How to lose your license with a smile?
Opel Corsa OPC Nürburgring Edition 2013
On the famous Top Gear test track it throws a 1:31:0 in snowy conditions and beats some much more powerful cars, like the Speedster Turbo, the BMW E46 M3, the Nissan 350Z and even the Mégane RS. Moreover, this car was fine-tuned by Smokin' Jo Winkelhock at the Nordschleife. And when he proclaims that this is a good car to drive, you can bet the farm that it is..
Opel takes the car seriously too, so they squeezed out the last drop the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine could muster. The final numbers are 210 PS and 250-280 Nm of torque with overboost. And remember: that amount was enough to make you feel your Passat 1.9 TDI sporty.
It's a completely different story when this kind of power comes out of a small and revvy turbocharged, petrol-eater four-pot. It's available in a range that no diesel can dream about. Furthermore, every single horsepower carries a measly 6 kilograms of weight. Just one more than a Ferrari 360 Modena. The turbocharger with variable geometry gives you noticeable boost from about 1500 rpm, from 2200 is fully loaded until 5800, then the power peak takes on and the result is a perfectly usable engine with the temperament of a pitbull.
It takes 6.8 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h. Shortly before the hundred mark we need to upshift, but its best attribute is elasticity. Even after a week of madness, It could still surprise me with its furious soul and hunger for revs. If you think that this engine will suck up all the petrol in the world, you're wrong. At normal driving normally (a nearly impossible task), the Eco-function asks for the 5th gear as soon as you reach the 50 km/h mark and the engine can do that without rattle and shake. It eats 8.8-9 liters for 100 kilometers (31-31.3 mpg) which is a consumption rate I did not honestly expect from a car like this. However, if the engine needed 25 liters of fine Hungarian petrol I would have gladly filled the tank while giggling like a girl. Why?
Because as soon as I squeezed the car through the first corners of my beloved countryside-road near the Bős-Nagymaros hydro plant, I had to admit that LSD is the real drug of the car-enthusiast. But this LSD was not synthesized by a Swiss scientist with weird eyebrows. No, it was invented by a man called Ferdinand Porsche and developed by a company named ZF in the 1930's. God bless them for that. And the guy at the Opel Performance Center who tuned the torque bias ratios with such perfection that I only felt in a Civic Type R Championship White Edition. A Mazda 3 MPS can only dream about what this little gem of a car can do on the road.
The racing-style seat grabs and holds my endorphin-filled body. Its perfect shape doesn't need extra strain from my back or neck but a few miles later I know that this car could be understood only by those who were born under a hydraulic jack with empty can of racing oil as their favorite childhood toy.
For the passenger – be he or she your wife or a troll living in a dark caves in relationship with a computer – this is going to be just a narrow, noisy tin. But that's fine, since only five hundred are made, so there's a chance that it reaches only the real car-lovers. Only they can rate it properly. It scares the hell out of the average car enthusiast.
They would never understand how beautifully the progressive suspension stiffens up, what a nice piece of engineering lies between the wheels and the steering wheel. It has so much response that you can even tell the colour of the raccoon's eye you drove over.. The Bilstein shock absorbers with a small Nürburgring-logo on them are the best in this category. Everything we need to enjoy driving a real hot-hatch is nearly perfect: the seat position, the distance between the steering wheel-gearlever and pedals. Only a handful cars are made that reach this level of perfection.
I caught myself spending the whole day on the same few kilometers of twisty roads, rushing the corners with rage and a stupid smile on my face. I really enjoyed the direct steering with only two turns between end positions. Every hard braking, every shiftback was a joy, every challenge of the waving asphalt was an adrenaline rush, the lunatic run between the white lines was flawless. It's fast as hell.
During my reckless but truly pleasant driving experience, the Corsa OPC NE got under my skin. It slowly perched on my cerebellum as a laughing parasite and took total control of my nervous system. The turns and hairpins open up in front of me like Cleopatra does for Antonius and owing to the perfection of the LSD, the inner wheel pulls me in with such an ease.
It's not a heavy-hitter with zillions of horsepower and mud-like weight. It's a light-footed ballerina, unbelievably skillful and with shoes glued to the ground. The stability – even in very sharp corners – is insane, you need to do really drastic moves to lose the tail but even then, it stays absolutely controllable. Just stay on the throttle and the car knows what to do to get you out of trouble.
Its rawness makes you dependent, and as the twin, fat exhaust starts its vroom-vroom again, you forget every other thing. Your everyday problems are gone, it totally cleans your mind and brings back the old days, when real rebels walked the Earth. This car belongs among them. It's the joint in Keith Richards mouth, it's Robert Plant's naked belly in 1973, it's Muhammad Ali shouting I am the Greatest. This is rock'n roll on wheels.
If somebody told me back in 2010 that one day I would write down that Opel made a better small hot-hatch from a Corsa than the Clio RS, well, I would have called him a moron and set him on fire. And now? Here it is.
The only problem? It is completely sold out. All 500 of them are gone. If you want one, you need to buy it used. It's possible to find pieces in good condition for around 20 000 Euros which is still a cartload of money for such a small car – and for a Corsa, for Christ's sake – but trust me: you won't be disappointed because it's worth every cent. Just take care of your driving license.
Because we can do things for money or from love. But nothing is better that doing things for pleasure. And that's what this car is all about.