A left-field entry among AWD turbo sedans, Opel’s rangetopping Insignia OPC has German heritage and great features
OPEL is trying to leverage its German heritage to appeal to Australian buyers. The main problem is that in our crowded car market, choice overwhelms clarity and results in everyone buying a Mazda3.
So it’s proving a tough sell for Opel, not least for its biggish Insignia. The OPC is the range-topper, one that’s trying to prove every all-wheeldrive turbo sedan from Germany isn’t an Audi.
The Insignia is Opel’s biggest car. Its platform can accommodate all-wheel drive, so it’s a natural recipient of more power.
Hence the OPC and the ambitious $59,990 price.
It rivals AWDs from Volkswagen, Subaru, Volvo and Audi. The list of highquality standard features is long and it has capped-price servicing. The Insignia OPC has some keen rivals but performs strongly, looks the goods and resale value is rated a very high 60 per cent.
This is the most powerful production Opel ever, using the Holden-made 2.8-litre version of the Commodore’s V6.
A turbocharger coaxes 239kW/435Nm from it. On paper that’s explosive but in practice the outputs arrive high in the rev band. There’s a sixspeed conventional automatic with paddle-shifters and an ondemand all-wheel drive with limited-slip rear differential.
Brakes are ventilated and cross-drilled discs, the steering is electric-assist and there’s a three-mode vehicle control system ranging from normal to OPC. The latter stiffens the suspension (equipped with magnetic-particle dampers), tightens the steering ratio, raises transmission shift points and sharpens engine response.
The OPC also gets Opel’s HiPerStrut front suspension, which reduces torque steer and maintains the wheels’ negative camber during cornering to improve grip.
Its body looks like stretched clingwrap over gym-pumped muscles. The curves, the extended VE Commodorestyle wheelarches and the infill of low-profile rubber on boldly spoked 19-inch alloy wheels makes it look 200km/h-plus even when it’s standing still.
It looks great. Muscles apart, it has enough soft lines to appeal to conservative tastes. Note the Commodore grille. The boot is generous but the lid is tiny.
The cabin is roomy for four adults though rear-seat side windows are narrow. The dashboard design is standard German in its clean lines but filled with lots of buttons. Too many buttons. Quality is good but not quiteVWclass.
The seats look great and exceed appearances by being superbly comfortable, well-made and perfectly bolstered to enjoy the car’s handling. They’re probably the best seats around.
There is a five-star crash rating, six airbags, the whole list of electronic suspension and brake aids, front and rear park sensors, bi-xenon cornering headlights, daytime running LEDs and the grip of all-wheel drive. No spare wheel — only an inflation kit.
If you want the best from this sedan you have to drive it with conviction. It’s weak off the mark thanks to the combination of turbo lag, compromised automatic gearbox and hefty 1809kg. It fires up at about 3500rpm and boils on to 6000rpm. The exhaust sound is orchestral in its breadth and strength.
It’s best used as a manual, flicking the paddle shifters and learning to use the throttle to balance out cornering understeer and holding a bit of oversteer. Get it right and the handling is excellent.
Away from the track and back in traffic, the Insignia feels frustrated. Its firm ride, firm seats and firm steering plus the off-the-mark hesitation are annoying. It’s also a car that demands driver attention to its controls. The dashboard and console layout is initially attractive to look at but becomes complex to operate.
Vision is also poor thanks to heavy windscreen pillars, highbacked seats and steeply sloping roofline.
A left-field entry with loads of great features and a car that makes you smile. You have to work the car to show its best but that’s part of the challenge.