Holden will become a full-line importer by 2018, with an entirely new model range by 2020 – and the Insignia VXR is one of the first models to come from overseas with a dancing lion badge.
We got into the Insignia to find out if the Insignia is up to scratch for Australia.
When the VFII Holden Commodore finishes production, it will be the last car ever produced in Australia. Ford will have gone, as will locally built Toyotas. The last ever Commodore will no doubt be whisked into a museum, or sold to a collector. Speculation now, then, is on what will replace the Commodore. One option floated by critics and insiders from the General Motors stable is the German-built Insignia, which has recently arrived with a fresh new Holden badge.
The Insignia is not an unfamiliar sight on Australian roads; it arrived briefly back in 2013 as an Opel, fresh off the boat from Germany. Opel didn’t stick with car buyers, and all the models were shipped back to Berlin shortly after.
The bosses at General Motors, however, saw something in the Opels and decided to introduce the Insignia back down under, this time as a naturalised Australian thanks to significant input from Holden’s engineering team in Port Melbourne. This time around, the team bringing them over only ticked the box to bring back the top-spec VXR model in sedan form only with a turbo V6 petrol only.
Our test car arrived in Arden Blue, which is really the only option you have to choose from – there are two other prestige paint options, as well as the standard Cool White. Luckily, because the VXR is the top-of-the-range back home, the Insignia is pretty well equipped from the get-go.
Leather trimmed interior with Recaro front sports seats, Holden MyLink system with digital radio, Brembo front brakes on 20-inch alloys, adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking are all standard equipment on the Insignia, making it a pretty slick package.
The Australian-made 2.8L turbo V6 is well sorted, but has the disadvantage of being compared to the V8 in the Commodore. Delivering 235kW of power and 435Nm of torque, it’s less power than in a Commodore SS-V with two extra cylinders – plus the Insignia has the drawback of being heavier than it’s Australian cousin, despite being a class smaller than the local.
However, it’s not all a power game, the car has to be well balanced in all aspects on the road and the Insignia steps up to deliver. Acceleration is quick, but not overwhelming, thanks to the peak power delivered at 5250rpm – so it definitely feels sporty, and will push you back into your seat if you floor the accelerator. The engine note is also appreciated when you press your foot down, and will let everyone know that the Insignia is no slouch on the road.
The six-speed automatic is fine as is, but the sports manual mode really makes the most of the power band. The paddle shifters really make the Insignia come alive if you want to throw it around a track, or down the highway – but around town leaving it in drive will suit most commuters.
The adaptive All Wheel Drive system gives a well-balanced experience on the road, and ensures that you can have your fun on a slick track or out in the snow without feeling unsettled. In everyday use, it tends to favour rear wheel drive, with a 70-30 split favouring the back.
The Insignia is a nice mid-size alternative to luxury performance cars, as well as against offerings in a segment that have a tendency to be a bit bland or middle-of-the-road.
Because it’s the flagship of the Insignia range, assorted luxuries are included as standard in the VXR which are optional on competitors. Automatic Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning systems are all included and help to make your driving easier.
Reversing camera and front parking sensors help to park the VXR, but they’re only for your peace of mind. The Insignia is easy to swing around town without feeling bulky, yet manages to feel substantial and properly weighted when you take it at speed out on the open road.
Interior space is good, and the front passengers get the most benefit, with the Recaro sports seats generously proportioned and able to be positioned for any driver. Rear passengers are taken care of as well, and the addition of three ISOFix anchor points allows the Insignia to fit and carry the smallest passengers safely.
Boot space is marginally bigger than its Commodore cousin, however this could’ve been achieved through the lack of a spare tyre.
While it hasn’t been ANCAP tested, the Insignia VXR comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, as well as active safety features including forward collision alert, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane change warning. Euro NCAP testing gave the Insignia 5 stars, however that should be a guide and doesn’t reflect Australian crash testing standards.
One drawback of the VXR is it’s relatively high fuel use. Because the heft of the Insignia, and the willingness of the turbocharged engine to deliver power to the AWD system, the Insignia never manages to dip below its combined figure of 11.3L/100km. Around town, this will head towards 15L/100km, more if you have a tendency to try and win traffic light races.
At $51,990 before options, accessories and on roads, the Insignia VXR competes with just one model. Prestige paint is a $550 cost option, and besides accessories such as floor mats or sunshades, it’s really your only decision at the dealership.
Servicing costs are covered by Holden’s Lifetime Capped Price Servicing, and starts from $229. Servicing is scheduled every 15,000km or annually, whichever happens first.
The Insignia is unfairly labelled as a cut-rate Commodore, partly due to the decades of local development that has gone into the Australian sedan and partly due to the lack of a V8 option that we’ve come to accept as standard in our performance sedans. Commodore drivers should give the Insignia a fair go, though, as the performance is set up to give the same thrills that an SS-V or Redline can.
In its current form, it would be hard to see the Insignia as a direct replacement for anything Holden currently has in it’s line-up, and it should be judged on its own merits. Stepping out of the long shadow of one of Australia’s best-known models, the Insignia VXR proves itself as a competent sports coupe that is reliably powerful on the road, yet can handle itself as a daily driver.