Vauxhall Insignia VXR Saloon review
The Vauxhall Insignia VXR transforms a mild-mannered saloon into a searingly quick performance car, with entertaining results
The Vauxhall VXR sub-brand has offered up some pretty wild and high-powered versions of the manufacturer's otherwise humdrum models over the past decade or so. Its Corsa and Astra VXR creations have been particularly successful in the hot hatch class. But with the Insignia VXR, Vauxhall is looking to take on serious upmarket performance saloons like the Audi S4 and BMW 335i. With a 321bhp turbocharged V6 engine and four-wheel drive, it has all the ingredients necessary to match their pace. And clever HiPerStrut front suspension and lots of time spent testing on the Nurburgring means it can hold its own in the handling department, too.
Our choice: 2.8T V6 4x4
The basic Insignia saloon is not a bad starting point from a styling point of view, and the VXR enhances its handsome lines with imposing 19-inch alloys (20-inch wheels are optional), a deep front bumper with 'tiger's teeth' air intakes, a very subtle rear spoiler and stylish chrome-tipped exhausts. Overall, they succeed in making the car looking potent and aggressive without going too far over the top. Inside, the half-leather seats look good and feel very comfortable, while the quality of materials used is close to what you'll find in an Audi. Only the slightly garish steering wheel inserts disappoint.
The Insignia VXR's predecessor, the Vectra VXR, was not short on horsepower, but struggled to deploy it effectively. GM's engineers have put their thinking caps on and given the latest VXR a four-wheel-drive powertrain to better deal with the 321bhp produced by its 2.8-litre turbocharged V6. The results are as impressive as they are entertaining: the car will accelerate from 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds and top out at an electronically limited 155mph (buyers can specify the car without this limiter for a top speed approaching 170mph). The combination of four-wheel drive, an advanced limited-slip differential and the HiPerStrut suspension deliver superb handling, too.
The regular Insignia VXR finished an impressive 21st overall in our 2012 Driver Power survey, and Vauxhall reliability in general has been getting better in recent years. There have been some recalls for standard diesel Insignias, but none as yet for the VXR. Safety is up there with the best in class: the Insignia received five stars out of five after being crash-tested by Euro NCAP. In addition to the sure-footedness provided by the VXR's four-wheel-drive system, you get all the usual modern safety features: six airbags, electronic stability control and Isofix child-seat mounting points.
The Insignia VXR is available in three body styles – saloon, hatchback and Sports Tourer estate. As you'd expect, this saloon - which is identifiable over the hatch thanks to the lack of rear windscreen wiper - is the least practical of the three, but it's still a spacious and comfortable car if you don't have a young family to transport or regularly need to carry large loads. The boot holds 500 litres, but is a little harder to access than the hatchback's thanks to its narrower opening. Front seat passengers will be very comfortable, but the rear cabin can feel a bit claustrophobic due the Insignia's sloping coupe-like roofline. The central rear seat is very small, too, so the VXR is not really a full five-seater.
No 321bhp car is ever going to be cheap to run, so prospective Insignia VXR customers will need to have deep pockets to continue enjoying their car month after month. Claimed fuel economy is only 24.7mpg – and that will likely dip below the 20mpg mark if you're making full use of the car's performance on a regular basis. High CO2 emissions of 268g/km push the annual road tax bill up to the maximum, and the Insignia VXR's blistering performance means it will be quite expensive to insure, too.