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Driven: Insignia VXR tops Holden's sedan line-up

Sedan plan: The Insignia VXR sedan will act as a hero model rather than attracting massive volume, according to Holden execs.

Holden’s Insignia VXR performance sedan to lift brand rather than sales

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Holden logo24 Jun 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

GM HOLDEN is courting a number of all-wheel drive rivals with the return of the Insignia nameplate to Australia this month, chiefly the Subaru Liberty 3.6R as well as Volkswagen CC buyers.

As announced in May, the Holden Insignia VXR is $8000 cheaper than its Opel Insignia OPC predecessor at $51,990 plus on-road costs, despite the all-wheel drive performance sedan – the company’s first – gaining a fresh look and other changes as part of its mid-cycle makeover.

While that puts the Insignia VXR at a $10,000 deficit compared with the Liberty 3.6R Premium, it costs $15,000 less than the Volkswagen CC V6 FSI that is also built in Germany.

Speaking with media at the Insignia VXR's launch in New Zealand this week, GM Holden executive director of marketing Geraldine Davys said the performance sedan offers buyers more than the two main rivals.

“It puts the Insignia VXR neatly between the two,” she said, “…but we absolutely win when it comes to power, torque, technology, and safety.”

The Insignia trumps its stated rivals by offering Adaptive Front Lighting with auto high-beam functionality and 20-inch rather than 18-inch alloys as standard, while the VXR also tops the VW CC with lane-departure warning and radar-guided adaptive cruise control. Some of these features are firsts for Holden.

While Holden director of communications Sean Poppitt declined to talk sales projections and expectations, he revealed that it will play a key role in the rebuilding of Holden’s image, battered by declining overall volume, and poor receptions for its recent mid-size offerings out of South Korea, the Malibu as well as the Epica that preceded it.

“It is going to be niche, and we’re not going to sell hundreds of thousands of these,” Mr Poppitt said. “But it is important to help redefine the brand… with technology and refinement and the fact the Insignia is a European sports sedan… it is as much about brand as it is about sales.” Holden has also confirmed that no liftback or wagon versions of the VXR will be offered in Australia, despite their availability in Europe.

Heavily based on the original Opel Insignia OPC (for Opel Performance Centre) that was only available for about six months from early 2013, the Holden version is the Series II facelift that debuted at the Frankfurt motor show later on during that same year.

The changes are mostly cosmetic, bringing sleeker headlights, different bumpers, front mudguards, bonnet, and air intakes up front, and revamped tail-lights, boot lid, and diffuser out back.

A cleaner centre console design, with fewer buttons and a larger and more sophisticated centre touchscreen, dominates the facelift inside, although the Insignia’s instrument cluster has also been overhauled with a combination analogue/digital dials and gauges, while fresh trim and materials also proliferate.

Mechanically much carries over from the old OPC, but Holden says there has been some tweaks to the suspension tune.

Additionally, an electrical systems overhaul means more advanced driver assistance systems are standard, including Holden-first adaptive cruise control, lane change alert, and auto emergency braking, while blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts also make the single-grade VXR.

Powering the VXR is a Holden-built 2.8-litre double overhead cam 24-valve V6 with a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, delivering 239kW of power and 435Nm torque peaks between 1900-4000rpm.

Fitted with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission – no manual gearbox is available – the 1836kg Holden uses almost half a litre more fuel than its Opel predecessor, averaging an official 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres, while emitting 264 grams of carbon dioxide.

No official performance figures have been published, but it is expected that the VXR will come very close to matching the OPC’s 0-100km/h time of 6.3 seconds.

Drive is delivered to all four wheels via a Haldex adaptive part-time all-wheel drive system, shuffling between zero and 100 per cent of torque from the front to the rear wheels as traction needs require, via an electronic limited slip differential.

Assisting grip and control through corners is what Holden calls its HiPerStrut high performance MacPherson strut front suspension system, with a kingpin inclination reduced by nine degrees and spindle length shortened to 44mm compared with the conventional Insignia sedan’s item. The rear features a multi-link arrangement, while the rack and pinion steering is an electro-hydraulic one.

There are also stiffer springs and bushings, thicker anti roll bars, and Flex Ride – a three-mode electronic damper control system offering Normal, Sport and ‘VXR’ modes each progressively works on the engine’s throttle, transmission shift pattern, steering, and AWD system to either sharpen responses, increase steering weight, resist body roll, or harden the ride.

Brembo brakes wash away speed, in the form of an 18-inch booster with larger ventilated and cross-drilled discs (355mm x 32mm) and four-piston callipers up front it also features ‘floating disc’ technology, for reduced unsprung mass.

Pirelli P Zero 255/35ZR20 tyres are fitted on standard 20-inch alloys, with the spare being an inflator kit.

Standard features include a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, stability and traction controls, anti-lock brakes, cornering brake control, hydraulic brake-fade assist, trailer sway control, breakaway pedals, tyre-pressure monitors, and adaptive forward lighting with bi-Xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lamps.

Recaro front sports seats with electric assistance with memory modes for the driver, auto headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather upholstery, front seat heating with cushion extensions, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, cruise control, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen display with GM’s most up-to-date MyLink infotainment system.

The boot can carry up to 500 litres, while folding the split rear backrest ups that to 1015 litres.

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