A car that held the Nurburgring lap record, for £3000? What’s the catch?
It arrived in 2005 and dearly departed in 2010. In five years this Mk 5 Astra VXR made quite a reputation for itself. It didn’t change much, apart from a mild body makeover in 2007, but really it didn’t need to. Its seminal moment came in 2008 when Manuel Reuter, a Le Mans 24 Hours winner, hurtled it round the Nurburgring track in 8min 35sec, then a lap record for a hot hatch.
There was a 1.6-litre SXi version with 103bhp. Then there was the VXR version with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine giving 237bhp. That’s quite a jump. All the power went to the front wheels via a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox.
To underline the gap between the two models, Vauxhall coated the VXR in racey clothing, including a front splitter, side skirts, spoiler and even a carbon-effect B-pillar.
Inside it was more Astra, but it came with half-leather on the Recaro seats and air con. If you had the money you could specify full leather, climate control and rear sensors. That was the standard vehicle, but there were some special editions.
Naturally there was the Nurburgring Edition of 2008, which came with white alloys, chequered flag graphics and a Remus exhaust that gave another 15bhp. The following year came the VXRacing Edition, with 19-inch alloys and that Remus exhaust. The final special was the Arctic, with black and white paint, heated Recaro seats and a panoramic windscreen.
Overall this is a fairly tough car, but there are weak spots. These will have been exacerbated by owners not keeping to servicing schedules, particularly oil changes for the gearbox. Since the gearbox had the nickname ‘chocolate box’ you can tell that you need to check it works carefully, with bearings for first and sixth gears being notoriously weak.
The Borg Warner K04 turbo is strong but it won’t cope with too many years of abuse and neglect. Watch for smoking on and off boost, and if you can hear a noise like a turkey gobbling, then it’s the rear vacuum lines which have perished or fallen off.
Cambelts should last 80,000 miles but those in the know change them every 45,000, so check the servicing receipts. Valve stems can be a weak spot and con rods too, so be concerned if the car has been given too much of a power boost. The maximum seems to be around 320bhp before standard engine parts need replacing.
Still, you can get this hard charging hot hatch for just £3000, so would that be a good buy? That would get you an early car with hopefully less than 100k on the clocks.
By £4800 to £6500 you’d be looking at the revised model with 50,000 to 70,000 miles or an earlier car with lower mileage. If you wanted a Nurburgring model then you’d need at least £6800, up to £8000. That would also net you one of the first 2010 models, the year production ceased, with low mileage.
You’d need £8000 to £9000 to pick up a low-mileage late VXR, but there should be quite a few in this bracket.