hub with connectivity for up to seven smartphones or tablets' says Vauxhall. The OnStar system includes a Police-spec ignition block, which can be triggered remotely in the event of a vehicle being stolen.

Procurement for the mammoth sale was led by West Midlands Police with vehicles set to join 28 Police forces. Six fire and rescue services are also included in the agreement which sees vehicles heading to East and West Sussex, Northamptonshire, Shropshire, Surrey and Staffordshire.

David Wilkin, West Midlands Police's Director of Resources and the national policing lead for the procurement of vehicles commented: "A vehicle purchasing collaboration between police forces and partners on this scale has never been seen before and I am delighted to say that it has been a huge success in terms of the savings made and how well the organisations have worked together.

"The success of this group builds on the achievements of a large scale vehicle procurement project led by West Yorkshire Police earlier in the year. While cost is clearly a driving factor, the most important aspect is that these vehicles need to be the safest ones available for our staff and the public."

"We are delighted to supply the Police with this huge order," said Rory Harvey, Vauxhall's Chairman and Managing Director. "Efficiency is a top priority for all Police forces and the investment made in these Vauxhalls will mean officers spend more time preventing crime."