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Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer rubs shoulders with a Merc E-Class All-Terrain

Published: 13 November 2018

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Month 4 living with a Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer: comparing it with our Merc E-Class All Terrain

Last month’s brief jaunt in Ben Oliver’s very shiny E-Class All-Terrain left me horribly disappointed with the way the Merc bounced and blancmanged its way along some challenging Welsh blacktop. As an enduring lover of both the Mercedes-Benz marque (despite its too-regular transgressions) and of big family-sized estates, the all-wheel drive E-Class should have been bang on my target. It missed by a Conwy mile. So once back in the sunny south, this Ben and that Ben swapped cars.

Despite the yawning chasm that separates their social standing, these high-rise haulers are identical in concept and execution: big swallow-all estates with torque-laden diesel grunt, four-wheel drive and a raised ride height for clambering over kerbs and tackling the craggy and acned paths that masquerade as roads in this so-called first world nation. They even wear similar body cladding to signify their faux Paris-Dakar credentials.

So, let’s start with that which made me shake my head. First up – the Mercedes’ eye-bleeding £61,260 price tag. Dear God. Sixty one large for a family estate. Agreed, the 350d is bursting at the seams with high-tech safety, lighting, sound and driver-assistance kit, much of it standard, but it makes the £35,685 Insignia look very much like the bargain it arguably is. If I’m eBaying my kidney to afford business-class family transport, I’d also want something much sleeker and less chintzy than the dull-looking chrome-splattered All-Terrain. The Vauxhall’s starkly contrasting lipstick-red paintwork and matt plastic armour may not appeal to all, but look beyond the colour and it’s a far more arresting car to look at.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain long-term test review

And to drive. Punt the Insignia along and, for a chunky top-heavy estate, it rides and handles with a degree of athleticism and dynamism you don’t expect but you can certainly enjoy. Not so the Mercedes. Sure, it brings 254bhp, a stout 457lb ft of torque and intelligent all-corner grip to the go-faster party, but with a 2010kg kerbweight, fuzzy steering and a redline-reluctant engine, the E-Class is best kept to fast motorway and A-road work.

Where the Mercedes does claw back points – and lots of them – is where you’d expect it to. Levels of refinement are first class. It cocoons and cossets, where the Vauxhall merely transports. Its muscular V6 engine is so discreet and urbane you barely hear it above car park speeds and the satiny-smooth nine-speed ’box slips imperceptibly between gears, while the air-sprung suspension sponges away all but the worst intrusions. The vast single-screen dashboard may be an absolute eyesore to look at, but my, its clarity, seamless phone hook-up, and overall intuitive navigation through its central Comand controller are all wonderful. Same goes for the Burmester audio system, which despite horrific chrome doily speaker covers offers superb sound quality.

I guess I’ll miss the Mercedes, with its mile-eating refinement and software sophistication. But not nearly as much as I hoped I would.

By Ben Whitworth

Month 3 living with a Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer long-term test review: what's it like to drive?

Unsurprisingly, this spacious, comfortable, kit-laden and brisk estate has fitted in to our daily routine with ease. In its relatively short time with us, it’s become clear that although it doesn’t excel in any one particular area, it’s pretty damned good at pretty much everything. 

It’s the size of the Vauxhall that people comment on most. At 4986mm long, its just 213mm shorter than a long-wheelbase Range Rover, but because it’s low and narrow (relatively speaking) it doesn’t feel like a big car. Lounging and luggage space is embarrassingly generous (see rear legroom below).

Inside the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer cabin: huge interior space and rear legroom!

The Insignia’s adaptive dampers deliver a truly pillowy ride quality in Tourer mode, and a surprisingly firm and tied-down ride in Sport, with Standard delivering a well-judged compromise between the two. Handy when regularly tacking a mix of school run (Standard), A- and B-road commute (Sport) and motorway schlep (Tourer).

The grunty twin-turbo engine has loosened up, but with 354lb ft of torque arriving at just 1500rpm, it’s all about short-shifting the eight-speed auto through its closely stacked ratios for plenty of pace.

Other high points include the brilliant Bose audio system and the outstanding LED active headlamps that constantly adjust their output for maximum illumination without affecting oncoming traffic.

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer 

Price £28,435
As tested £35,685
Engine 1956cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cylinder, 207bhp @ 4000rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 142mph, 188g/km CO2
Miles this month 4058
Total 6087
Our mpg 34.4
Official mpg 39.8
Fuel this month £650.36
Extra costs None

Month 2 of our long-term test: oodles of space in a sober package

Borrowed Ben Whitworth's Insignia in wellie boots for a few hours, intrigued to see Vauxhall's take on the Allroad genre. What with Volvo's Cross Country models, VW's Alltracks, Skoda's Scouts and countless others appearing by the week, there seems to be no end to the industry's fascination with soft-roaders.

The Country Tourer conforms to type: a rustic name, a little extra ride height and some plastic accoutrements to lend a whiff of toughness to the Insignia's stance. So far, so predictable. And I think the Post Office red paint job on our long-termer only adds to the no-nonsense vibe of the 'Sig.

It's big, it's capacious, it has a slither of otherworldliness to it. Bag one at the right price and you'll have a very capable, alt-wagon to stand out from the predictable crowd. Who needs a crossover, anyway?

By Tim Pollard

Month 1 of our Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer long-term test review: the introduction

Ben Whitworth and our Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

On the automotive sector's venn diagram, the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer is pretty damned nichey. Firstly, it's a Vauxhall. While recent post-PSA-purchase reports of Luton's imminent demise might be a trifle precipitate, the days when the Griffin dominated the UK's sales charts are now well and truly behind us.

Secondly it's a swallow-all estate, a format that has fallen well out of favour now that most families tend to buy chubby SUVs. And thirdly, it's a diesel, which depending on what news outlet you read either makes it a child-killing desert-creating chariot of Satan, or the correct and economical choice for a multi-tasking family vehicle.

In a nutshell, the surprisingly sleek and undeniably handsome car on my driveway is to mass mainstream appeal what tripe is to culinary fashionability. However, simply because it won't be snapped up in numbers to prompt the introduction of a second assembly line at Rüsselsheim doesn't mean it's unworthy of consideration.

This is the £28,435 Country model, flagship of the Insignia Tourer range and powered by FCA/GM's 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The sequentially blown powerplant develops 207bhp at 4000rpm and a very generous 354lb ft at just 1500rpm, enough for an entertainingly snappy 7.7-second dash to 62mph and a 142mph top speed. Combined economy and CO2 emission figures are a significantly less exciting 39.8mpg and 188g/km.

Insignia Country Tourer engine

To call the Country a mere estate is to sell it rather short. The Country moniker means it's the elevated all-wheel-drive version aimed at the few sensible folk left in this country who need a modicum of muddy-road ability but don't feel the need to follow the lemmings and purchase a full-on mountain basher the size and weight of a modest two-up, two-down.

A 20mm increase in ride height coupled with GKN's compact and highly intelligent Twinster torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive set-up – plus the must-have plastic cladding signifiers – means the Country has both the hardware and the looks to tackle most of the off-road conditions most drivers will ever face.

Sitting atop the Tourer tree means kit levels are exceedingly generous, and to this we've added IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights (£1295), sports front seats (£1155), panoramic sunroof (£960), head-up display (£290) and a raft of driver assistance technologies, which we'll cover and test in more detail in the following reports. Total price is £35,685.

Now, depending on your perspective that's either ridiculously dear for a car with a griffin on its nose or it's rather good value when put it up against similarly specified sniffier rivals like the VW Passat Alltrack and Volvo V60 Cross Country (£36,090 and £36,580 respectively, before extras). And when comparing equivalent models, I also think it has the jump on the smaller Skoda Octavia Scout (£30,355) and the leftfield Subaru Outback (£34,995). The next six months will see if I'm right.

By Ben Whitworth

Logbook: Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

Engine 1956cc 16v 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel, 207bhp @ 4000rpm, 354lb ft @ 3600rpm
Gearbox Eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 7.7sec 0-62mph, 142mph, 188g/km CO2
Price £28,345
As tested £35,685
Miles this month 2029
Total 2029
Our mpg 34.4
Official mpg 39.8
Fuel £352.53
Extra costs £0

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By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars