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Vauxhall Vectra GSI 2.6 V6



RUN-OUT models in their last year of production traditionally offer more bangs for bucks than any of their predecessors, but the last incarnation of Vauxhall's ageing upper medium campaigner perhaps says more about the manufacturer's future intentions than the present.

Sure, with a new engine, further handling improvements and more standard kit than the average battleship, it's got to be the best Vectra ever built - in terms of both value for money and driver appeal.

But cars like the new 2.6 GSi are part of a much wider process that's been gathering momentum at Vauxhall for the last couple of years. Gradually, the slightly staid cloak of solid respectability and reliability is metamorphosising into an altogether more sexy outfit. Vauxhall has always given customers a sporting option, but the decision to bring in the Corvette in 1998 signalled a new direction at Luton.

Last year witnessed more homegrown talent in the shape of the uncompromising VX220 and the Astra Coupe, while this year we have already seen the pacey Astra Coupe Turbo - powered by a 2.2 turbo which will also debut in the Zafira compact MPV in Autumn. Question is, what have they got up their sleeves for next year? But first, back to the present.

With increased capacity, a totally reprofiled torque curve and more power, the new 180 PS GSI is a significantly more accomplished performer than either its 2.5 litre predecessor or its SRI-badged stablemates.

One of the key failings of the old GSI - decidedly peaky torque delivery which came and went as the revs increased - has been overcome by the race engineers at Motor Sport Developments, who have produced a more linear torque curve which gives a maximum 202 lb ft of torque lower down the rev range. Translated on to the road, this is manifested in livelier low-down acceleration and smoother power delivery through the mid-range - making it much more driveable. The 0-60mph sprint now drops below eight seconds and in-gear acceleration from 30-50mph in 4th falls to 6.5 seconds.

But it doesn't stop there. Lowered suspension, a deep front air dam, skirts and a unique rear spoiler make sure the GSI looks the part, but more tweaks to the suspension and steering deliver more eager turn-in and feel through the bends. Unique design 17 inch alloy wheels and ultra low profile 215/45 ZR17 tyres complete the cosmetic picture, but also offer appreciably more grip than the thinner rubber found on the SRI derivatives.

And a car capable of reaching 145mph also needs good stopping power, so MSD has beefed up the brakes with 20mm larger front brake discs and upgraded pads, significantly improving the GSI's braking performance and composure under heavy braking.

Vectra product manager Steve Bryant said: 'We are very pleased with the modifications to the to the engine which have really improved the low down power over the old 2.5 GSI. This is the ultimate Vectra. It's not a badge-engineered car - it's something we've breathed on and made a bit special - that has always been the case with the GSI badge.''

At 244 g/km, the CO2 tax liability is going to be on the steep side at 30 percent of the price, but combined fuel consumption is less frightening at a manageable 27.5mpg. The GSI is available in saloon, hatchback and estate versions, and goes on sale in June. Additional equipment over the old model's pretty comprehensive standard spec includes xenon headlights and cruise control for an asking price of under #20,000.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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