It’s more civilised and better value than before, but even this super-quick VXR needs more agility

What is it?

It was the fastest sub-£30,000 drive you could buy when it was launched, and that remains true today of this usefully improved Vauxhall Insignia VXR, in hatchback form if not as the pricier Sports Tourer tested here.

The Insignia’s mid-life polishing includes a freshened nose and tail, a major upgrade for its instruments and infotainment and some chassis modifications. The 321bhp 2.8 litre turbo V6 remains unchanged, driving all four wheels to produce a 170mph top speed and a 0-62mph sprint of 5.9sec. 

The chassis benefits from all the ride-smoothing changes made to mainstream Insignias, besides some VXR-specific mods. Its highly effective torque-steer quelling HiPerStruts, remain, but the front subframe now sits in softer mounts, there are new suspension control arms and the Sachs adaptive damper and roll-bar settings have been rethought.

The VXR’s rear suspension has also been lightened and rebushed, and its ESP and traction control algorithms have been refreshed too. Plenty of mods then, but the all-wheel drive system is unchanged, the Haldex-style system directing a nominal 90 per cent of torque to the front axle in the standard and Tour settings, this ratio shifting to  60:40 front:rear split when the VXR button is sunk.

Pressing the VXR button also sharpens the throttle (too much for delicacy), stiffens the dampers and slightly alters the weighting of steering gear that still feels over-springy and unmechanical.

What's it like?

Vauxhall reckons the Insignia VXR to be the GT member of its high-performance VXR pack, and that’s a realistic take on this rapid and sizeable machine.

On the wet, twisting roads of the test route the Insignia is certainly quick if you work it hard, but it’s also quite quick to run out of grip if you’re over-enthusiastic. The result can be a juddering understeer moment that the ESP system is a bit too casual about catching, although it gets there in the end.

You soon learn to drive with cautious circumspection through the first half of a bend, before safely exposing the driveline to the turbo’s full strength.

Switching to the VXR mode for a more helpful 60:40 torque-apportioning aids the car’s balance before adhesion fades, but in slower bends you can forget imagining that you’re aboard a car whose balance approaches a rear-driver. In the dry, though, you can expect decidedly more limpet-like grip.

Despite its generous 321bhp and 321lb ft the V6 turbo needs low gears and revving to give it its best, which again makes this car a bit less of a weapon than you’d hope for on snaking backroads. Factor in a relatively inert chassis and the remote steering and you’ll see that Vauxhall is right to describe this car as a GT.

At a high-speed cruise it’s decidedly more accomplished, the engine’s torque delivery providing promptly responsive autobahn zest as well as an easy triple-digit gait. Particularly impressive is the suspension’s calm absorbency, even on choppy backroads, and a bodyshell that feels admirably robust and well-insulated.

Should I buy one?

It’s a somewhat better car, this VXR, and more intriguing too if you have the curiosity – and patience - to work your way through a complex standard-fit infotainment system that provides a heap of info. A shame though, that GM hasn’t fiddled with the four-wheel drive to make a more athletic device of this handsome, comfortable and practical ‘bahn blaster.

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Vauxhall Insignia VXR SuperSport

Price £31,049; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Top speed 170mph; Economy 25.7mpg; CO2 259g/km; Kerb weight 1940kg; Engine V6, 2792cc, turbo, petrol; Power 321bhp at 5250rpm; Torque 321lb ft at 5250rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

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Will86 21 September 2013


I've got a soft spot for this car, but I'd keep it on the standard 19" wheels, finish it in silver and debadge it. Few people would notice the brushed aluminium vents on the front bumper or around the exhausts and you'd have a very effective Q car.

nicebiscuit 20 September 2013

So. I'd like to know how this compares to an Audi.

The criticism levelled at this seems very similar to that levelled at most quick Audis. However this is much cheaper, and to my eyes very nearly as handsome. Thus a bargain surely?

I'd like to know how it measures up. It's no BMW obviously, but can it rival Audi as a quality spacious motorway car which is very quick but ultimately a bit unengaging.

What would you say Autocar?

scotty5 20 September 2013

Mouse trap

Never really seen the point with GM selling VXR models in the UK market. What interests me most is the joystick which controls the infotainment system on current Sat Nav equipped cars, has been replaced by what looks like a touchpad?

If that's right then the mind boggles how easy it will be to navigate through the menu's whilst on the road. It's bad enough using a touch screen.