What is it?
A footnote in the story of a performance car that may well have passed you by. Vauxhall’s Insignia VXR is now available with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Hardly sounds like front page news, but it is of a quiet kind of importance given the change in character that Vauxhall’s family-sized VXR model went through while regenerating, Dr Who-style, from Vectra to Insignia back in 2009.
Because while the Vectra VXR was a real tearaway front-driver with a lively chassis and a stability system that could reasonably be described as ‘non-interventionist’, the Insignia VXR is a much more civilised machine that – by Vauxhall’s own admission – is supposed to show that VXRs can be fast as well as well-manned and grown up.
In that context, you’d expect a slick, well-chosen six-speed automatic gearbox to be a welcome addition, wouldn’t you?
What’s it like?
Just as our 2009 road test on the manual version recorded, it’s a practical, usable and comfortable estate car that’s all the more smooth and easy to use for its torque converter transmission.
Excellent seats provide a first class driving position in the Insignia VXR, and a great vantage point out of a cabin that’s every bit as well equipped as you’d expect for £36k, and – in 95 per cent of those places where your gaze falls – every bit as well appointed. Even with those big sports buckets there’s plenty of room for adults in the back seats, and 540 litres of boot space seats-up – which beats a BMW 3-series Touring and an Audi S4 Avant.
At high revs, the hot Insignia’s forced V6 belts out a thin but elegant noise that’s entirely pleasant to listen to. But there isn’t much else you’ll really get excited by.
A kerbweight of almost two tonnes was enough to make 321bhp feel entirely ordinary in the manual version, and with a torque converter auto (which saps power and torque by its very nature), the Insignia lacks the urgent performance required of a truly thrilling driver’s car.