Twenty minutes into a vigorous hoon in this 2.8-litre V6 powered, four-wheel drive flagship of the new Vauxhall Insignia range, all I could think of was pub grub.
No, the launch proceedings food was perfectly fine, thank you… after a plenty-of-added-Austrian-lard fashion. It simply struck me that, these days, there’s a surprising parity between tavern nosh and this much diminished yet still significant repmobile segment in the UK…
Aren't you supposed to be reviewing the new Vauxhall Insignia, not thinking about your stomach?
Bear with me. Time was, a sandwich with crusts already curling like the toes of any sentient being forced to watch Big Brother for the first time was the best you could either expect, or find, in the average boozer. Interrupt a road trip today in search of simple sustenance, however, and you’re just as likely to stroll into some gastronomic hot-spot serving slices of giant South American high-altitude rodent 'nestling' in a bed of raw, chainsaw-diced Caribbean vegetables 'drizzled' with an entirely suspect 'jus' or, worse, a fungi tainted 'foam' boasting all the visual appeal of cuckoo spit.
Don’t get me wrong. Unlike those few disgruntled regulars who remain huddled at the blatantly residual 'bar' bemoaning the good old days, I’m not advocating a return to the gluten-fest which glides down the gullet with the alacrity of a monkey-wrench wedged in the neck of an ostrich. I’m merely suggesting that I’d invariably be far happier to pay somewhat less for a really good, back-to-basics, home-made pie ‘n’ chips.
And all this has exactly what to do with a new Vauxhall?
My point is that you can buy a perfectly wholesome 1.8-litre Insignia for a whisker under £16,000 yet, drizzled, nestled and foamed senseless with all the technological top-dressing of gastropub excess, this car comes in at a whopping £28,885.
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So, what could possibly add the best part of £13,000 to the asking price of the automotive equivalent of bangers and mash?
Well, power is provided by a turbocharged V6 pilfered from Saab’s 9-3, developing 257bhp and 258lb ft of torque, swelling to 280lb ft on overboost. A six-speed automatic box is fitted as standard, with no manual option coming to the UK. Four-wheel drive is also standard, once again courtesy of Saab, in the form of an adaptive system which combines a Haldex clutch with a 'torque vectoring' differential to divert torque both fore and aft, and side to side.
Then there’s FlexRide, a 'mechatronic'’ chassis control system with Standard, Tour and Sport settings, an electronic limited slip differential, adaptive headlamps offering no less than nine different beam characteristics, and a camera which can read speed limit signs and operate a lane departure system.
So what works, and what doesn’t?
The powerplant is something of a gem. It’s as smooth as the left buttock of an Hawaiian tropic gurl at a Le Mans pit-lane walkabout and delivers plenty of oomph with a 7.1 second 0-62mph time and a top speed limited to 155mph. Indeed, the only disappointment is that it isn’t quite as vocal as you’d like when pressed.
FlexRide is much like any other adaptive chassis control system. In other words, you’ll find yourself endlessly prodding the button to try and assess the relatively small differences in dynamic qualities each setting offers, before realizing that the Standard setting is constantly adjusting parameters on your behalf anyway, thus obviating any need for a three-setting system in the first place. Unless, that is, you’re especially thrilled to see the instrument binnacle back-lighting change from white to red when you stab the Sport option.
Those fancy headlamps are certainly effective too. But, as previously mentioned in the context of over 80% of all accidents being caused by poor visibility, I wish someone would put this much effort in to redesigning the windscreen wiper.
And as for the camera which reads speed limit signs… A carefully constructed test demonstrated that the thing works very well. But so do my eyes, which somehow managed to pick up every sign a good hundred yards before the nanny lens.
Click 'Next' below to read more of our Vauxhall Insignia first drive
Good to drive?
Pleasant. Much has already been written on the minutiae of driving dynamics comparisons with the likes of Mondeo, and in that context alone the Insignia romps gently home in second place. But who really cares? The four-wheel drive chassis improves handling grip in low-speed corners, the steering’s accurate but not all that nicely weighted at speed, and the ride’s perfectly comfortable.
The cabin’s a pretty classy place to be, and build quality takes a huge hike over the outgoing Vectra. In fact, pretty much everything takes a huge hike over the outgoing Vectra, and you’d be hard pushed to unearth any major gripes about the V6 Insignia as a competent, high velocity motorway cruiser. Unless you were in the back, that is, where legroom has considerably improved, but headroom decidedly has not.
‘Effing else?’…as my old Chinese takeaway used to say on the phone.
Couple of things I didn’t get round to mentioning in my 900 mile drive back to Luton the other day: Unlike the cats cradle of wiring necessary in a Mondeo, an iPod connects quite happily, since both auxiliary socket and recharging 12v supply are in the centre arm rest box. True, you can only adjust the volume through the car controls, but at least it can all be hidden away.
Vauxhall has, mercifully, thrown out that horrendous electric indicator system, and even afforded the Insignia a sat-nav system within which traffic alerts may actually be switched off altogether rather than simply interrupted each and every time they start up, as was the mind-boilingly irritating case with the last Vectra I drove.
However, the new electronic handbrake is simply vile, requiring monster revs to drive off through automatic disconnection. It’s also equally reluctant to engage, causing huge mirth to the clearly pie-in-face-humour obsessed populace of Baden Baden, and very nearly the first low-speed accident I’ve been involved in without actually sitting in the car.
This is a pity, because the presence of the electronic brake frees up enough transmission tunnel space to afford the driver a second multimedia screen control button which falls far more readily to hand. This is, admittedly, a mere duplicate of the button on the centre console but, unlike the latter which bizarrely requires you to concentrate hard enough to push only the outer ring of the button, it’s much easier to use.
I can think of no one who’ll actually own this car except, of course, a Vauxhall dealer principle. The 2.0-litre turbo I drove home makes a far more arresting proposition, and you can spend the £7000 you’ll save on something to run your granny down to the shops for cat food and corn plasters of a morning.
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