Opel GSe Family

GSi, OPC, GSe. Opel is an automobile manufacturer that has developed sub-brands for the sporty versions of the vehicles it produces in each era. The name tags of the sporty models it produces have always changed; there used to be Astra GSi, then it became Astra OPC, and now it is Astra GSe. So, what has changed?

In the 1990s, Opel, the best-selling brand in Europe, also had sport versions of its main models, namely the GSi or “Grand Sport Injection” models, including the Corsa GSi, Astra GSi, and Vectra GT, saying to users, “Look, I can do these too.” All three models had details that indicated their strength; Astra had a different hood beside its bumpers, while Vectra adorned its body with 5-spoke aerodynamic wheels and red details. The Corsa GSi, with its 1.8 naturally aspirated engine, produced 125 horsepower, but it couldn’t gain the same recognition as its rival, the 106 GTI, during that period. The Astra and Vectra, on the other hand, showcased their red-capped engines, offering 136 or 150 horsepower options with their 2.0 naturally aspirated engines.

Producing sporty models was crucial during that era. It was an area where brands demonstrated their power, alongside upper-segment vehicles. Opel even collaborated with Lotus to produce the Opel Lotus Omega, which, until the arrival of the E39 BMW M5 in 1998, was the fastest and best-accelerating 4-door car of the 90s. Then things changed; GSi went away, and OPC arrived.

The OPC (Opel Performance Center) family was wild. Opel was sticking the OPC label on almost every model. We understood having hot hatches like the Corsa OPC and Astra OPC, but would there be sport models in the MPV class? There were the Meriva OPC and even the 7-seater Zafira OPC, the Vectra OPC with a naturally aspirated high-displacement engine, and subsequently, the naturally aspirated Insignia OPC. Moreover, Opel had the suspensions designed by Lotus for the OPC family. On paper, they were all good cars, but were they successful, were they reasonable?

They never became the best in terms of acceleration, nor did they have the highest top speed. The Astra H OPC had a 2.0-liter turbo engine with 240 horsepower but wasn’t as good as the Megane RS, which was 40 horsepower less powerful. Despite being more powerful, it couldn’t gain the same recognition as the Golf GTI. They were very handsome, had technologies beyond their class, like the adjustable suspension and steering stiffness with IDS+. Still, none of these could hide their flaws; OPC models were heavy, very heavy. Being under the General Motors umbrella, they naturally used those platforms, heavy chassis, cumbersome engine, poor transmission. They were so heavy that when the Insignia A was facelifted, Opel managed to reduce its weight by around 150 kilograms. However, they still couldn’t lighten it enough. The OPC, never successful, died, giving its seat to the revived GSi, and it faded away.

Corsa GSi and Insignia GSi models were introduced. Corsa GSi was nothing more than an update that came to the Corsa OPC. Insignia GSi was the last sports car produced by Opel on GM platforms, and it wasn’t expected to be particularly ambitious with a relatively low power of 260 horsepower for its class. Later, Opel was sold to PSA, which started making a profit in its first year under the PSA umbrella, marking a significant change for Opel. The GSi was shelved as Opel transitioned under PSA.

Upon joining PSA, Opel initially moved away from its inefficient engines. PSA engineers went through challenging processes when they saw Opel’s Corsa F project, saying, “Are you crazy?” Opel had to redesign the Corsa with PSA platforms and engines within six months. Opel had no hybrid or electric models in its product range, while PSA had hybrid and electric models. Opel’s first hybrid model became the Grandland X Hybrid4, using the same setup as the DS7, with 2 electric motors and a 1.6-liter PureTech engine. With a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.1 seconds, it became Opel’s fastest model in the last 10 years, although Opel did not market it as a sports model until 2023.

Upon hearing the GSe name, everyone got excited, wondering if Opel’s old powerful models were making a comeback. However, as details emerged, it started to disappoint. The Grandland, before the facelift, was trying to convince us that its hybrid model was a sporty version, while the Astra was offering a car even less powerful than the OPC from 20 years ago, and it was a hybrid. But was it really like that?

Opel added adaptive damping to the lower suspension in the GSe family, along with a more responsive and sharp steering system. The GSe models, claimed to be the most efficient sporty versions in their class, carried both the title of the most efficient Grandland and Astra, as well as the fastest Grandland and Astra. Yes, the produced models might not have been the fastest Opels, but their ability to be correct and successful is debatable. Is the Astra as sensible as the Golf GTI, which is 20 horsepower more powerful and 5,000 euros cheaper? In the long run, economically, the answer to this question is yes. But wouldn’t it be nicer if the 300 horsepower unit used in the Grandland GSe were also used in the Opel Astra GSe? What are your thoughts on Opel’s GSe family?

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