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Car reviews - Holden - Insignia - VXR

Our Opinion

We like
AWD grip, great seats, V6 oomph, equipment, value, comfort, room, GT capabilities
Room for improvement
Road noise intrusion, remote steering, thirst, heaviness, not a sports sedan in any sense

Holden logo24 Jun 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

KEEPING expectations in check is probably the best way to enjoy any new car.

And that’s difficult when the model in question is as handsome as Holden’s new Insignia VXR.

Dating back six years ago, the original Opel/Vauxhall mid-sizer has aged exceptionally well, setting the pace with happy proportions, eye-catching detailing, cleanly cut edges, and a muscular stance. To this day, the German-built family car remains one of the best-looking mainstream cars of its shape and price.

In beefy VXR armour, with subtle metallic highlights and gorgeous 20-inch alloys, the Holden that Opel built – and tried to sell unsuccessfully as the Insignia OPC for a few months back in 2013 – looks like it might give the BMW M5 a hard time.

Similarly, the spacious and practical interior has benefitted from just enough change to lift it up from its more mundane siblings thanks to a dramatic pair of leather-lined Recaro sports seats, smart digital/analogue combo instruments that glow red when in ‘VXR’ sport mode, and a natty flat-bottomed steering wheel that just loves to be gripped. Hard.

So far, so very promising. And the enticements just keep on coming the moment you push the fancy dash-mounted button to fire up what is actually an Australian-made (by Holden of course) 239kW/435Nm 2.8-litre HF (High Feature) double-overhead cam 24-valve V6. As far as engine notes go, this deep-voiced lothario idles with alluring anticipation.

And then the illusion of a cut-price Audi RS4 quattro vaporises the moment you select Drive. While the Insignia VXR is by no means slow in any sense of the word – low-to-mid 6s for the 0-100km/h dash isn’t shabby at all – there is a sense of inertia to the way the Holden accelerates.

Yes, it will hit three-figures easily accompanied by that rousing exhaust baritone, and will pull more easily than Chris Pratt at a mixed single’s bar if you need to overtake something, but there just isn’t the alacrity of response.

Fast but not electrifying sums it up.

A quick check of the specs reveals why one of the most powerful vehicles under $55K isn’t the firecracker you’d expect it to be – the official kerb weight is 1836kg – some 200kg more than its less-powerful rivals, the Subaru Liberty 3.6R and Volkswagen CC FSI AWD.

Unfortunately, that has a detrimental affect on the handling too, for while the VXR sticks to the road with demented determination – we sampled it on the stunning roads of New Zealand’s sublimely beautiful Milford Sound in zero-degree temperatures – the nose feels heavy, the steering seems detached, and there is precious little feedback coming through to the driver. While the Holden handles, it never entertains.

And that’s a shame, because the big Brembo brakes do a fine job hauling the big old German up.

Unfortunately, while the ride is actually quite impressive for a car wearing Pirelli P Zero 255/35ZR20 tyres, the resulting road drone entering the cabin can get very tiresome for rear-seat passengers.

However, in the greater scheme of things, it’s worth remembering that at just $51,990, plus on-road costs, Holden has thrown Heston Blumenthal as well as the kitchen sink in.

More importantly, this German-made V6 turbo-AWD sedan is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than any equivalently sized or powered Audi and Volvo, so if you’re in the market for a smooth and sexy GT touring sedan, then the Insignia VXR is a bit of an uber-bargain.

So look at it not as a sports sedan in any shape or form but a fast and secure European GT, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s in this headspace that the Holden Insignia VXR shines brightest.

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