HOLDEN faces a conundrum, a very big conundrum. What to do about more than 35 years of Commodore allegiance. How to replace its big beefy family car, most recently powered by a massive V8, with a mid-sized family sedan without a V8 option.
The secret is the Insignia VXR. Powered by a 2.8 litre twin rail turbo V6 that punches out 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque, the 2016 Insignia VXR forms part of Holden’s staggering 20 model promise and the flagship of its European invasion (that also includes the Astra GTC hatch and Astra VXR hot hatch).
Butted up against a six speed automatic gearbox with paddles, and an all-wheel drive steering system with an electronic diff-lock, the Insignia is currently only available as a VXR (with no other model options), and is generally a very smooth car to drive, with fantastic ride and handling.
We put the car through its paces over a week that included some long distance driving, open roads, and plenty of suburban Sydney action, and really enjoyed the beefy engine noise – a subtle combination of grunt and turbo hiss – that many won’t be used to and some won’t like. Personally we loved it.
Riding on 20-inch wheels and Brembo brakes, the Insignia (a rebadged Opel) has a lot of electronic controls, with various driving modes (Touring, Sport and VXR) available. Sport strikes the perfect balance between standard driving experience, and the off-the-hook VXR mode. Of all the modes available in the Insignia VXR, we liked Sport the best.
VXR mode is where this beast comes into its own, call it the full-tilt V8 Supercar version of your average mid-sized family sedan. In VXR mode, the Insignia digs deep when you put your foot down, sinking itself into the road before laying on the power as thick as it possibly can – and there’s plenty there. It introduces sharper more precise steering too.
Put simply, it’s in this mode where the Insignia VXR will satisfy most drivers, because it feels like a V8 killer – like you could take down a ClubSport of GT Falcon – because it wants to get up and go with all its heart and once it’s there it really does have that feel about it.
But it’s also where this car strikes some real problems in the persona its trying to portray, and its overall performance, because at best it’s a GT type car and not a true sports saloon (even though it tries very hard to be just that).
With VXR mode the Insignia introduces some hefty turbo lag in its climb to speed (with some serious bog down in low gear) and a thirst for fuel that would put most big drinkers to shame. And if anything, that’s the part that we felt most let down by, because the journey to VXR mode euphoria is a disappointment.
Inside though you’ll find plenty of European styling and refinement, but the car shows its age with some antiquated switches and dials that put it off kilter with its biggest rivals which are packed with more technology and safety features – like the Subaru Liberty 3.6R.
The infotainment system however is exceptional, showing plenty of features expected only in more expensive models, like individual tyre and oil pressures and the like, as well as cool VXR mode only features like a lap timer and G-Force meter.
Safety features include adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane-change alert, frontal impact alert (which will kick in the autonomous braking if it doesn’t think you can pull up on your own – a nice safety feature), and lane departure warning system.
It’s also definitely family friendly, with plenty of room in the boot (around 500 litres), and good space for a baby seat or two in the back seats. The only drawback we found in the seating arrangements was a lack of rear headroom for taller folk, due mostly to the curvature of the roof to the rear of the car.
The current model will hang around for a while, having first graced our shores last year (2015) and expected to maintain the status quo until late 2016 or more likely early 2017, when its significantly upgraded next generation model hits our shores. That model, the 2017 edition of the Holden Insignia VXR will more than likely carry the Commodore moniker.
You can hit the road in a 2016 Insignia VXR for just under $57,000 drive away, in just four colours – Summit White, Phantom Grey, Power Red and Carbon Flash Black. It comes with a three year, 100,000km warranty and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Our test vehicle was provided by Holden Australia. To find out more about the 2015 Holden Insignia VXR, contact your local Holden dealer.
Road Test: 2015 Holden Insignia VXR
Pros – Recaro buckets; great ride and handling; it’s got style.
Cons – Thirsty, very thirsty; turbo lag; rear headroom.