The day spent at the K48 hall in Rüsselsheim aims to answer one key question: Which feature of the new Astra will make drivers and passengers even more satisfied?
There is more than one way of getting to know the new Astra. For example, you can take a look at the tradition of the compact models at Opel. The story stretches back over ten generations of vehicles, all beginning back in 1936 with the Kadett 1. This was followed by the Kadett A in 1962, with the model later rebranded as the Astra in 1991. You can also approach the eleventh, and most recent, generation by considering the overall appeal of the entire Opel range, which has sold more than 24 million units. Wolfgang Meintke’s reaction to the vehicle is a loud wow.
Meintke has just finished slowly circling the Astra K, whilst surveying the contours and lines of the outer body. He first glides his hand over the front end, then examines the divided C‑pillar as he moves towards the rear. He shares his verdict: “Already from the first fleeting glance, this Astra reminds me of a perfect Flamenco performance in how it exudes a powerful spirit, dignity, and pride.”
“Already from the first fleeting glance, this Astra reminds me of a perfect Flamenco performance.”
IS IT THE APPEARANCE, THE LED MATRIX-LIGHT OR RATHER ONSTAR?
There is good reason why he chose to make such a comparison. Meintke knows just as much about music as he does about cars. He plays the Flamenco guitar in his spare time and loves the vibrant culture of Andalusia in southern Spain where life is celebrated. Meintke also travels as part of his day job as team leader in the manufacturing unit in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where he supervises the welding and assembly of chassis components. This also includes parts for the new Astra, which is built in Ellesmere Port and Gliwice. “I’m familiar with each and every part that goes into the vehicle. But it’s amazing to be able to appreciate it as a whole before most other car enthusiasts are able to.”
After having won an internal contest, Meintke is one of five Opel employees taking an exclusive look at the Astra K alongside with Opel Post. The car officially celebrates its world premiere this autumn at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. However, these five lucky people already get to sit in the vehicle, discuss the look of the car’s exterior and interior, and try out a brand new feature: the Opel OnStar online and service assistant. The day spent at the K48 hall in Rüsselsheim aims to answer one key question: Which feature of the new Astra will make drivers and passengers even more satisfied?
FINGERS GLIDE OVER THE GAPS – CONSISTENT AND UNIFORM
Wolfgang Meintke’s answer focuses on the car’s appearance. “It’s quite something that this car is up to 200 kg lighter than its predecessor but appears more compact on the outside and more spacious on the inside,” he says. “However, the highly aesthetic design really takes my breath away. The workmanship is of top quality and done to exacting standards.” The chassis specialist, who claims to have an eagle eye and a deep aversion to even the most minute scratches and flaws, glide his fingers over the gaps. “They are consistent and uniform. It’s immediately clear that all departments, also our team here in Kaiserslautern, have delivered topnotch quality.” He then adds with a wink, “My employees can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not going to bring up any unpleasant subjects at the team meeting.”
“I’m more interested in what it’s like to use the car on a daily basis.”
Yet there are points of contention. The conversation between Meintke and Monika Loke, who works in After Sales, shows that he is quite taken with the new Astra’s exterior design, and particularly impressed by the front end. “The double logo bar appears to flow into the headlights, giving the car a wider appearance and a sporty look.”
Monika Loke has a completely different focus: “I’m more interested in what it’s like to use the car on a daily basis.” She is above all interested in comfort and safety, particularly when she’s driving at night. Loke currently drives a Corsa E, which features AFL+. She thinks it is great, but when she saw the lighting systems compared to side-by-side at the Astra presentation, “it really opened up my eyes.”
THE CONFIGURATION TOOL ON THE OPEL WEBSITE PROVIDES DETAILS
The new technology, the LED Matrix Light, or IntelliLux, works like AFL+ together with the Opel front camera and is now available for the first time in the compact class in the new Astra. Exterior Light Engineer Frank Langkabel explained the trick behind IntelliLux to Loke. “If the camera detects oncoming vehicles or vehicles in front, individual LEDs are shut off, yet the road ahead remains brightly illuminated. This way, the Matrix light turns night into day for the vehicle occupants – without blinding oncoming traffic.”
Afterwards, Loke wants to take a closer look at the lights and one of the interior features of the new Astra using the configuration tool on the Opel website. “The ergonomic seats are really fantastic,” she says, sharing Jürgen Scheppler’s opinion. The 52-year-old paves the way to homologation as a type tester for Vivaro and Movano vehicles. He likes to feel comfortable behind the wheel, particularly on long road trips during the holidays.
Still somewhat skeptical, Scheppler sits down in the seat with the seal of approval from the Campaign for Healthier Backs (Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V.). A few seconds later, he discovers the ‘magic’ button located to his left. Once he activates the seat’s massage function, Scheppler’s facial expression turns from anxious to relaxed. “Taking the time to recharge and rejuvenate is always a good thing,” he says, smiling.
Opel colleague Tilo Richter snaps his fingers. “Come on, we’re here to provide an objective analysis,” he says sternly but in jest. The Core Team Leader Transmission is interested in the quality of the dashboard.
“Taking the time to recharge and rejuvenate is always a good thing.”
Richter does not need to examine the car for long to come away satisfied. “The amount of switches and buttons has been reduced to a minimum.” From the touchscreen of the infotainment system to the climate control functions, he believes that the center console has been clearly designed. On the whole, Richter is impressed: “The setup in the cockpit reminds me of an iPad and other Apple devices. It contains several functions but is also easy to operate and exudes quality in terms of its look and feel.”
“The setup in the cockpit reminds me of an iPad.”
It is time for the last big test when Rade Grbic arrives. What does the OnStar online and service assistant have to offer? Grbic is a test driver in Dudenhofen. He can confirm that the Astra has significantly benefited from the new engines and weight reduction. “It’s as if someone has been working out every day for three years and is now ready to take on new challenges.” Yet Opel OnStar remains unchartered territory. Where to start? If in doubt, press the blue ‘On’ button on the center console.
A wise choice. The sound of a female voice, alert and friendly, fills the car. “Hello, Esther speaking. How can I help you?” Grbic, clearly impressed, first simply reacts with a grunt. He breathes a sigh of relief and states the obvious: “It’s like KITT from Knight Rider, but better.” Esther laughs and explains that she’s a real person, currently manning the Opel switchboard in Luton, England.
DRUGSTORE IN THE ALPS
Grbic asks various questions together with Richter. Available services include breakdown assistance throughout Europe, remote diagnostics, for example, for engine or tire pressure, navigation information, and much more. Grbic tests the navigation services by giving the address of his vacation home in the Alps, then asking where the nearest drugstore is. The address appears on the display five seconds later. Esther thanks them for the inquiry and wishes everyone a pleasant day.
Meintke, their colleague from Kaiserslautern, witnessed this scene as well as others. He is now no longer convinced that the fresh, stylish appearance of the new Astra is its most important feature. “I think everyone can discover something new to marvel at with this vehicle,” he says.