Vaux­hall In­signia GSI Sports Tourer

ROAD TEST

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

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.

IN­TE­RIOR

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.

PER­FOR­MANCE

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.

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