The Ger­man gen­eral

GM’S Opel brand launches here next week. We get an ex­clu­sive first drive of the range-top­ping In­signia sedan

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

sedan to start about $39,000— or right on Pas­sat money. The up-spec Se­lect vari­ant is likely to be about $45,000.

They share a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine— a turbo diesel of the same dis­place­ment will prob­a­bly be $2000 more— and the wagon is sim­i­larly expected to be a $2000 pre­mium over the sedan.

Stan­dard gear on the top model tested by in­cludes 19-inch al­loys, sev­en­speaker sound sys­tem, du­al­zone cli­mate con­trol, sev­eninch infotainment dis­play, sat­nav and au­to­matic lights and wipers.

The seats are heated and cooled and are the only pro­duc­tion car pews of­fi­cially ap­proved by the Ger­man chi­ro­prac­tic as­so­ci­a­tion to help your back— al­though there is only elec­tric as­sis­tance for lum­bar sup­port and ver­ti­cal ad­just­ment.

TECH­NOL­OGY

This is the 2009 Euro­pean Car of the Year and for very good rea­son.

The engine is crisp, the trans­mis­sion smooth and there are enough soft­ware tweaks to sat­isfy first-adopter technophiles.

Euro­pean cars have the op­tion of all-wheel drive and that is expected to ap­pear here in the per­for­mance OPC model — if and when Opel Aus­tralia an­nounces we’re get­ting the halo vari­ant.

A FlexRide’’ adap­tive damp­ing sys­tem will be an op­tion. The sys­tem can be man­u­ally ad­justed from sport to tour, or left in auto to map its own set­tings based on the driver and car’s be­hav­iour. Not that there’s any­thing wrong with the ba­sic pack­age.

DE­SIGN

The sweep­ing roofline on the In­signia sedan al­most en­ti­tles it to four-door coupe sta­tus but rear head­room is bet­ter than those ve­hi­cles. A boot lip spoiler will be stan­dard on Aussie mod­els but was miss­ing from our pre­pro­duc­tion drive and the clut­tered cen­tre con­sole on our test car will be sim­pli­fied with an infotainment con­troller be­tween the front seats.

The wrap­around look that ex­tends to the doors is slick, un­like the con­trols on the steer­ing col­umn stalks, which suf­fer from the fact they’re shared with the unloved Holden Epica. But that is one of the few ar­eas where the Opel shows its age as a 2008 model, along with the lack of stowage op­tions for the junk most peo­ple pack in to a car these days.

The up­side is that the 500-litre boot should sat­isfy most own­ers’ haulage needs and there’s al­ways the wagon for those want­ing greater load ca­pac­ity.

SAFETY

Euro NCAP says the In­signia is a five-star car for safety. All vari­ants have six airbags, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol linked to the ABS and four-way ac­tive head­rests, along with seat belt re­minders for both front oc­cu­pants.

The big­gest criticism of the car from the crash-test­ing group was for its pedes­trian safety— the sheep who in­vite dis­as­ter by ig­nor­ing road rules while walk­ing with buds in their ears might want to stroll in front of some­thing else. Like a bi­cy­cle.

DRIV­ING

The In­signia’s date with a tele­vi­sion cam­era meant

couldn’t push its dy­nam­ics to the limit. Some­thing about paint chip not look­ing good in the laun com­mer­cial.

As it tran­spired, we didn’ need to— the chas­sis and sus­pen­sion are right up ther

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