Berlin Olympic Stadium. Around a thousand cars, well-known brands from Lada to Lamborghini, in all sizes, horsepower levels and years of manufacture. And all of them are unmistakable one-offs, reinterpretations, so to speak, imaginatively and excitingly redesigned. “Tuning” can be so much more than just upgrading engines. And nothing illustrates this more impressively than an “XS Carnight”. Right in the middle of it at the “20 Years of XSCN” at the end of July: a new Opel Astra plug-in hybrid. And what a car!
Low, lower, “Astra Hybrid XS”
The basis for the unmistakable individual: a five-door model in Arctic White, the roof in black, the High Gloss Black Pack turns chrome into high-gloss black. Finished with Opel Motorsport livery on the flanks and 20-inch rims in turbine design. The wheel arches are filled to a measured gap – with exactly as much space as the 245/30 tyres need to turn. In addition, there is a wealth of detail-obsessed individualisation. An example? Even the holes for the number plate holders have been removed for an even cleaner look, the number plates stick to the bumper with magnets instead. And then this Astra lies as low as an Opel has rarely lain.
The show car bears the name of the organiser: “Astra Hybrid XS”. The tuners from Freital in Saxony had invited guests to an “XS Carnight” for the 20th year. And with this electrifying creation of their own, they wanted to offer their guests a special eye-catcher. And they came in greater numbers than ever before for this special birthday – private and highly professional mechanics from all over Europe. And because the “Astra Hybrid XS” is also a reminiscence of Opel motorsport history, Opel brought several models from circuit racing, Formula 3 and DTM to the meeting in Berlin.
But how did the “Astra Hybrid XS” project come about in the first place? Peter Junghanns is Opel Manager for Brand Strategy, he coordinates the cooperation with the “XS” tuners. It was he who introduced the team from Freital to the Astra L during a visit to the Classic Workshop in Rüsselsheim. That was in March. And the boys were immediately hooked. Junghanns‘ brief: “Theoretically, you can push the full programme, the main thing is that it turns out well!” Absolute liberty, the dream of every creative mechanic.
Afterwards, the guests were inspired by Opel Classic – and decided to add reminiscences of Opel motorsport history to their Astra interpretation. Above all, they wanted to revive elements of the legendary Manta 400. And the “Astra Hybrid XS” was to celebrate its premiere at the “Performance and Style Days” in Hanover at the beginning of July.
“This hybrid convinced us straight away”
“We’re usually ambivalent about electric cars,” recalls XS team boss Andreas Füllborn, “but this hybrid convinced us straight away.” In the truest sense of the word: the tuners started their journey home with the Astra Plug-in Hybrid. “We drove the first 70 kilometres electrically, then all the way to Dresden with only 3.9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres – amazing!” And that was already clear: there was nothing more for them to do about this powertrain with its system output of 133 kW/180 hp and 360 Newton metres of maximum torque. The interior also appealed to the car lovers: “Everything looks extremely clear and modern. Materials and a first-class entertainment package. The competition should be prepared for a lot.”
The project posed a number of challenges: the foiling, for example. It was supposed to show the classic Opel motorsport colours, but matt, not glossy. A modern interpretation, inspired by the Opel Manta 400. Since matt yellow was not available, a special design was needed. Modifying the chassis proved to be tricky. The tuners equipped the Astra with a “GRINDS air suspension”, which was installed with original shock absorbers and a height sensor system. The supplier delivered the complex technology quickly and on time, but it made little sense to begin installation before the intended wheels were at hand.
Rims import from the USA
Andreas Füllborn had fallen in love with RVNT Forged rims – “it had to be them and no others”. A fantastic choice, as would become apparent in the end. But the noble forging first had to be imported from the USA. And that took time. And the target date for the presentation was approaching. And it would probably not have been possible to keep it, had it not been for a saviour in need: Michael Körner from the tuning company “Carstyle me” in Dresden.
In the days leading up to the PS Days, he worked night shifts to get the XS-Astra ready, sleeping only three hours a night. “Someone has to be a car nut in the best sense of the word to pull this off,” Peter Junghanns said when he heard about this feat of strength in the final metres. But the result speaks for itself. The visitors of the PS Days were thrilled, the guests of the “20 Years of XSCN” in Berlin three weeks later no less. “What pleased me most were the compliments from fans who actually drive cars from other manufacturers – at least for the moment,” says Peter Junghanns.
The refinement continues
On 17 September, the next “20 Years of XSCN” will take place at Wörthersee – and this year, the Astra Hybrid will be there in its XS refined version. Another opportunity to view the unique car will be at the Zurich Car Show from 10 to 13 November. “By then, however, its design will have changed again,” promises Peter Junghanns. The XS team has a few more ideas in the meantime.