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First drive: Opel's hot Insignia OPC slips under $60K

Bahn-stormer: With its value pricing and hairy-chested performance, it is no wonder European police forces favour the Insignia OPC.

Opel hopes to mine the old Passat R36 market with Holden-engined AWD flagship

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Opel logo14 Feb 2013

OPEL HOPES to mine the market vacated by the old Volkswagen Passat R36 with its Insignia OPC (Opel Performance Centre).

Priced from $59,900 before on-road costs, the German marque’s flagship performance/luxury sedan is also aiming to snare customers who may instead consider other similarly sized but less powerful alternatives such as the $54,990 Subaru Liberty GT Premium, Volkswagen’s $55,990 Passat V6 FSI Highline and $64,990 CC V6 FSI, the $79,950 Volvo S80 AWD, and even the $120,400 Audi S4.

The first Insignia offered in Australia with both V6 power (courtesy of Holden) and all-wheel drive after a duo of four-cylinder turbo models, the OPC will only be offered in a single highly equipped package based on the up-spec Select, with 20-inch alloys ($1000) and metallic paint ($695) being the only options.

Opel Australia managing director Bill Mott revealed at the Insignia’s launch in Sydney this week that an OPC Tourer wagon model may follow, but only if customers demand it.

“We’ve not closed that door,” he said. “If a lot of people rock up to our showroom and are looking for a 239kW wagon, we could bring that to market.”

Made at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne, then shipped to meet the rest of the car in Germany, the engine in question is a Euro V-rated 2792cc 2.8-litre V6.

Also used in the now defunct Saab 9-5 Aero and boosted with a twin-scroll turbocharger and an intercooler, the engine delivers both its 239kW power and 435Nm torque peaks at 5250rpm in this instance.

As the only OPC model with a conventional (six-speed) torque converter automatic gearbox, the 1809kg German sedan accelerates to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds, averages 10.9 litres per 100km, and emits 255 grams of carbon dioxide. No manual option is available.

Haldex of Sweden provides a specially OPC-tuned adaptive part-time all-wheel drive system, which can direct up to 100 per cent of torque to the rear via an electronic limited slip differential if extra traction is needed otherwise this remains a front-wheel drive vehicle.

To help distribute power to the wheels smoothly while aiding grip and control when cornering, the Insignia adopts a variation of the Astra GTC/OPC’s HiPerStrut (high performance MacPherson strut) front suspension.

Stiffer bushings and springs, different anti-roll bars (softer up front, firmer in the back), and a three-mode electronic damper control system known as Flex Ride (normal, Sport and ‘OPC’ modes – each progressively firming the ride and reducing body roll while boosting throttle response), complete the chassis modifications.

The multi-link rear suspension and hydraulic rack and pinion steering remain the same as in non-OPC versions.

On the braking front, Brembo provides larger 355mm ventilated and cross-drilled discs, four-piston callipers and beefier brake pads up front.

Wheel choices are OPC exclusive 19- or 20-inch forged alloys with Pirelli P Zero rubber.

Other visual differentiators from a normal Select-spec Insignia include tiger-tooth shaped front air intakes, different rocker panels, a boot spoiler, dual exhaust pipes and additional chrome finishes.

Inside there is dark headliner, flat-bottomed ‘performance’ steering wheel, restyled gear lever, and instrument lighting that changes from white to red in ‘OPC’ mode.

Most obvious though are the Recaro front sports seats, bringing independent specialist approval for ergonomic, comfort, and support.

They sit 15mm lower than usual, and offer electric assistance with memory modes for the driver.

Save for the OPC specific items including AWD, equipment levels align with the Insignia Select, bringing satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather upholstery, front seat heating and cushion extensions, Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise control, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, and a seven-inch colour information display screen.

Along with the aforementioned OPC-tuned active safety systems are front, front-side, and curtain airbags, active headrests, and a pedal breakaway system.

The OPC wagon offered abroad offers identical specification and performance as the Insignia sedan, though its extra rear overhang and resulting weight increase means some suspension tune differences have been necessary.

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