I have to confess that I have a phobia around track days, for one simple reason: I always seem to come last! The launch of the Opel Adam S was no different. And I returned to my hotel room ego once again lying in tatters. But this time I discover a book neatly positioned on the bedside table, simply titled How to Drive. Written by acclaimed former Top Gear driver Ben Collins, better known as The Stig, it provides a fascinating insight into what makes a good driver great and gives an endless list of tips on how improve your skills.
Only problem was, considering my name appeared dead last on the leaderboard of 18 motoring journalists, I should have been given the book before attempting my Lewis Hamilton impersonation, not after. Never mind, the Aldo Scribante circuit on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth did provide us with the perfect backdrop for the launch of the latest addition to the Opel Adam family — the S. No prizes for guessing what the S stands for, and the Sport now completes the Adam lineup, the Jam, Glam and Rocks having been released over the past 14 months. It’s an impressive range, ticking many boxes in the small luxury hatchback segment.
First up you find the entry-level Jam, then there is the more upmarket and better-equipped Glam, while the droptop Rocks satisfies the needs for those who enjoy open-top motoring. The Adam S is, as General Motors South Africa vice-president Brian Olson explains, a car that “has been designed and engineered for people who want to enjoy a sporty driving experience in a car with a unique and individual look”. There are a number of exterior styling features that distinguish the limited-edition S model from the rest of the range. A roof-coloured rear wing is probably the first give-away that this is a step up in performance and it is not simply a cosmetic add-on, but designed to assist with downforce and balance when the car is being driven enthusiastically.
Side skirts and custom front and rear bumpers, 18-inch wheels with an attractive design, red brake callipers and a chromed oval exhaust tip complete the package. I must admit that the Adam S looks the part and, with only 50 units available in South Africa, it could well become a sought-after vehicle in this particular segment. But it is inside where the major differences are made… and felt. The 1.4-litre turbo engine is the same as found in the Opel Corsa Sport — a vehicle that impressed so much when launched last year. There is also influence from OPC models filtering through to this new S model, such as the braking system with front discs measuring 308mm in diameter and increased pad area.
Adding to the race-car feel are the Recaro sports seats, complete with red stitching, designed to provide maxi- mum support at top-end driving. The side bolsters are trimmed in Moroccana cloth, while the apertures for the fitment of a full racing harness also feature. The Aldo Scribante circuit is unusual in that there is little elevation around the entire circuit, but there are a number of interesting turns designed to test both vehicle and driver. With professional instructors on hand to share their expertise, it was time to showcase our skills — or lack thereof, in my case — in some timed laps. The six-speed manual gearbox provides the driver with short, sharp changes and the engine feels particularly free-revving up to the red line.
One notable feature of the Adam S was that even though it was a scorcher of a day and the cars were pushed to their absolute limits around the track, there wasn’t a single mechanical hiccup during the entire day. But, as someone remarked: “That’s what German engineering is about.” The vehicle also features a special chassis, steering and stiffer springs for improved driving dynamics. An item that didn’t come into play during our track day was the stop/start technology, but we did deactivate the electronic stability programme for a more spirited ride. Speaking of features, the Adam S has grabbed a number of items from other vehicles in the range, including climate control, power windows, cruise control, advanced park assist, side blind spot alert and the Intellilink multimedia system. While R330 000 is not exactly cheap, the Adam S is admittedly the complete package for a vehicle falling into this segment — styling, performance, technology and a host of driving aids. Throw them together and it makes for a very desirable little car.
Engine: 1.4l turbo Ecotec
0-100km/h: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 210km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.9l/ 100km (claimed/combined)
Price: R330 000