What is it?
Two years and 70,000 cars since Vauxhall started delivering Insignias in the UK, the launch continues.
This week we get a taste of the very first British-registered Insignia diesel 4x4. This car also has a series of model year engine revisions for 2011.
Mindful of criticism of the diesel-powered Insignia’s mechanical refinement, Opel/Vauxhall has taken several steps to reduce noise from its 2.0-litre commonrail diesel engine.
It has designed a stiffer and therefore quieter mounting for the motor’s diesel fuel pump; revised the design of its pistons and conrods for reduced piston slap; fitted new skewer gears for the cam chain to reduce backlash noise; added extra noise insulation around the bulkhead and under the bonnet; and developed a quieter ECU map.
CO2 emissions now stand at 133g/km for the standard CDTi 130, 144g/km for the CDTi 160, and 163g/km for the CDTi 160 4x4.
There are two new options on the list for 2011: an extended nappa leather pack that weighs in at an eye-watering £3000, and a VXR styling kit that will allow you to dress up your 128bhp diesel like a 321bhp VXR, for just £820.
What’s it like?
Having done fewer than 500 miles, our test car’s engine refinement was good rather than great: perhaps 10 per cent quieter than the unrevised Insignia.
We can well imagine getting a bigger benefit as the miles pile on, however. Experience with our early Insignia CDTi long-term test car proved that they could become quite rough once loose.
The car’s adaptive 4x4 system had a subtle but noticable influence on the Insignia’s handling on the narrow rural roads of our test route.
The Haldex setup features several clutches that react to wheel speed and steering angle, and shuffle power not just rearwards but between the individual rear wheels to maintain your cornering line.
Those clutches work quickly enough to minimise torque steer through harder-charged bends, and enhance the accuracy of the Insignia’s handling slightly, even in the dry.
In very wet or icy conditions, other Autocar testers report, the 4x4 system has a transformative effect on the Insignia’s agility and stability.
In SE spec, our Insignia came with Vauxhall’s FlexRide adaptive dampers, which continually adjust to keep unwanted body movements in check, but also allow you to choose from three driving modes: standard, ‘Sport’ and ‘Tour’.
Sport mode dials in rather too much damping for most UK roads, but ‘Tour’ is of more use for everyday driving in Britain, allowing you to make the Insignia ride with something close to the compliance and refinement of a Ford Mondeo.
Should I buy one?
Slowly but surely, Vauxhall is turning the Insignia into a very impressive family car. A four-wheel drive diesel tourer like our test car offers an appealing combination of practicality, quality, economy and any-weather usablity – with added driver appeal.
Despite what Vauxhall will tell you, the Insignia’s still not quite the outstanding car in its class.