1980s / 1990s / Chevrolet / German / Opel / Vauxhall

25 years ago: Opel introduces the Calibra

opel-calibra-7Opel is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Calibra. Introduced as the latest in a long line of large Opel coupes, the Calibra was presented to the public for the first time at the 1989 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The Calibra’s design was slightly inspired by the Vectra sedan but it looked noticeably more aggressive thanks to thin headlights, a smaller radiator grille and a raked windshield. The sleek overall silhouette gave the Calibra a drag coefficient of 0.26, making it one of the most aerodynamic full-production cars on sale in the early 1990s.

The similarities between the Calibra and the Vectra were more than skin-deep. The Calibra was underpinned by a modified Vectra platform and the bulk of its mechanical components were sourced directly from the Opel parts bin. At launch, Opel offered the coupe with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that made 115 horsepower in base form or 150 horsepower when tuned and fitted with a sixteen-valve cylinder head. The sixteen-valve engine allowed the Calibra to cruise Germany’s Autobahn at speeds of up to 138 mph (223 km/h).

Power was sent to the front wheels via a five-speed close-ratio manual transmission, though a four-speed automatic unit was available as an option. Another extra-cost feature was a full-time four-wheel drive system that markedly improved handling.


The lineup grew in 1992 with the addition of the Calibra Turbo, a range-topping model equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, 16-inch alloy wheels and, like its name implied, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 204 horsepower and 206 lb-ft. of torque. The turbo setup enabled the Calibra to reach 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in 6.8 seconds before topping out at 152 mph (245 km/h).

In 1994, the Calibra was again upgraded with a 2.5-liter V6 engine that was also found under the hood of the Vectra and the Omega. The six made 170 horsepower but it was not available with all-wheel drive for packaging reasons.

Opel sent off the Calibra by introducing a limited-edition model called Last Edition in early 1997. Last Edition cars came standard with BBS alloy wheels, leather upholstery, A/C and a sport-tuned chassis. Buyers could choose between the aforementioned V6 or a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill that made 136 horsepower.

Calibra production ended in August of 1997 after 238,647 examples were built by Opel in Germany and by Valmet in Finland. Like many Opels, the Calibra was sold as a Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, a Chevrolet in South Africa and a Holden in Australia.

Opel did not develop a successor to the Calibra and it has not offered a large coupe since. Rumors of a two-door variant of the current Insignia that would be billed as a heir to the Calibra and the Manta have never materialized.

Photos courtesy of Opel’s archives department.

2 thoughts on “25 years ago: Opel introduces the Calibra

  1. Pingback: Post-production: The week in review | Ran When Parked

  2. This looked sooo good when launched, but has aged badly – like all zeitgeisty cars. My Jaguar XJS was designed in 1974 and built in 1990, but somehow seems more attractive and interesting, whereas I remember thinking the opposite when the Calibra came out. It once seemed amazingly slick and futuristic; now it’s blobby and bland. How times change…

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