It may look like an ordinary Cavalier… almost, it may feel like an ordinary Cavalier… almost, it may sound like an ordinary Cavalier…almost, but this Cavalier is as near as any of us are ever going to get to the fire breathing, 300 bhp, Cavaliers of the British Touring Car Championship, for the Turbo 4×4 is a demonic rep’s car from hell with more grunt than a grizzly bear with chronic indigestion.
I must admit to a sneaking regard for the real street sleeper, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, apparently just another family saloon but, under the skin, a raging maniac trying to claw its way out, Mary Poppins meets Jack Nicholson in a remake of the Shining.
This Cavalier looks just like any one of the other thousands of Cavaliers blatting up and down motorways all day, the difference being that there is an enormous power output in this one, controlled by a silky smooth 6. .. yes, 6, speed gearbox, laid down by an incredibly well set up 4×4 transmission and with race car like handling, in short it’ll blow most sports cars into the weeds yet sneak around town as smooth as a politician kissing babies.
But, before all of the whizz bangery, what of the Cavalier itself? I have always thought it to be one of the better looking saloons in it’s class, a design that has not aged since it’s introduction, a car that has sold so well because it is basically right, yet, in this case, it’s so baaadddd. A tidy wedge shape, all curvy panels with good aerodynamics and that pronounced Vauxhall family image, all with good interior space, 5 full seats and a voluminous boot yet, for the keen eyed only, a tiny turbo badge, exhausts like rainwater pipes and as mean a chin as Rocky Marciano.
The interior is sumptous, all in leather, with excellent, fully adjustable seats that really grip and a workmanlike dash containing very clear instrumentation and easily reached, shape coded, controls.
For this top of the shop Cavalier, Vauxhall have really raided the goody bag, power windows, sunroof, mirrors, central locking, a 6 speaker, RDS stereo, a 7 way trip computer, front foglights, ABS, driver’s side airbag, ultra-sonic alarm, the 4X4 Turbo has the lot, but this is not a car for the goodies, it’s a car for the jollies and that’s where it really delivers.
Power, enough of it to keep a fair sized third world country in electricity, comes from a superb, turbo, 4 cylinder, 2 litre, 16 valve alloy head, sequential port injected engine. 204 bhp and even more stunning, 206 lbs feet of torque from 2,400 rpm. The water cooled turbo is almost completely lag free, power delivery right on the button, seamless acceleration right through the rev range in all gears, Vauxhall have not just strapped on a big turbo, they’ve completly re-thought the top end of this engine to produce a sophisticated package that’s a dream to drive and goes like stink, capable of near 150 mph yet tractable enough to doodle along at 40 mph in sixth and still pull away without a change down.
The Getrag 6 speed box is a dream, slick and perfectly suited to the enormous torque spread, it’s pure delight to play with, 5 extremely close ratio gears and a genuine sixth gear overdrive that sees 70 mph come up with barely 2,500 rpm showing, which makes this barn storming Cavalier amazingly frugal, the trip computer showing me a 26 mpg average for some very spirited driving.
With 4 wheel drive all of the prodigious power can be got on the ground with amazing composure and stability, nary a trace of torque steer, the car continually delighting as it allows power to be applied so early on the exit of every bend, all in amazing safety with superbly engineered suspension, surely a product of the BTCC successes, tremendous grip from the very low aspect ratio 205/50 tyres, nil roll, inch perfect placing from one of the best power steering setups around, perfectly weighted and all backed up by stunning braking from massive discs – vented at the front – and ABS.
A truly well sorted and incredibly well balanced handling package. The Cavalier 4×4 Turbo is a really practical supercar, 5 good seats, a large boot, lightning fast, supremely well sorted, perhaps the ultimate Q car, so involving and rewarding, a real joy to drive. I will even admit to quite liking it!
TOP SPEED 149 MPH
0-60 6 SECONDS
FUEL CONSUMPTION 24 MPG [URBAN CYCLE] 42 MPG [CONSTANT 56 MPH]
First Published 1993 – Article © Graham Benge 2007