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General Motors Omega
The Opel Omega was a large automobile from Opel, the main European subsidiary of General Motors. Replacing the Opel Rekord, it was voted European Car of the Year in 1987. Like the Rekord, the Omega was produced at Russelsheim in Germany. Production of the Omega ceased in 2003.
A long wheelbase model, the Senator, was based on the same platform, which also formed the basis of the Holden Commodore in Australia. It was sold as the Vauxhall Carlton in the UK, until 1994, when Vauxhall adopted the Omega name for the new model. The Omega was also sold in Brazil badged as a Chevrolet, but this name is now used for the local version of the Holden Commodore.
In the UK, the Omega is best known as a police car. Following the ending of production the direct Vauxhall equivalent which is used by police forces is the Vauxhall Vectra (the post-2003 "C" model). The car also been converted into limousines and hearses for use at funerals.
The name had previously been used by GM in North America, where the Oldsmobile Omega was that division's compact entry from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. These cars were not mechanically related to the European Omegas, however.
Opel Omega A
The original Omega was launched in late 1986 as replacement for the Opel Rekord, which had been in production since 1978 and sold in Britain as the Vauxhall Carlton. It was available in saloon and estate ('Caravan' in Germany) bodystyles as a competitor for the likes of the Ford Scorpio and Rover 800.
The new Omega, which was also sold in Britain as the Vauxhall Carlton, was rear wheel drive and transmission was either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Engines ranged from 1.8 L, 2.0 L and 2.4 L four-cylinder units (2.0 L and 2.3 L Diesel, 2.3 L turbodiesel) to 2.6 L, 3.0 L and 3.0 L-24v six-cylinder units.
In 1989, a high performance Opel Lotus Omega/Vauxhall Lotus Carlton was introduced with a 3.6 L six-cylinder unit and a top speed of 175 mph (282 km/h), making it one of the fastest four-door cars ever produced.
The standard Omega proved popular with buyers all over Europe thanks to its comfort, space, large boot (trunk), and extensive capacity in the estate version.
Equipment levels were good, with almost all of the range getting power steering and electric windows as standard from day one. More luxurious versions had air conditioning and leather upholstery on the equipment list. Antilock brakes were also standard on most models.
Not so impressive were bodywork and mechanical problems which meant that the Carlton could not stand up to the BMW 5-Series in terms of quality. Nor was the Carlton the most practical car in its class; the Ford Scorpio had the advantage of a hatchback version which the Carlton did not have, although the Scorpio was not available as a saloon and estate until later on.
Based around the Omega running gear was the Opel Senator, which was more luxurious but also used a drastically different body. This model was aimed at the BMW 5-Series rather than the Ford Scorpio. The Senator formed the basis of the 1989 Holden Commodore.
Opel Omega B
The 1994 Vauxhall/Opel Omega was an all-new car with a modern exterior design but a traditional rear-wheel drive chassis. The engine range was all-new: Four cylinder engines were a 2.0 L petrol and a 2.5 L turbo-diesel which were reasonably refined and gave acceptable performance. But the V6 engines (2.5 L and 3.0 L) were a far better bet. The top of the range Omega, with the 3.0 L V6, was the most expensive Vauxhall/Opel on the market at £30,000. The Omega saloon was extremely spacious and comfortable, and the estate was capable of holding seven occupants. From 1997 to 2001, the top three-litre saloon was sold in the US as a captive import badged as the Cadillac Catera.
As with its predecessor, the Omega platform was heavily modified and enlarged as the basis of the Australian Holden Commodore (from 1997).
Late in 1999 the Omega received a facelift and a 2.2 L 16-valve engine was added to the range as an eventual replacement for the 2.0 L. The following year, a 3.2 L 'MV6' engine replaced the 3.0 L V6 unit.
During this time, the Omega found itself without any real competition. The demise of the Ford Scorpio (the Omega's biggest rival) left Vauxhall unable to decide where to focus the Omega. Other brands that had competed in this area had largely left the market, leaving the Omega to take on the like's of the BMW 5 Series.
Despite a strong showing, the Omega was never a serious rival to the 5 Series. Production of the Omega B finally ceased in 2003.
The next generation of Omegas are expected to be larger and more executive in style. There is speculation that it will be based around the rear wheel drive Holden Commodore VE series of 2006, previewed in some respects as the Vauxhall/Opel Insignia show car.