Holden is facing one of the most important and challenging periods in its history as it ends local manufacture and becomes a full-line importer. Although much of Holden’s current line-up is showing signs of age, the company plans to introduce more than 20 new/updated cars over the next five years. Holden intends to take advantage of General Motors’ global catalogue and a third of new models will be of European origin.
The stream of Euro vehicles began with the reintroduction of the formerly Opel-badged Astra and its convertible sibling, the Cascada. And now comes the mid-sized Insignia VXR sedan. The Insignia, which was also previously badged as an Opel, is one of a new generation of ‘halo’ cars for Holden, the sort of vehicle that the brand hopes will attract and retain customers who have been loyal to the company’s Australian-built Commodore over several decades.
The current Insignia has been around for a number of years overseas, so at this stage Holden is only releasing one variant – the sporty VXR model. It is only available as an automatic and is $51,990 plus on-road costs. Metallic paint is $550 extra and applies to all but white.
The German-built Insignia, with its sophisticated drivetrain and advanced safety features, is one of the most technically advanced Holdens ever. The turbo-charged 2.8L V6 petrol engine is from the same family as that in the Commodore and is built in the Melbourne engine plant. It produces 239kW and a strong 435Nm of torque. All of this performance in a vehicle weighing more than 1800kg comes with a hefty claimed fuel consumption of 11.3L/100km and a requirement for premium 98 RON petrol.
The all-wheel-drive system is a sophisticated design to combat European winters. It is able to distribute up to 100% of the drive to the front or rear wheels, and is combined with an electronic limited slip differential (LSD) in the rear to direct drive to the tyre with the most grip. In normal operation it is predominantly front-wheel-drive but it makes for a very capable performance car, as demonstrated by the ability of this system during a day of driving on ice in New Zealand.
We didn’t have a great deal of time to drive the Insignia in normal conditions but on the road we found it to be a capable sports sedan. The engine performed strongly without being too lairy and the handling was engaging. The weighting and feel of the hydraulic steering system with variable electronic adjustment was good in normal mode.
There are three driving modes that adjust the suspension and steering, throttle response, transmission shift points and the operation of the adaptive all-wheel-drive system. The standard mode does an impressive job of balancing the sporting intent of the VXR, with surprisingly good ride quality for a car on 20-inch wheels and low-profile tyres. There is also a Sport setting plus a VXR mode for those looking to obtain the maximum performance from the car. This performance focus also extends to the brakes with a highly regarded Brembo braking package.
The premium sporting attributes continue to the interior with comfortable, heated, leather-appointed Recaro front sports seats. There is good leg space in the rear, although the swooping roofline hampers head room.