Car reviews - Opel - Insignia - OPC
Sleeper looks, storming engine, excellent grip from all-paw system, race-inspired interior
Room for improvement
Auto-only status limits driver appeal, wags tail under heavy braking, heavy fuel use, lacks a bit of the fast-car fizz
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12 Jul 2013
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
Entry to the four-door Opel club will cost you from $59,990 plus on-road costs.
That’s about the same as an all-paw WRX STi sedan with a less-powerful 221kW 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four but available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto, and slightly more than the manual version of the all-wheel-drive 217kW Mitsubishi Evo sedan fitted with a five-speed manual shifter – the six-speed auto version costs a couple of thousand more.
But the Opel gains you an extra couple of cylinders mated to a lag-minimising twin-scroll turbo. The killer, though, compared with the 350Nm ‘Rex and the 366Nm Evo, is that the OPC cranks out a whopping 435Nm. Say that again, very slowly – the 309kW 4.0-litre V8-engined BMW M3 only produces 400Nm.
It is well equipped. It starts with bespoke Recaro bucket seats with eight-way electric adjustment that look a little Volkswagen CC in design, but grab at the hips and shoulders. They’re heated, too.
The headlights are self-levelling and switch on automatically at dusk, the windscreen wipers sense the rain, the Bluetooth system hooks up with your phone, and the multimedia screen controlling the seven-speaker audio system also houses a satellite-navigation system and USB port but lacks a touchscreen.
The level of self-serving kit is good, because all you have to do is get down to the business of driving.
Outside, there’s the OPC go-fast apparel that lacks some of the overt, look-at-me qualities of the competition. This extends to stylish 19-inch alloy wheels, a front end set with chrome-look shark-tooth air intakes and offset by vertical slashes that gives the Insignia a more aggressive maw, a shark fin antenna for the sat-nav system, and a tiny lip spoiler on the boot lid.
The lack of drama on the outside is reversed on the inside. Pull on the Insignia’s driver’s door handle and swing it open, and you’re presented with a pair of the best road-friendly race buckets on the market.
Shaped, straked with vertical lines and heavily bolstered, they hug their occupants in tight – once they’ve negotiated the steep drop down into them.
Before you swing the door shut you’ll notice the shiny OPC-labelled door sills and the cross-drilled pedals hidden away under the almost oval-looking steering wheel. Even the floor mats scream the Opel go-fast logo.
The dash looks much like any other Opel, and the instrument cluster uses red needles offset with a bluish backlight, split by a rather 2000s-style red-lit LCD screen in the centre.
A pair of paddle shifts hide behind the steering wheel, and a couple of new buttons appear on the wrong side of the rather corporate-looking dash, reading “Sport” and “OPC”. It’s easier for the front-seat passenger to hit them.
The Opel Insignia OPC loses nothing to versatility, either. It still has four doors and five seats – the slightly cramped back ones still split-fold down to open up more cargo area rather than give way to a body-stiffening cross-brace – and the boot is a handy size for the weekly shopping.
Engine and transmission
Purists are going to bemoan the lack of a manual option for what is a pretty hardcore driver’s car, but what are you going to do? Suck it up, princess.
Around town and in default mode, the 2.7-litre V6 is a nice, tractable engine.
It mates well with the six-speed auto.
At the push of the Sport or OPC buttons, it is transformed. The exhaust takes on a deeper burble, the paddle shift-selected gearshifts become almost violent under a light throttle as the huge well of torque from the engine earthquakes through the driveline.
It’s not quick, but it feels as though it is. On paper, the 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a rather sluggard 6.3 seconds in part due to the peaky nature of the engine, but you’re somewhat distracted by all the exhaust rumble and the tacho sweeping the face of the dial that it doesn’t really feel that slow, but in reality both the Subaru and Mitsubishi will leave this car in their wake.
It demands attention, though. Jump on the right-hand paddle a bit early, and the gear slams into the next one up the range. Mistime an upshift, and instead of calling in the fun police and picking the next gear up the range, the Insignia OPC will bounce angrily off the rev limiter.
Fuel economy is an interesting one. Officially the Insignia OPC will use 10.9 litres of premium fuel every 100 kilometres its travels. The reality for us, though, was a dip into the mid-14s – that’s full-blown V8 territory.
Ride and handling
It’s a performance car, so the day-to-day reality is that at gentle speeds the Opel Insignia OPC is constantly moving as its long wheelbase reacts to the undulations in the road surface.
The steering is city-light on its default setting, and doesn’t improve too much even though it loads up when you lean across and hit either the Sport or OPC button.
Turn the wick up, and the steering lacks the precise feel that keen drivers will search for, pointing accurately enough but never really communicating fully what is going on.
It’s a shame, because the power delivered to all four wheels via the Insignia OPC’s Pirellis grip the road like a weight-challenged youth on a sugar-laced treat. Turn-in is crisp, and you can confidently roll on the throttle even before hitting an apex. A twisty section of road becomes a real joy. The Sport button provides a good electronic safety net, while the OPC button is a lot more liberal in the degree of play, but will still watch over the driver.
However, it lacks that certain something that defines a true performance car like the WRX STi or the Mitsubishi Evo. It goes, just not that quickly, and it corners, although you never need to grab it by the scruff of the neck to deliver the performance you want.
The blood-red Brembo brakes and their cross-drilled discs are strong and give good feeling even under punishment. However, jump on the anchors heavily at speed, and the Opel Insignia OPC’s tail wags like a dog as the rear end shimmies around the front wheels. A proper rear spoiler adding significantly more braking downforce probably wouldn’t go astray.
Safety and servicing
The OPC follows the rest of the Insignia range, with six airbags as standard.
However, as we’ve mentioned, the driver can back off the electronic stability control’s intervention when the situation calls for it.
The more pedestrian Insignia has scored well in crash testing, earning a top five-star rating for a left-hand-drive European, diesel-engined model that has gained the Australian vehicle safety watchdog’s tick of approval.
Opel’s warranty covers the Insignia OPC for three years or 100,000 kilometres.
Capped price servicing for the Insignia OPC covers the first three years or 45,000km, whichever comes first. It will cost you $399 each time.
Rather than a hardcore performance car, what Opel appears to have turned out in the Insignia OPC is a mid-size grand tourer.
Sure, it goes hard, corners well, and sounds the part, but it lacks some of the the visceral rawness of the other cars in this class and is auto-only, limiting its appeal to the hardcore drivers.
That said, once the open road starts to twist and turn, there’s always that OPC button that is but a big stretch across the dash away.
Subaru WRX STi sedan auto (From $59,990 before on-roads).
You won’t mistake this for anything else on the road. Gold wheels and a lairy bootlid deck provide as much a sense of theatre as they do added performance.
All-paw grip and a peaky flat-six turbo four-pot add to a sense of exclusivity.
Six-speed manual is same price.
Mitsubishi Evolution auto (From $61,990 before on-roads).
Gen 10 of the Evo is just as hard-punting as previous generations thanks to the four-pot monster hidden under the vented bonnet, but paddle shifts fix to the column, not the wheel. Pushing the limit the Evo doesn’t feel as well planted as the STi-badged ‘Rex. Retrograde five-speed manual is $5000 cheaper.
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo auto (From $48,235 before on-roads).
Huge chunk of cash less, bigger, just as thirsty on fuel, Aussie-made and with a reputation that’s long and honoured. A wildcard in this mix, but in-line turbo 4.0-litre six is good for 270kW and 533Nm, and has a certain litheness to it. Six-speed manual strips $2000 off the price.
SpecsMAKE/MODEL: Opel Insignia OPC
ENGINE: 2792cc turbo V6
LAYOUT: Front-engined, all-wheel-drive
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: N/a
EMISSIONS: 255g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Performance Macpherson (f)/Multilink (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: 355mm ventilated disc with four-pot Brembo calipers (f)/315mm ventilated disc (r)
PRICE: From $59,990 before on-roads
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