The Opel Calibra, also known as the Vauxhall Calibra in the United Kingdom, the Chevrolet Calibra in South America, and the Holden Calibra in Australia and New Zealand is a sports car engineered and produced by German automaker Opel between 1989 and 1997, but sold until 1999 in the UK.
The Calibra was introduced to counter the Japanese sports coupes of the late-1980s and early-1990s, and is based around the running gear of the first-generation Opel Vectra, which had been launched in 1988.
Calibra production was based in the Opel factory in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and the Valmet Automotive factory in Uusikaupunki, Finland, where production was consolidated in November 1995.
The Opel Calibra was styled by the German Designer, Erhard Schnell. As a front-wheel drive coupé based on the Vectra chassis, its ride and handling are not significantly better than that of the large family car from which it grew. On its launch in 1989, the Calibra was the most aerodynamic production car in the world. This was glorified in an advert on British television during 1990.
The eight valve model was, however, the most aerodynamically efficient Opel ever, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.26. It remained the most aerodynamic mass production car for the next 10 years, until the Honda Insight and Audi A2 were launched in 1999 with a Cd of 0.25. All later 16V, V6, 4x4 and turbo models had a worse Cd of 0.29 due to changes in cooling system, underbody, use of spoked wheels and glass detail.
During its lifetime, the Calibra was much more popular in Europe and outsold its nearest rival, the Ford Probe, which was considered to be underpowered and too American for most European drivers. However in the UK, it failed to outsell the Rover 200 Coupé which offered comparable performance, though without 4 wheel drive in the top model.
Throughout the production run, several special edition models were launched. This began with the 1993 SE1 and ran through to the SE9 in 1997. These limited run editions had often unique aspects. For example; Solar Yellow paint on the SE2, or Icelandic Blue on the SE6. Neither colours were found on any other Calibra. In 1995, the Vectra A was replaced, but Calibra production continued until 1997. Although a smaller coupe (the Tigra) was available, the marque was left without a mid-sized coupé until the Astra Coupé was launched in 2000, and with the introduction of the Opel Speedster in 2001, four years after the Calibra was discontinued, Opel finally offered a sports car again.
Power was initially from 2.0 litre 8-valve (85 kW/115 bhp C20NE) and 16-valve fuel-injected (110 kW/150 bhp C20XE) four-cylinder redtop petrol engines. In 1992 a turbocharged 2.0 litre engine (150 kW/204 bhp)(a C20LET, the turbocharged version of the C20XE) was added to the range. With four-wheel drive, a six-speed Getrag manual transmission (F28/6) and a claimed top speed of 245 km/h (152 mph), this flagship model finally gave the Calibra the dynamics to match its looks. The Turbo model was also notable for the extreme negative camber (inward lean) of its rear wheels, which is apparent even from a cursory visual inspection.
In mid-1993 a 125 kW/167 hp 2.5 litre V6 (C25XE or SE4) was introduced. Available with both manual and automatic transmissions, the V6 was not as fast as the Turbo, but was rather more civilised, and proved to be more reliable than the complex four-wheel drive model. 1995 saw the introduction of the X20XEV Ecotec engine, a new version of the classic C20XE 16-valve or "red top" engine. This marked a reduction in power from 150 bhp (112 kW) to 136 bhp (101 kW) for the 16-valve version, although the Turbo continued with the C20LET.
- 2.0 litre 8-valve SOHC I4 - 115 PS (85 kW) (all years) (C20NE)
- 2.0 litre 16-valve DOHC I4 - 150 PS (110 kW) (1990–1995) (C20XE or redtop)
- 2.0 litre 16-valve DOHC 'Ecotec' I4 - 136 PS (100 kW) (1995–1997) (X20XEV)
- 2.0 litre 16-valve DOHC turbocharged I4 - 204 PS (150 kW)(201 bhp) (1992–1997) (C20LET)
- 2.5 litre 24-valve DOHC 'Ecotec' V6 - 170 PS (125 kW) (1993–1997) (C25XE) '94-'96; (X25XE) '97
The last Calibra Turbos were produced in early 1997 before a final run of Calibra Turbo Limited Editions were rolled out. These were all finished in jet black paintwork with Irmscher spoiler, BBS RX 16" alloys and colour-coded body fittings. This final incarnation was also lowered by 35mm on Irmscher springs and dampers. The interior was heated cream leather, with a steering wheel trimmed in grey leather and a plaque showing the build number mounted on the centre console.
In addition to a four-speed automatic transmissions that was available on all models except the C20LET (although some countries such as Australia did not sell the C20XE with the four-speed auto), there were five manual gearboxes for the Calibra (all of which were 5-speed gearboxes, except the 6-speed F28/6).
- F16CR-5 - Fitted to early 2.0 litre SOHC NA (i.e. C20NE)
- F18CR-5 - Fitted to late 2.0 litre SOHC NA and late 2.0 litre DOHC NA (i.e. C20NE, X20XEV)
- F20 - Fitted to early 2.0 litre DOHC NA (i.e. C20XE)
- F25 - Fitted to 2.5 litre NA (i.e. C25XE, X25XE)
- F28/6 - Fitted to 2.0 litre Turbo (i.e. C20LET)
The transfer gearbox in the 4x4 models - the same box was used in the Vauxhall Cavalier 4x4 - was somewhat on the flimsy side, liable to suffer damage from conditions such as minor differences in tyre wear or tyre pressure between front and rear axles. Since front and rear tyres would naturally wear at different rates in normal driving, it was necessary to swap front with rear tyres every 1500 miles. All four tyres had to be of the same make and model, and all four tyres had to be replaced at the same time - if one tyre was damaged or punctured, the three remaining good tyres also had to be replaced. In addition there were other maintenance requirements which were both exacting and unusual. Neglect of these points through ignorance or a misconceived attempt to save money was common, and was likely to lead to very expensive failures of the transfer gearbox.