VAUXHALL INSIGNIA GRAND SPORT 2.0T 4x4
Can the range-topping new Insignia deliver on the promise of its sleek looks?
JJAMES BOND DRIVES AN Aston Martin, Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark drives an Audi R8, David Brent drives a Vauxhall Insignia. Life’s cruel. It’s fair to say Vauxhall’s stalwart family hatchback/repmobile has always struggled to slip the surly bonds of mundaneness and touch the face of good. But, for a few years after its 2008 launch, that didn’t matter. The Insignia was a particularly comfortable market fit – a sprawling model-range that understood every angle of average, catering for fleet and company car audiences that cared more about putting miles under wheels as painlessly as possible than dynamic flair, classy fittings, cutting-edge tech or straightforward, must-have desirability. Things were simpler then.
But now ‘premium’ is the new mainstream. Vauxhall’s answer is the new, larger, sleeker, classier, kit-dense and cheekily named Insignia Grand Sport. The £27,710 2-litre, 257bhp Elite Nav 4x4, which comes with an eightspeed auto and full-time four-wheel drive, tops out the range. Well, it’s as Grand Sporty as it gets for now.
The Insignia Grand Sport is longer, wider and sleeker than the car it replaces but weighs up to 175kg less model-for-model, 60kg of which is down to the body alone. Impressive, too, is the slippery 0.26 drag factor, won partly by the coupe-like profile. Boot volume has suffered a bit, but there’s bags of interior space with Skoda Superb-rivalling rear legroom.
Aesthetic appeal, if not potential ride quality, is certainly enhanced by the standard 20in alloys, but then the deal with this flagship model seems to be to leave no box unticked this side of the kitchen sink – not exactly an original tactic in the bid to blur the allure of more sparsely equipped Mercs, BMWS and Audis, but you can’t blame Vauxhall for going for broke this time, or for the appealingly techy bias. As well as an 8in touchscreen, there’s a head-up display, Apple Carplay, adaptive cruise, on-board Wi-fi, 32-element ‘Intellilux’ LED headlights, intelligent satnav, dual-zone climate control and a powerful Bose hi-fi.
For the most part, the Grand Sport is a pleasant steer. Sporty in a grand way? Not even in a minor way. This isn’t to say it doesn’t cover the ground swiftly. You might even call it effortless. Engine and transmission work together seamlessly with commendable hush and an alwaysadequate amount of rush following the merest hint of turbo-lag. Nothing to get the pulse racing, though.
Certainly not enough to overwork the well-shod all-drive chassis, which majors on grip and stability rather than finesse and involvement. The compact four-wheel-drive system incorporates a novel method of torque vectoring (speeding up the outside wheel rather than braking the inner one to quell understeer). If the electric steering isn’t overly light, neither is it over-endowed with feel, though it is quite direct and the nose turns in keenly without the torque vectoring being in any way obvious.
Basic body control is pretty good with the adaptive suspension in Normal but the ride becomes fidgety over broken surfaces, more so if you switch to Sport, though this is definitely the preferred setting for smooth roads if you want to press on. And there can be no doubting the beefiness of a 2-litre turbo four with 257bhp and 295lb ft of torque. Vauxhall claims 0-62mph in 6.9sec and a top speed limited to 155mph.
Seats, driving position, visibility, control layout and overall build and finish are really good, just lacking that touch of class that separates the true premium products from the wannabes. If space, comfort, refinement and kit mean more to you than powertrain personality and dynamic acuity, there’s a lot to like. But if you want genuine engagement you don’t even have to look as far as the usual German suspects. A Mazda 6 will give you that. The new Insignia gives you more than ever before, but it’s caught between just as many stools.
‘The all-drive chassis majors on grip and stability rather than finesse’