I've tried a couple of Vectra's before, Its always been the older turbo diesel version and so perhaps not the most pleasant version available.
The suspension of the Vectra wasn't great, it was fine on smooth roads and motorways other than its rather basic feeling rear suspension which drew adverse comments from rear seat passengers. But it really was all at sea over rougher twistier roads, when the combination of very limited rev range and power , and the handling of a drunken camel made it a most unpleasant experience.
I cant say I was overly enamored with the interior of the TD Vectra either. These things are all relative to the competition of course and in quantifiable terms the Vectra's a fine perfectly practical modern car, but It lacks that little bit of something special, So much as I tried to like Vauxhalls latest stab at the Middle range market, it kept falling short.
So if we accept that the Vectra is a decent looking and practical car,
and its offered with a likely sounding 2.5 litre V6, with its interior
upgraded to top of the line CDX spec, then maybe we can stay away from
rough roads and finally learn to love the Vectra.
On paper it all looks so promising, Estate body Full leather and wood trim, electric power of a long list of gadgets, Air Conditioning, Heated Seats, Rear load cover, built in dog guard, roof rails anon, anon. If nothing else this Vectra should be extra comfortable and extra practical.
First Appearances are very promising, the Vectra's not a bad looker in Hatchback form, and unlike many, the Estate looks genuinely designed to be one rather than just a hatch back with a fish tank tacked in the back. The roof rails and Alloys add a touch of elegance, though it was disconcerting to find only 195 tyres on the rims, considering the underpowered oil burner runs 185 section rubber.
The Elegant exterior hides a genuinely useful interior, the large square
boot, plus split fold rear seats produces space that whilst not as big (read
wide) as some of it competitors, is still larger then many of us would ever
really use. The Vectra Toes the narrow line between good looking lifestyle
estates like the A4 Avant, and the Volumous but dubious looking workhorses like
the Mondeo Estate.
The rear dog guard is a great touch for those of us who share our lives with mutts, and being built in it always available and slots securely into the roof stopping frustrated little paws from pulling it down easily.
So we have a great place to stick the dogs, and can take time to look around the CDX, top of the range, cant be bettered, interior. First thing that strikes you is the wood inlays on the dash centre. Or should I say lack of wood inlays, Or should I say that which pretends to be wood smack you right between the eyes like an ice pick, in fact to claim the lumps of plastic look anything like wood at all is stretching it a bit far to say the least. Not only do they not look remotely like wood, but they look far worse than the normal plastics that surround it. The dash is one thing that looks bad but at least you don't have to touch it. The same cant be said for the matching gear knob which not only looks bad but feels bad as well.
The cheesy plastic brown stuff at least diverts your attention from the fact that very little has been done to the Dash. The same fussy clocks are still there. The same steering wheel wrapped in a thin leather sheath. There's a plethora of new added buttons of course, a big air con unit, and a large enhanced trip computer in the radio clock display, but there's no extra clocks and no disguising the cheap Vectra under pinnings.
Leather seats , hmm , Leather seats? Well yes they are seats , and yes they are leather covered . But it looks like Vauxhall took the standard Vectra Seats and had you granny cover them with the thinnest cheapest Leather that its buyers could find after scouring the entire known Universe. There's also a small bit of Leather on the door panels, but really, after you've sampled the out break of leather in Vauxhalls own Calibra this really starts to look very disappointing.
None of its going to kill you, its all fairly comfortable, its just so cheesy and low rent that it really grates on your sensibilities .
The whole interior has a feeling about it that suggests it was created by a new designer, with little real skill or experience, who just worked too hard to create something special. Take a look at the centre arm rest which looks like an Alien head dreamed up by HR Geiger , would a normal rectangular box with a slot for the handbrake not look so much better. Adding lots more gizmos doesn't so much make it look like a dogs dinner, as a dogs breakfast, dinner, tea and supper.
It may irritate you, but you can live with the interior if the driving experience is any kop. Making the biggest impression on the driving experience in this car is of course the 2.5 litre V6 quad cam motor.
Does it sound a little over the top, is there really any need/call for a Vectra estate to run 138mph and 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds.
Course there is, if for no other reason than because they can , progress marches relentlessly on no matter how much the anti car Luddites want to freeze us in time. So okay the 140 top end is purely academic for most of us but there is still no law about how fast you can get to 70 (yet!).
Those figures suggest prodigious top end power , but that's only a small part of the story from this car. Its not the published figures but the way the V6 unit performs at every rev point, in each gear at all times. From the moment you start to release the light clutch, and it begins to bite, you realize there's little need to rev it much at this point as the unit has decent torque from tick over onwards. But its already straining at the leash awaiting its freedom. Until the road clears its a strong, smooth, honest, fuss free unit and will trickle along in high gears without so much as a Murmur. When the opportunity arises though its persona changes, it revs hard and happily from nothing to red line firing the Vectra along at a most invigorating rate. The engines harnessed to a normal GM five speed box. The box is easy enough if a little notchy into each gear, its not particularly nasty change just not anything to write home about.
Make use of the box and you can make the Vectra really fly, bouncing the V6 off the redline. Whilst the modest capacity Quad cam 24 valve Engine will happily do the tacho tango, that's not really the way to enjoy its output, best way is to roll gently out of a tight bend pulling minimal revs in third gear, and then bury the throttle and feel the Vectra charge right round the clock, like its being pulled by a giant elastic band. It was amusing to watch and follow at safe distance a Renault Megane Coupe and a Jaguar XJ6 jockeying through traffic, around a round about and on to a dual carriage way. It was easy to keep pace just using the flexibility of third, and even more amusing to see their faces as a Vectra Estate eased past just slipping into fourth gear.
It really is a nice power unit it even has a decent sound track sounding like a (very) muted motorcycle, It has a really tight, responsive feel, constantly feeling like your holding it back, Its high revving yet strong on torque low down. Its not quite as smooth as a small bore Audi Six but it doesn't feel as flat as one either.
I didn't have the chance to take the Vectra Estate on the rough switching back roads that may be its nemesis, so for now we will give it the benefit of the doubt and hope Vauxhall have tweaked a little more than the 195 tyres. On smooth roads it all feels standard Vectra right down to the dull thudding rear suspension. With the diesel Vectra you have to try to keep cornering speed up to make up for the all (and that isn't much) or nothing Motor. At least with the V6 you can ease around the bends and then Gas it down the straights, So you may even find that the engine makes it feel better down the twisties just because you don't have to place as much reliance on the chassis.
The Vectra is a perfectly practical Estate and whilst the interior maybe an eyesore, its a comfortable place to sit. Its also not the kind of Interior that your really going to baulk at putting big, nasty, dirty loads into because its too posh. The engine though is a beaut, a real treat in any car, the only shame here is its shackled to one of the most mediocre chassis in the Vauxhall range. Now If it was attached to something more interesting like a Calibra or an Omega, then we would really be talking.
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