The aggressive lines of Vauxhall's championship-winning Astra Coupé have been filling TV screens in the past year. And after cleaning up on the British Touring Car circuit, the Luton-based manufacturer has its sights set on Britain's roads with its new Astra 888 Coupé. Prepared by Triple Eight Race Engineering, the chaps who fettle the Touring Cars, the Astra Turbo-based 888 really looks the part.
The body is a lean but dynamic-looking mass of chin spoilers and skirts, but mercifully, the overall effect is more motorsport than lads' mag, although the huge rear wing nearly takes it too far.
Inside, though, the boy-racer theme takes over. The alcantara-clad Sparco bucket seats are set too high for an ideal driving position, and there is the showy addition of 888-embossed aluminium trim on both gearknobs and pedals. The gear selector gate, hand brake and steering wheel are all covered in the same bright blue alcantara as the seats, but a tacky centre console dominates the driver's view, creating a distracting reflection in the windscreen.
The 888 uses the Turbo's excellent 187bhp 2.0-litre powerplant, which pushes the coupé from 0-60mph in only seven seconds and on to a claimed top speed of 152mph. With minimal turbo lag and the rasp of a sports exhaust behind you it feels even faster, though, and the punchy short-shift gearbox makes light work of building speed. The steering has been tightened, while uprated springs and dampers combine with the tarmac-scraping ride height to pin the 888 flat and balance it perfectly through the corners.
The Astra is superbly stable and involving for a road car - but there are some inevitable compromises. After a couple of hours the lack of padding in the seat starts to take its toll, and this is compounded by a spine-jarring ride. Super-stiff suspension and the outlandish 17-inch OZ Racing alloys pick up every imperfection in the road, providing teeth-rattling feedback.
Vauxhall's road-going homage to racing success feels every bit the sporting thoroughbred, the 888 is an entertaining balance between road and race car. Just be ready to take the rough with the smooth if using it every day.
With its combination of head-turning looks, race-like road manners and £20,995 price tag, the 888's limited production run of only 100 will certainly be snapped up.
At a glance
* Special edition Vauxhall Astra 888 on sale now, priced £20,995
* Built by the manufacturer's BTCC-winning racing team
* Production limited to 100 cars