Ballsy price gives the hot Vauxhall Insignia VXR Supersport a real selling point, but it remains a slightly tame, mannered fast saloon

What is it?

The ever-so-slightly updated Vauxhall Insignia VXR. Its new ‘170mph’ top speed is the kind of number that draws the eye, and it may well make a few fast-lane regulars look at the car afresh – but it is't the number that matters most about this performance saloon.

The more important number to concern yourself with is ‘£29,995’. 

Following last year’s subtle revision of the Insignia range, Vauxhall has taken the opportunity to reposition the VXR halo model, and it’s done so in a somewhat aggressive, route-one fashion. Vauxhall has added ‘Supersport’ to the car’s name, disabled the electronic speed limiter and fitted a new speedometer to suit, plus it has also lopped a healthy four-figure sum from the asking price.

So here is a sports saloon with more power than either a BMW 335i or an Audi S4, but costing very nearly £9000 less than that Audi. Less, even, than a three-door BMW M135i.

What's it like?

Well, besides 'bang for your buck', it offers plenty to brag about in the office canteen. There’s asymmetrical four-wheel drive, HiPerStrut front suspension, supportive Recaro sports seats, adaptive dampers and four-piston performance brakes by Brembo. Alan Partridge could dine out for months on this stuff.

It had all that stuff before, mind you, so it's no real surprise that we found the car’s performance and handling very much as it was back in 2009, too. The Insignia Supersport is a fairly fast and capable sports saloon, but a slightly mannered and straight-laced one. In the end, while it’s a usable, grown-up kind of performance car, it doesn’t involve or excite you as much as it might.

There’s little drama or definition about the thrum of its V6 engine. It doesn’t sound fast and, given its head, the Insignia doesn’t feel as fast as that 170mph terminal speed implies. Throttle response is soft when you’ve got Normal mode selected, while the pedal becomes over-sensitive in VXR mode. Sport mode is a relatively happy medium, in which the car’s ride and handling compromise is both taut and compliant.

But there’s neither a big whoosh of torque to speak of when you ask for one, nor a frenzied race to the redline that might be worth waiting for.

There’s strange inconsistency, too, about the way the Insignia VXR steers. You get a big, unresponsive ‘sneeze zone’ around the dead-ahead, followed by a sudden increase in directness at about 50deg of lock. You can get used to that, though, and when you do, you’ll find reasonable balance and more than enough lateral grip to have a bit of fun with. 

But familiarity doesn’t quite redeem a four-wheel drive system that fails to deliver much extra cornering agility in all but the slipperiest conditions, and that also can’t keep the steering feedback completely unsullied by driving forces as you flex your right foot.

Should I buy one?

This car is neither fire-cracker nor work of dynamic brilliance, but neither of those facts should stop you if you’re particularly fond of the performance bargain.

You could spend £10k more on an averagely-equipped Audi S4 and end up with a car with many of the same dynamic imperfections as this.

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Private buyers should beware of the punitive financial probabilities of indulging in this particular mid-life crisis, mind you; the Insignia Supersport won’t hold its value like a diesel BMW 3-series.

But it is priced like one, and it’s every bit as practical. That may be all that your inner 12-year-old needs to know.

Vauxhall Insignia VXR Supersport

Price £29,995; 0-62mph 5.6sec; Top speed 170mph; Economy 26.6mpg; CO2 249g/km; Kerb weight 1825kg; Engine V6, 2792cc, turbocharged; Power 320bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 321lb ft at 5250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual



Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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405line 9 April 2013

Loss Leader?

Vauxhall traditionally created horrible performance cars full of understeer with sod all engineering prowess, perhaps they are loss leading to gain a rep', maybe this particular performance vauxhall is decent.


warren_S3 9 April 2013

As interesting as it looks...

... I'd suggest the new price point speaks volumes about how this car hasn't been selling.

Whilst I'm sure this model will be better resolved,  it's emissions rating makes it unfavourable for mid range company car buyers, and branding wise it may not be the car of choice for those higher up the company car scheme eschelons.

Shame really as it (and other performance Vauxhalls) of recent times have been fine vehicles, and a huge step forward for the brand, bet it goes like stink.

Frightmare Bob 9 April 2013

With BMW M3 V8s available for

With BMW M3 V8s available for under £20,000 (see Auto Trader), with reasonable mileage, why would I want to pay £30,000 for a Vauxhall that will lose value like the clappers?

Straff 9 April 2013

Frightmare Bob wrote: With

Frightmare Bob wrote:

With BMW M3 V8s available for under £20,000 (see Auto Trader), with reasonable mileage, why would I want to pay £30,000 for a Vauxhall that will lose value like the clappers?


Because many people are terrified of second hand cars and need a cast iron warranty, a lot of these will be company purchases, the BMW running costs will be huge and if it goes wrong... Why would anyone buy a new car if that wasn't the case? I'd imagine Vauxhall are not looking to shift that many of these anyway.