ROAD­TEST

A left-field en­try among AWD turbo sedans, Opel’s range­top­ping In­signia OPC has Ger­man her­itage and great fea­tures

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - NEIL DOWLING neil.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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