The standard four-wheel-drive system incorporates a GSi-spec twin- clutch rear-drive module that allows torque to be directed wherever the car’s sensor network calculates it’s most needed, but especially to the outside rear wheel when the car is cornering hard, to help it maintain its line. The standard wheels are 20in alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 4-Ss, deemed the ideal choice by Strycek and his henchmen, and huge Brembo discs, unique to the GSi, peep through the wheels’ shapely spokes.
I’m first to drive. Instantly obvious are the greater steering precision and firmer ride rates. We start in Standard but soon progress to Sport because it’s still reasonably supple and adds handy body control. There’s also a quality of effortless, built-in stability that comes from sitting low in a car with wide tracks and a long wheelbase. You feel the chassis’ better body-roll control, too, delivered free of the annoying roll-rock (German engineers call it ‘nicken’) that affects the composure of many firmly suspended cars.
The accuracy at high grip levels is important. This isn’t a small car, and these roads are narrow, but we’re able to split our legal lane almost with geometric accuracy.
Vauxhall Corsa GSi confirmed for 2018 launch
Strycek drives, much better and much faster, making more of the car’s and tyres’ surprisingly neutral grip near the limit and demonstrating both his prowess as a wheelman and his extreme familiarity with (what I now know is) a fine, stable, well-balanced chassis. We each drive again. Miles disappear under our wheels and the car just laps it up.
This Welsh exercise has been billed as a development drive. In theory, we’re driving these roads just ahead of the GSi’s official launch on the pretext that we might find something worth tweaking for the UK. But we’ve found nothing to change. Instead, we’ve found a terrific driver’s car, created by the subtle development and integration of a lot of sophisticated, electronically controlled hardware. As Strycek speeds to the airport and I roll homewards, I reach a simple verdict: the Vauxhall Insignia GSi is bound for a long and happy life, just as it is.
VXR - not dead, just resting
For the foreseeable future, GSi replaces VXR as Vauxhall’s performance label, bringing with it a notion of sensible performance rather than the hardcore character of many VXR creations.
Why? Because rivals like Ford have been doing so well with semi-sporting ‘ST-line’ cars and Vauxhall needs a slice of that action. There’s already a Corsa GSi on the way, and recent prototype sightings make it clear that an Astra GSi is at an advanced stage of development. The likelihood is that GSi versions of SUVs are in prospect too. Despite all that, Vauxhall insiders insist that while no new VXR models are planned, the badge will be used in future when suitable models are on the stocks. The company continues to value the performance image it has built behind VXR and is reluctant to lose it.