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Vauxhall Insignia VXR Nav

Speed and sophistication are the buzzwords for the new Vauxhall flagship... and first impressions are promising!

Think of any VXR-badged Vauxhall and the chances are it’s brash, and looks every bit as fast as it goes. The company’s high- performance brand has made its name with staggeringly quick and unruly machines, such as the aggressive Astra and brutish V8-engined VXR8 saloon.

But with the new Insignia, bosses at Vauxhall are looking to clean up VXR’s image. The rapid all-wheel-drive range-topper aims to combine speed and sophistication, and it has prestige rivals such as the Audi S4 in its sights.

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First impressions are good. The flowing lines of the standard Insignia have been subtly beefed up with a pair of silver-trimmed ‘tiger tooth’ air intakes at the front, a rear spoiler and twin exhaust pipes. We’d opt for a bright paint finish, though, because the dull grey of our car diminishes the VXR’s visual impact.

Inside, there are few complaints. The attractively styled and solidly built cabin of the Insignia features a thick-rimmed leather steering wheel, a trademark chunky VXR gearlever and supportive Recaro front seats. But these sporty touches have done nothing to damage the Vauxhall’s practicality.

There’s as much space for occupants as you’ll find in the Audi, although the VXR’s sweeping roofline means rear seat passengers might find headroom limited. Opening the bootlid reveals a healthy 500-litre load area, while those wanting to regularly carry more can opt for the Sport Tourer estate version. And, unlike the Audi, there’s also a versatile hatchback option.

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On paper, the VXR and S4 engines appear evenly matched. The Vauxhall’s turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 delivers 321bhp – only 7bhp shy of its German rival. However, while the Insignia’s peak torque figure of 435Nm is a mere 5Nm down on the Audi, it’s produced at an unusually high 5,250rpm. As a result, the Vauxhall fails to match its rival’s acceleration, with the difference most notable in the middle of the rev range. But the tables are turned once the road gets twisty.

Vauxhall’s engineers have made a lot of changes to the Insignia’s chassis, FlexRide adaptive damping and electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system. As a result, the VXR slices through corners with poise and agility. Its steering is direct and well weighted, while its Brembo brakes provide eye-popping stopping power.

Better still, the Insignia’s core strengths of supple ride comfort and excellent refinement are retained, which makes the VXR a great motorway cruiser. Only intrusive boom from the Remus sports exhaust disturbs the calm on long trips.

This blot on the Vauxhall’s copybook can be overlooked when you consider its price. At £31,810, it undercuts the Audi by £3,870, and comes packed with standard kit, including sat-nav and adaptive damping. The question is whether the VXR does enough to pull off a giant-slaying victory in this test.

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Chart position: 2
WHY: Latest addition to VXR line-up gets 4WD – and has premium rivals in its sights.

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