Vauxhall Insignia VXR < Car review

Vauxhall has a history of producing sporting cars and have competed in many forms of motor sport over the years, which has delivered some storming cars.

Vauxhall Insignia VXR
Vauxhall Insignia VXR

Vauxhall has a history of producing sporting cars and have competed in many forms of motor sport over the years, which has delivered some storming cars.

The icon from my day being the original Astra GTE, one of the first hot hatches of the 80s. However, time waits for no-one and the requirements in our modern times are somewhat more sophisticated.

We want high performance handling, which has to be comfortable for everyone, not an ironing board ride, engines that deliver huge amounts of horsepower but sip fuel like a moped, practical luggage space for a whole family and to cap it all we want it to be reasonably priced!

In order to answer these requirements Vauxhall has the VXR range which is the sporting arm of the factory. The one I have on test is the Insignia VXR 2.8 V6 in what I call fire engine red but is fittingly called ‘Power Red’ in the catalogue!

The shape of the Insignia will be familiar but the VXR has some different features. The first item to grab you is the wheels, which are 20-inch jobs with wide rubber band style low profile tyres that even if you’re not interested in cars immediately signals that this is different from the rest of the range.

The front bumper also sports some mesh grills which are not just there for show but help cool down the big brake discs and the Brembo brake calipers that are visible through the wheels and to finish off the ensemble are a pair of tasteful sports exhausts sticking out the rear bumper.

Then, if you are under any illusion as to what this car is there are VXR badges everywhere, just in case you forget, which ,and you will have to trust me on this, is highly unlikely!

The VXR theme continues on the interior with instrument panels, gear lever, pedals and a three spoke steering wheel that is flat at the bottom all being suitably badged. Oh and as you get in there are VXR alloy sill covers again reminding you that you are entering a different beast from the normal family car.

The front seats are Recaro and are beautifully supportive in all the right places and achieve the feat of comfort and firmness that enables you to tackle almost any form of driving. Other manufacturers should take note of this as too many times I have driven high performance versions of family cars to find that the seat is designed for a racetrack where even a wallet in the back pocket can means you don’t fit in the seat.

The Insignia VXR is fitted with Vauxhall’s latest version of their 2.8litre 24v Turbo V6 which produces a pleasing 325 brake horsepower and is fitted to an excellent auto box which help distribute the power to the 4 wheel drive system.

Yes you did read correctly. At this point it would be churlish to talk about performance, but you know me, I would rather be churlish than miss the opportunity to wax lyrical about the power delivery, the sound it makes when you bury the throttle pedal and the way it eats up the road with the sort of performance that would scare many so called sports cars.

With 0-60 coming up in 5.9 seconds this is a serious performance car and the excellent 4 wheel drive system never seems to interfere but does allow the tyres to provide massive amounts of grip in pretty much any situation, providing confidence in being able to use the power when you want, and not when it is just pointed in straight line on a dual carriageway or motorway.

Now I have left the best bit until last, the handling. The previous Vectra VXR was a fearsome beast with huge amounts of understeer that could be induced almost at will and if you drove one of these cars banish its memory from your mind NOW!

The Insignia VXR has been tested extensively on the fearsome Nürburgring race track to ensure that its road manners are impeccable and I have to say the time the engineers spent there has been worth every penny, or cent depending on whether you work in Euros.

For a car of this size to handle the way it does with a surefooted nimbleness is amazing and will have you looking for the sign that indicates the road has loads of bends.

Sadly, this also means that you are going to be late home from just about anywhere and excuses like ‘the car broke down’ (unlikely!), the road was closed (possibly) and my all-time favourite ‘I needed to stay late at work’ (I do sometimes stay late) are all going to wear thin pretty quickly.

So if you are looking for something out of the ordinary that is comfortable, practical, accommodates the family and their luggage and will thrill you with its performance and handling with the added bonus of bringing a big smile to your face every time you drive it then buy one.

On the other hand if being in the doghouse constantly and having to come up with ever more ingenious excuses to your better half as to why you are late ‘again’ you might want to avoid this car, but, if I can influence your decision in any way, plus provide you with another excuse, which is to blame me, (for clarity that’s Neil spelt N-e-i-l) I would recommend the doghouse every time. Trust me it’s worth it!