Seen in Frankfurt: Opel Astra
Opel launched the 11th-generation of its compact car, the Astra, in Frankfurt. The line goes back to 1936, when the company produced its first Kadett. The 11th-gen car is direct heir to that first one, as Opel effectively dropped the Kadett name in 1991, replacing it with Astra.
Astra through the ages.
That said, this car (which those of us in the U.S. can only hope comes to the U.S. in some form, possibly Buick, which currently has the Buick Regal that’s based on the Opel Insignia) is a clean-sheet approach, which is based on an all-new architecture that’s smaller, roomier and lighter than its 10th-gen predecessor.
Smaller: The car is 4.37 meters long. That’s about 50 mm shorter than its predecessor. It is 1.81 meters wide, which is down 5 mm, and its height, 1.48 meters, is 25 mm lower than the 10th-gen car.
Smaller and sleeker.
Roomier: Those exterior dimension shrinkages notwithstanding, the car offers the rear passengers 35 mm additional legroom and the driver 22 mm of more headroom.
Lighter: The lineup is as much as 200 kg lighter than their previous-gen analogues and at least 120 kg lighter. This is predicated on the new underlying architecture, which makes extensive use of ultra-high strength steels. Consider the exterior body. It weighs 20%--or 77 kg—less than the previous model. And they looked at wherever else weight could be excised, so the chassis is 50 kg lighter.
The new seats were tested and certified by the Campaign for Healthier Backs (AGR) for their ergonomic characteristics. Heating, cooling and massaging functions are available.
The design approach is to have a vehicle that is more dynamic and leaner than the previous car. (The overall Opel design philosophy: “Sculptural Artistry meets German Precision.” Ja.) So not only is the car lean from the mass standpoint, but also from the point of view of its drag coefficient: depending on the model, it is at least 0.30, and at its most aero, 0.285, which is 0.040 lower than the previously most slippery.
Note how the C-pillar is blacked out, forming the “floating roofline,” which is a growing trend in automotive design.
From the standpoint of the powertrain, the word here is extensive (or umfangreich). That is there are engines ranging in output from 95 hp to 200 hp. The is a three-cylinder engine. There are fours. There are gasoline-powered engines. There are turbodiesels. There are five- and six-speed manuals. There is an “automated manual transmission” (“Easytronic 3.0). There is a six-speed automatic.
This is the IntellixLux LED matrix light headlamp that consists of eight LEDs. A camera sensor detects light sources from either on-coming or preceding vehicles, then shuts off LEDs as needed so that the other drivers aren’t blinded by the light. This is a functionality that’s not legal in the U.S.—yet.
And while we hope that the car comes over to the U.S. there is something in the 11th-generation Astra that has gone from the U.S. east across the Atlantic: the Astra is the first Opel available with OnStar, a technology available in the U.S. since 1996.
If there’s one thing (and it may be the only thing) that the aluminum and steel industries agree upon, it’s this: We’re leaving the steel era and entering an age of automotive material options, where there are combinations of different materials, not just one dominant material.
If automotive tire upstart Amerityre can perfect its polyurethane tires, we may soon have to revise the phrase "where the rubber meets the road."
Anyone who has anything to do with the steel industry ought to go out and buy a Volvo right now.