By Dave Abrahams
South African petrolheads still recall fondly the “Superboss” - the car that definitively broke the conservative Opel mould and showed that the company founded by Adam Opel - who once built a rocket-powered car just to prove that he could make it work - could also make a seriously hot hatch.
Despite the company's troubled recent history there are still performance junkies at the Opel Performance Centre willing to go a bit left of centre in search of kick-ass performance and it is them we have to thank for this little hellion: the Corsa OPC Nurburgring Edition.
First they re-wrote the ECU software, tweaked the turbo and uncorked the exhaust system to boost the 'standard' 1598cc OPC turbo engine from 141kW to 154kW, at the same 5850rpm, while increasing torque output from 230Nm to 250Nm (with 280 briefly available on overboost).
RAISING THE BASELINE
Then they dropped in a multi-plate mechanical limited-slip differential to reduce wheelspin (and torque steer!) and raised the baseline on all the electronic driver aids - stability, traction control and ABS - so you could use all that voomah to get the Nurburgring Edition from 0-100km/h in just 6.8 seconds, from 80-120 in 6.2, and hit 230km/h flat out.
Opel quotes fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100km in the combined average cycle, with carbon emissions of 178g/km; to put that in perspective, the motoring scribes on yesterday's launch drive were averaging a real-world 13.8 litres per 100km.
But straight-line speed alone will not get you a creditable lap time on Germany's longest and most demanding test circuit, so the OPC whitecoats dropped the three-door Corsa OPC's already-low ride height a further 20mm with special Bilstein springs over gas-charged, inverted dampers, and upspecced the braking with ventilated discs all round, the front pair gripped by specially-developed lightweight Brembo four-piston callipers with 10 percent more pad area than the pads used on the normal OPC.
Finally they bolted on 18” forged-alloy rims wrapped in low-profile 225/35 radials and a neat front spoiler lip, and put a little map of the iconic circuit on each B pillar.
The result is a very responsive (to the point that it gets a little nervous on poor-quality tarmac) little track monster that accelerates very nicely off the line until it hits 3000rpm in any of the first three gears and then kicks you in the kidneys while simultaneously tugging you gently but insistently towards the wrong side of the road.
Keep the revs up and it pulls through tight uphill corners like a superbike, brake hard before you turn in and it holds its line like a Jesuit priest through the nastiest of bumpy downhill turns.
Hoof it hard to pass slower traffic and the leather-trimmed, multifunction steering wheel comes alive in your hands as the rev-counter swings towards the red line at 6500 and the speedometer needle treats the national speed limit as a baseline.
But, the occasional jitters aside, it's still a remarkably civilised gentleman's carriage, neatly trimmed in black leather with white top-stitching, piano black inserts and 'Ring logos all over the place, the deeply welcoming Recaro sports buckets supporting you rather than clamping you in place.
A CUT ABOVE
Interior fit and finish is a cut above the usual hot-hatch level, as well it should be at this pricing, and the 'Ring Stinger comes with classy extras such as auto headlights and wipers, heated front seats and climate control.
The special Bilstein suspension is firm rather than harsh, telling you about every ripple in the road without imprinting it on the base of your skull.
All the controls are beautifully weighted, even the typically long-travel Opel clutch, which lends itself to perfectly-modulated hot launches with the front tyres trembling on the edge of wheelspin.
The Nurburgring Edition, even more than its siblings, rewards being driven with finesse. Bring your A game and it will make you feel like Mario Andretti; try to muscle it around and it will make you look like an amateur.
It comes in a choice of four colours, two of them unique to this model - a really loud metallic aptly named Grasshopper Green and a sophisticated reddish-brown metallic called Henna - and retails for R343 200, including a five-year or 120 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000km service plan.
Not for long however; only 65 have been allocated to South Africa and 40 of those were spoken for by the time they had landed.