Vauxhall GTX Xperimental Concept drive

The GTX Xperimental Concept is the first taste of Vauxhall’s more focused new design direction. We were invited to take this one-off prototype for a drive.

This is a teaser-trailer for Vauxhall’s next generation of cars. It’s dynamic and sporty, but not overly aggressive. It’s aspirational but still absolutely relatable. It occupies the footprint of a small crossover, but features none of the clunkiness. There’s no sense it’s derived from a better-looking conventional hatchback.

Video: Vauxhall GTX Xperimental Concept

From the ground up, every inch of the GTX has been methodically thought out. Usually, the most important moments of a concept’s life are those just after the curtain drops at a motor show. However, this car’s significance is much more than skin-deep.

That clean-looking snout is home to the ‘Vizor’ – an arsenal of sensors that tomorrow’s electric and autonomous cars will all have. It’s also the uncluttered new face of Vauxhalls for 2020 and beyond, designed to mimic the clean-cut design of a bezel-less smartphone.

The ‘wing’ graphics are quintessentially Vauxhall and have been part of its design DNA for a decade. They also top a cluster of matrix LED lights that can be controlled via an app. The light-up Griffin that sits proudly in the centre of the Vizor glows green when the car is in autonomous mode.

Vauxhall GTX Xperimental Concept drive

Inside the Vauxhall of the future

Inside, there’s more measured but oh-so-cool design. The floating seats give an airiness to the cabin, as does the panoramic roof and the enormous doors that sprawl outward from the middle of the car. Where you’d ordinarily find a B-pillar, there is just open space.

Climb inside and the beautifully hewn and Alcantara-clad steering wheel is outdone only by the large ‘Pure Panel’ display. Far from being a retina-searing tech-fest of apps, distractions and peripheral information, it’s central to what Vauxhall calls a ‘digital detox’. That’s technology for a measured use – refining what’s displayed to what you actually need, where you need it.

Driving the Vauxhall GTX Concept

It’s rare that one-off design studies like the GTX are in fact drivable. Regardless, I find myself behind the wheel, ready for a cruise in this multi-million-pound prototype.

Vauxhall GTX Xperimental Concept drive

Beside me is one of the men who helped build the GTX – a six-month process – and who is also charged with its care as it travels the world. These bespoke cars are delicate and tricky, with parts made from scratch. Still, the GTX doesn’t look, from behind the wheel at least, like an intimidating prototype sent back in time. The Pure Panel would have smacked of far-off fantasy 10 years ago. Not so much today, in a world of Teslas and Audi Virtual Cockpit.

We ‘fire it up’. A couple of clicks of the centre console-mounted control button and we’re in drive, although not crawling away like a conventional automatic. A delicate grasp of the wheel, a considered touch of the pedal and away we go.

The car features clever 17-inch wheels that meld with the tyre to look like 20s. The rubber chirps out a weird tune as the stylised tread pattern slips across the hangar floor, sounding like a perfectly choreographed basketball team squeaking about a stadium. I’m warned by the car’s companion of how slippery the surface can get, given a journalist had previously spun the 2016 GT Concept on a similar surface previously.

The electric motor, as is typical, delivers decent punch when you ask it to, but I don’t press too hard. Nor did I read too much into it in terms of imagining what the new electric Corsa will be like.

We approach the end of the hangar and, all of a sudden, warnings about the dodgem-like steering become a reality. Turn the steering wheel, wait a few seconds and the road wheels catch up. There’s no actual direct mechanical link between the two – and no wheel-return when you leave it on lock, either. How oddly manual

Regardless of the peculiarities, it’s not long before you get into a rhythm with the GTX. It’s obvious this is nothing like a production car, but to experience the view out, across this new futuristic dash that should be landing in Vauxhalls soon, was interesting indeed.

We have an in-depth interview with Vauxhall’s vice president of design, Mark Adams, coming soon. In the meantime, it’s good to see Vauxhall so enthused for its future and its new PSA owners so happy with the direction it’s taking. Suffice to say, we are too.

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