Vauxhall Insignia GSI Sports Tourer
MODEL TESTED SPORTS TOURER 2.0 BITURBO D BLUE INJECTION GSI NAV
Price £35,465 Power 207bhp Torque 354lb ft 0-60mph 8.4sec 30-70mph in fourth 8.2sec Fuel economy 36.0mpg CO2 emissions 187g/km 70-0mph 41.8m
Welcome back, GSI. It has been more than a decade now since the old Vectra (C generation) last wore that badge. Back then, Vauxhall used it to mark out its fruitier model derivatives, until it was retired in favour of the more hardcore VXR series of vehicles.
But VXR is now experiencing something of a hiatus. Click through to the Vauxhall VXR website and all you’ll find is a list of models that are no longer on sale. So where do you look if you fancy a Vauxhall with a bit more pep?
Now, as before, to a trusty, thrusty GSI. With VXR out of the picture – for now, at least – that revived model derivative will serve as Vauxhall’s performance sub-brand, offering buyers a griffin-badged alternative to Ford’s ST and Volkswagen’s GTI range of cars.
Rather than reintroduce GSI on the back of a hot hatchback, though, Vauxhall has chosen its flagship Insignia to return GSI to the performance car landscape. And it hasn’t done things by half measures, either. Former DTM (German Touring Car Masters) champion Volker Strycek – now Vauxhall’s director of performance cars and motorsport – led the Insignia Gsi’s development programme; a programme that included plenty of time on track at the Nürburgring. In fact, Vauxhall claims the Insignia GSI is the fastest production car it has put around the circuit, knocking 12sec off the lap time set by the firstgeneration Insignia VXR.
That’s not to say GSI is usurping VXR in like-for-like terms, though. Despite Vauxhall’s touting of the Insignia GSI as being its new performance flagship, it has firmly said that VXR isn’t dead and that there will be new Vxr-badged cars in future. Where VXRS will be more hardcore, uncompromising driver’s cars, Gsis will always put plenty of emphasis on everyday usability.
Regardless, it sounds as though Vauxhall should have a fairly potent performance car on its hands with the new Insignia GSI. Will it pass muster under the microscope of the full Autocar road test, though? Let’s find out.
DESIGN AND ENGINEERING
Just like any other Insignia, the GSI is available in either Grand Sport or Sports Tourer guises, and the choice of a petrol or diesel engine increases the number of possible model variations to four. The quickest? That’s the Grand Sport with the 256bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor – the same car that bettered the old Insignia VXR’S Nürburgring lap time despite having 65bhp less power. Being 160kg lighter than the older car was likely a key factor.
The Insignia GSI Sports Tourer we opted to test, however, is powered by Vauxhall’s diesel engine. It’s the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder biturbo unit you’ll find in the Insignia Elite Nav and Country Tourer models – and so, a touch disappointingly, perhaps not what you’d consider a dedicated ‘performance’ engine – but it makes a pretty healthy 207bhp
at 4000rpm and 354lb ft from 1500rpm. This is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission – the first to be fitted to a Vauxhall – while a GKN Twinster e-diff aids traction by managing the distribution of torque actively between the rear wheels.
Structurally, the GSI sits on the same E2 platform that underpins all Insignia models. Suspension comprises Macpherson struts and coil springs at the front, with a fivelink axle and coil springs at the rear. For the GSI, though, Vauxhall has dropped the Insignia’s ride height by 10mm and stiffened the spring rates by between 35% and 40% depending on the engine and bodystyle. Flexride adaptive dampers are standard fit and offer a choice of three configurations: Standard, Sport and Tour.
All variants ride on 20in alloy wheels that are shod in 245/35-sized Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres. Each of these wheels is 1.5kg lighter than the comparable 20in alloy offered on lesser Insignia models. Four-cylinder Brembo front brakes also provide improved stopping power.
The Insignia Gsi’s cabin doesn’t immediately strike you as one that has been given an appetite-whetting performance makeover. A pair of leather-upholstered sports front seats are the clearest indicator that you’re in something with sporting ambitions. They’re fairly large but offer good lateral support and adjustability, allowing you to sit low down in the cabin for a more sporting driving position than in a normal Insignia. The steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, too, so in terms of ergonomics, Vauxhall has done a commendable job.
The material quality and richness you expect of a top-of-the-range performance derivative is notable largely by its absence, though. Soft-touch plastics dominate the dashboard and harder, scratchier materials are used in the lower reaches – just as they are in a normal Insignia. Vauxhall has fitted chromed and piano black panelling in an apparent attempt at lifting the Insignia’s ambience, although this only really serves to leave the cabin feeling rather dull and monochrome.
Still, while the Vauxhall may not impress so much on a visual level, it champions practicality. Up front, there’s plenty of space between the driver and passenger, and those in the rear will find an abundance of leg and head room. The main
draw, though, is the Insignia Sports Tourer’s load-carrying ability.
Lifting the tailgate reveals a large, wide boot aperture that provides access to a 560-litre cargo area when the rear seats are in place and 1665 litres with the back seats folded down. The boot floor is flush with the rear bumper, so there’s no large lip to lift heavy items over, and a number of hooks provide handy mounting points to stop the weekly shop from sliding about on the way home. For the sake of comparison, a Ford Mondeo estate offers between 500 and 1605 litres of luggage capacity depending on the seating configuration, and the Skoda Superb estate trumps both with 660 litres available with the rear seats in place and a cavernous 1950 litres if they’re folded flat.
You’ll know how important it is that pseudo-sporting models sound the part, right? You turn the key and are rewarded with an aggressive growl that hints at the potential. Hmm. If you’re looking for that, the Insignia GSI diesel is not the car for you.
The Insignia Gsi’s diesel engine is one you’ll find in the Elite Nav and Country Tourer models and it sounds as underwhelming here as it does in those applications. There’s a top-endy kind of rattle that you won’t find in premium-badged alternatives, a lack of refinement that manifests itself as a constant backdrop to your driving, unless you’re at a barely open throttle motorway cruising speed, when (reasonable) road and (moderate) wind noise and the low revs afforded by the eight-speed auto render it inaudible. At no point, anyway, does it sound powerful.
It isn’t, either. Its 207bhp is not the sort of power output that would have you writing letters home, although its 354lb ft, which is developed from only 1500rpm, gives the GSI realworld acceleration of the useful kind. The 0-60mph time of 8.4sec is no better than respectable (and comes with no scrabble, thanks to the GKN four-wheel-drive system) but the fact that it’ll mooch from 50mph to 70mph in 4.7sec on kickdown makes better reading. If you’ve taken control via the diddy plastic wheel-fixed paddles and left the Insignia in, say, fourth gear, it’ll lug from 30mph to 70mph in 8.2sec, which doesn’t sound that special, because it isn’t. But bear in mind it’s faster than a previous-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI left in the same gear. In ordinary, everyday driving, then, a GSI will be as brisk as you could reasonably expect, if short on what you’d hope for from a performance-oriented badge.
Its gearchanges are smooth and efficient, with well-programmed shift patterns that don’t leave the GSI scratching around at no revs in a bid to improve fuel economy, as some rivals are prone to. In our testing, Vauxhalls tend to get closer to their claimed fuel consumption figures than most rivals, as if they’ve been less optimised for the drive cycle. They’re better for it.
Our Insignia test car stopped spectacularly well. Conditions under wheel on Millbrook’s mile straight were only decent and it’s not like we’d been out warming the tyres but, still, a 70-0mph distance of 41.8m is seriously good. Anything that gets close to 40m is excellent. (A Mclaren 720S only just stops short of 40m.)
RIDE AND HANDLING
The Insignia GSI can certainly handle itself on a challenging stretch of B-road. Although you’re constantly aware that you’re driving a 1.8-tonne estate car, the manner in which the Insignia’s fettled suspension contains what is a large, heavy body – particularly with the Flexride adaptive damping system set to Sport – is quietly impressive. That’s not to say you can’t feel the car’s mass shifting about its lateral axis through faster bends – you can – but this happens in a progressive and controlled fashion, and sudden direction changes don’t greatly disturb the car’s particular meeting of stability and poise.
It’s a touch unfortunate, though, that a steering set-up short on contact-patch feel leaves the GSI with a driving experience that could be more involving. Feeling over-light and a little vague just off centre, it
Vectra GSI got its performance from a V6
In estate guise, there’s a huge amount of storage on offer. The boot floor sits at a convenient height and there’s no large lip to lift heavier items over.
Sports seats are the main draw in the Gsi’s cabin. They’re heated and ventilated and offer plenty of adjustability and support.
Rear passengers won’t feel short-changed as far as space is concerned. Even taller adults should be able to get comfortable here.