Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sports Tourer review
The Vauxhall Insignia VXR estate is big on practicality and driving thrills, with a 321bhp turbocharged V6 engine and four-wheel drive
Premium German manufacturers have long ruled the roost when it comes to very fast estates: cars like the Mercedes E55 AMG, BMW M5 Touring and Audi RS4 Avant were for many years the only game in town if you wanted to whisk four people with a lot of luggage down the autobahn at dizzying speeds. But now Vauxhall is looking to challenge their dominance with the Insignia VXR Sports Tourer: a 321bhp, four-wheel-drive monster that can also handle the result of a shopping trip to Ikea with ease. The badge doesn't have the upmarket appeal of the aformentioned cars, but certainly adorns a very capable package.
Our choice: 2.8T V6 4x4
The Sports Tourer estate is arguably the most attractive of the three Insignia body styles, and the VXR trim's various additions suit it well. Imposing 19-inch alloy wheels fill the arches, aggressive 'tiger's claw' air intakes peer out from the chunky front bumper and there's a small spoiler at the top of the tailgate to complete the additions. The overall result is sporty, sleek and eye-catching, without venturing into the lairy, in-your-face territory of some previous VXR models. Inside, the Insignia almost matches the likes of Audi and Mercedes for cabin quality, and there's no missing the big chunky metal inserts in the steering wheel, either.
The Insignia VXR Sports Tourer is shockingly quick for a big estate car. Top speed is limited to 155mph, although buyers have the option of removing the limiter and going all the way to 170mph on visits to the German autobahn. It accelerates deceptively quickly for its size, too: 0-60mph comes in just 5.9 seconds. The old Vectra VXR estate was similarly quick, but handling suffered due to its front-wheel-drive layout. The Insignia's new four-wheel-drive system means it's much better at getting the power down, so it's very grippy and agile tool for attacking a twisty back road.
The Vauxhall Insignia VXR was tested on Germany's punishing Nurburgring race track, and it's 2.8-litre engine is a tried and tested design, so it should be very reliable. Owners rated the basic Insignia 21st overall in our 2012 Driver Power survey, so once it's serviced properly, the VXR shouldn't give much trouble. Consumables like brakes and tyres will wear out quicker and be more expensive to replace than on a more mundane car, however. Safety is assured by a five-star Euro NCAP crash test result as well as standard electronic stability control, multiple airbags and Isofix child-seat attachment points.
There's better news on the practicality front, with the same 1,530 litres of luggage space to play with as you get in a regular Insignia Sports Tourer. That's not quite as much as a Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb Estate, but then neither of those cars are available with a 321bhp turbo V6 engine under the bonnet. The Sports Tourer also offers more headroom for rear-seat passengers than its saloon or hatchback equivalents, as it lacks their curving roofline, so it's a good choice if you regularly carry adults in the back. Other handy touches include a shallow false floor, a boot net and a flat load lip.
There is a catch to the Insignia VXR Sports Tourer's blend of performance and practicality: how much it costs to keep one on the road. You'll only see 24.2mpg from everyday mixed driving: both the Audi S4 and BMW 335i do better than that. High CO2 emissions mean high annual road tax, too. Unfortunately, the VXR Sports Tourer also loses out to its rivals for residual value: experts reckon it will only be worth 30 per cent of its original purchase price after three years.