Steve Cropley
7 July 2009

What is it?

According to its creators, the Insignia VXR is three things: the 155 mph flagship version of Vauxhall’s thriving Insignia executive car range, the car that finally lifts its 10-year run of VXR-badged performance models above the raucous, boy-racer tag that has always stuck to them, and a performance car from GM Europe that honestly deserves to turn a BMW buyer’s head.

These are big claims — and assessing each one depends on a dispassionate examination of the driving experience, so we drove a car as fast as we could legally go from Frankfurt to London, to discover the worth of them.

What's it like?

Well, it certainly has the on-paper credentials.

The 2.8-litre turbo V6 has hotter camshaft profiles, bigger injection nozzles and more aggressive engine management parameters so it produces 321 bhp at 5250 rpm instead of the standard V6’s 255.

It gets a high performance 4wd system with electronically managed torque splits, adaptive electronic traction controls depending on how you drive, plus lightweight Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers and hybrid alloy discs with cast-iron centres.

You get a specially tuned chassis, 20mm lower than standard, including special, low-friction “hyperstruts” that cut steering friction and improve feel. You get a three-level ride control system (firm, hard, harder), which also adjusts things like steering weight and accelerator “alertness” as it goes.

There’s a magnificent set of specially adapted Recaro seats and just about every interior nicety you can imagine, short of on-board TV and radar cruise control.

The VXR is relatively quiet but sounds lovely when you give it the beans. It is governed at 155 mph (could probably crack 170), can run a 0-60 mph sprint in 5.8 seconds, and accelerates 50-75 mph in 7.1 seconds.

That’s big performance in a cross-Europe grand touring sense, but not quite enough to match true tyre-burners like the BMW M5 or Audi RS6. But few owners will think it too slow.

Here’s the point: everything has been done with thoroughness and subtelty. The steering is sensitive and has great feel. The engine’s smooth, powerful and entirely free of turbo-lag.

The standard ride condition is firm but comfortable, while more aggressive settings (really only needed for hard driving) work well with the power, even on Britain’s bad roads.

The brakes are extremely powerful, the firm, shapely seats are comfortable for 200 mioles at a time, and the whole car has a base level of smoothness and mechanical refinement that makes you seriously doubt the speedo when it’s reading 120 mph.

Should I buy one?

Yes. Against other cars of its size, equipment and capability, the Insignia VXR is a spectacular bargain. Entry price for a saloon or hatchback is a paltry £30,995, or £32,320 for an estate.

The car is so well equipped that it is only possible to add three options: 20-inch wheels at £1100, a leather pack at £1300 and on-board navigation for £815.

The lack of a big name is a declining problem: the sheer presence of this go-faster Insignia, together the spreading realisation that VXR cars do what is claimed for them, helps a lot.

The car’s bulk is reduced in the driver’s mind by its poise and controllability. But the true no-brainer is this VXR’s value for money.

A car with this ability and equipment would cost between £50,000 and £60,000 in a BMW/Merc/Audi line-up. Save £25k, and concede absolutely nothing.

Join the debate


Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Great value for money but what about the residuals in 3 years? Will it hold ...

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Considering the close relationship between the Insignia and the new Astra, I wonder if the hardware is transferable? Could make a stonking RS3 challenger?

The Insignia though has plenty of appeal and would undoubtedly be a several tens of thousands more if it had been produced by some of the other German manufacturers, but depreciation is still going to be the killer in this case, and for a lot of people, that will be the turn off.



It's all about the twisties........

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Absolutely right Teg! In this case for me it is about who has got the courage to buy it in the first place - I may come by in 3 years time ...

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

taking the fight to the germans?

basically, this vehicle is an opel developed in germany. who takes the fight to whom?

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

I was able to sit in one of these and have a poke around at one of Vauxhall's VXR tracks days which I did the other week.

Really impressed with the cabin (well made, great fit and finish) and also the detailing is very good (nice seats, juicy looking brakes and gorgeous 20 inch wheels).

Only a few things I didn't like - the estate is (IMO) an absolute minger to look at, so i'll have a hatch thanks. Also, the steering wheel is quite over-done with some nasty plastic on the rim. All in all though, a lot of car for £31k.

Don't think I would ever buy one new though. Depreciation is likely to be heavy, so probably £20k for one that's a year old? Now that is more like it.

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:
10-year run of VXR-badged performance models

10 year run? The first VXR came out at the end of 2005 did it not?

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

The grill looks awful

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Im sorry, but a current M5 or E63 owner is not going to be worrying about the Insignia VXR. Yes it might have a big engine and a fast 0-60 speed, but what about everything else? The interior is awful, you have to take it to a Vauxhall garage for servicing, enthusiasts will not look twice at it. I think it takes more than a turbocharged V6 to get your heart racing. Plus a saving of £25k over an RS6, -well id rather have an RS6 anyday.

Why does Autocar keep making such daft comparisons? You might as well compare a Focus RS to an M3! -ah wait they already have

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

tdm1 wrote:
you have to take it to a Vauxhall garage for servicing, enthusiasts will not look twice at it

Every time I take my wifes £10k Meriva to the Vauxhall dealer it's a painful experience. If, heaven forbid I lost all sense and spent £30k on a Vauxhall I'd probably be ready to top myelf come service time.

Re: Vauxhall Insignia 2.8 V6 VXR

4 years 41 weeks ago

Too expensive, by the time you add the wheels, leather and satnav £35k. If I was in the market with £35k in my pocket and had my heart set on a fast Vauxhall, (1) I would probably be declared insane, (2) Do I really want to spend that much money on what looks like a blinged up repmobile. (3) If I still wanted a £35K fast Vauxhall why am I not looking at the VXR8, less common, probably a hell of a lot more fun and probably be available with a big discount.

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Our Verdict

The Vauxhall Insignia VXR has lofty ambitions, but can it realise them?

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