Opel Speedster

Written by tonks on January 16, 2007

Opel SpeedsterIn an era of look-alike designed vehicles, there’s no mistaking the 2002 Opel Speedster. First introduced at the 1999 Salon de l’Automobile in Geneva in concept car form, it was a bold visual contrast to the workaday sedans, and coupes sold by General Motors’ big European marque.

Impossibly low, with a rakish nose and bodacious muscular fenders, it was striking front to back, with a unique, vertically stacked dual exhaust. Just two years later, an amazingly brief interval in automotive terms, the Speedster is back, this time in roadworthy trim.

Surprisingly little has changed from the concept car’s visuals, a primary goal for Opel and its partner, British-based Lotus, which produces the Speedster alongside its own little Elise. Under the skin, there’ve been a number of modifications made to the original Opel prototype, which was little more than a re-skinned version of the Lotus roadster.

The wheelbase of the extruded aluminum chassis has been lengthened a bit, the track widened slightly. And GM has opted for big, 17-inch wheels and tires, instead of the 15-inchers found on the Elise.

A modified GM 2.2-liter in-line four has been substituted for the Rover-supplied powerplant used in the Elise. Basically the same engine used by Saturn, the lightweight aluminum puts out 147 horsepower, and delivers a moving 90 percent of its torque at just 1900 rpm. Now when you consider the rear-drive Speedster weighs in at just 870 kilograms (1914 pounds), you’ve got a formula for some serious acceleration. Opel rather conservatively promises a 0-100 kph time of 5.9 seconds.

There’s so much torque, in fact, one seldom needs to shift the short-throw five-speed manual gearbox. Just punch the pedal, and you’re flying. But with a car like this, straight-line acceleration is only a part of the picture. The Speedster’s center of gravity sits so low to the ground, it is fair to take Brand Manager John Hahn at his word when he calls the little two-seater “a motorcycle on four wheels.”

The Opel Speedster is not a car for day-to-day commuting. It is loud and rough and an absolute delight on open roads. Stuck in traffic, banging your way down the autobahn, you’d need half the workday to recover. It’s also not a car for extended travel, with a trunk little bigger than a milk crate. But for day trips and weekend runs down an open road, it is an absolute kick.

Priced at the equivalent of $30,000, the little roadster went on sale in Great Britain last November-where it is sold under the Vauxhall VX220 nameplate. The Speedster version is just rolling out across the rest of Europe. Sadly, there are no plans to bring the Speedster over to the States.

In current form, it wouldn’t meet tough U.S. crash requirements. But Opel officials admit they’re open to reconsider their decision, so a groundswell of demand wouldn’t hurt the case for an Americanized version.

Posted Under: Opel,Supercars

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