The cars we loved.

1989-1997 Opel Calibra: GM’s Shape of Things to Come

1990 Opel Calibra

1990 Opel Calibra 2.0 16V

One of the most attractive designs to come out of GM’s European operations was the Opel Calibra. The sleek shape improved the cars stability at high-speed, but with only small 2 liter 8 valve engines initially offered, the Calibra was not setting any speed records. The car’s main strength was its design. Styled in Germany by an American Wyane Cherry, Calibra influenced GM car design around the world. The third generation American J car platform (Cavalier/Sunfire) was greatly influenced by the sleek lines of the Calibra.  Inside the modern comfortable cabin looked more like its Japanese competition than any other GM cars, who’s interiors were still anything but ergonomic by the late 80’s.

Calibra Interior

Calibra Interior

The looks of the Calibra finally met its match under the hood in 1992 with the introduction of a 16 valve version of the 4 cylinder engine and later turbocharging. Now the Cablibra could reach a very respectable top speed of 149mph. The best and most sought after version of these cars came in 1993 with the introduction of a 2.5 litre V6. The Calibra move a notch above the Probes and Celicas of the world into new high performance territory.These cars producing 170 hp were considered the finest Calibras due to their refined power delivery and a well suited chassis. For those wanting more, tuners stept in with heavily modified versions of the V6 engine that produced as much as 570hp, sometimes driving the front wheels, but often all four. As the years went by more refinements were made including a new Ecotec V6 in 95 that was closely related to other powerplants used by GM in some of it’s smaller US Chevrolet, Saturn and Pontiac cars. There has always been a selection of engines available to Calibra buyers ranging from 2.0 litre fours to 2.5 litre V6s. Front wheel drive was standard as was a 5-speed manual with the option od a 4-speed automatic. An option in high performance cars was all wheel drive. This feature was available in four and six cylinder turbo models only.

When the Calibra reached the end of its lifecycle in 1997, it still was very popular, but it’s design had become dated and many of its once stagnet rivals had cough up or surpassed it. Interestingly, Opel had no direct replacement, choosing instead to slot the much smaller and cutsie looking Tigra as the sporty coupe choice for Opel buyers. Opel showed the GTC concept car at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show to excited crowds and began fueling rumors of the return of the Calibra coupe. As of this writing, it seems the Calbra will be back in 2011 with a range of engines to suit those looking for economy (4 cylinder, gasoline and turbo-diesels) to high performance (2.8L V6). Engine reports seem conflicting, but references to a 250 hp 2.0 L turbo seem to come up often. It will be interesting to see how the Calibra fits into the new GM structure, now that GM has decided to save the Opel and make it a key player in its global strategy. With Saturn’s fate up in the air, will the US get a version of the new Calibra if there actually is one?


1996 Opel Calibra V6


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This entry was posted on February 11, 2010 by in 90's cars, Opel.
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