Insignia Sports Tourer VXR Auto
have £37,000 to spend on a
seriously quick estate car. Audi S4
Avant or BMW 335i Touring?
Or do you play the wild card and
go for something born and bred in
Blighty... like Vauxhalls Insignia
Sports Tourer VXR?
NOT THAT LONG AGO it would have been a no-brainer
with a premium German the automatic choice. But things have changed and Vauxhall's
fast, well-mannered VXR is a serious contender for your money. And more so because
it now comes with a dual-mode, six-speed automatic transmission.
At this price level, looks are a decisive factor in the buying equation. Get
them wrong and your customer walks before they talk. But the handsome VXR 'wagon'
easily clears the image hurdle. Finished in the can't-miss-me Arden Blue of
our test car, the VXR looks fresh off the track from a round of the British
Touring Car Championship.
Racheting up the aggression on Vauxhall's hot-to-go estate are deep bumpers,
gaping cutaway air intakes at the muscular front-end with a spoiler and fist-sized
matt-silver exhausts at each rear corner, lowered suspension and huge 20-inch
Y-spoke bi-colour alloy wheels.
on the 'must-have' list comes performance bragging rights how
does 320bhp and 320lb ft of torque sound? That easily outdoes the BMW's 306bhp
and 295lb ft although the Audi S4 trumps them both with 328bhp and 324lb ft.
Next on the must-have
list comes performance
how does 320bhp and
320lb ft of torque sound?
And while some of that
power is absorbed by
the torque converter,
the standard-fit four-
wheel drive ensures that
what power does get
laid down isnt
On the road, the VXR's brawny power outputs translate into zero to 60mph acceleration
in 6.2 seconds. The Beemer and the Audi take less, dusting the 0-62mph time
in 5.9 (335i Auto) and 5.4 (S4 Auto). Note that Vauxhall publishes the traditional
British 0-60mph figure while the Germans stick with the more commonplace 0-62mph
(0-100kph) rating. All three have top speeds limited to a Euro-acceptable 155mph.
The VXR's 320bhp comes from a tried-and-tested turboed 2.8-litre 24-valve V6
and it's dished up with finesse through the auto box's six ratios.
Around the 4,000rpm-mark the V6 really begins to motor; and as the revs rise
so too does the V6's soundtrack. While it's a substantial car (it weighs-in
at almost two tonnes) and some of its power is absorbed by the torque converter,
the standard-fit four-wheel drive ensures that what power does get laid down
isn't wasted on wheel-spin.
The auto set-up offers drivers three modes: normal and two performance
Sport and VXR. VXR will be the most regularly indulged purely because it's the
most exciting; it stiffens the dampers, dials up unyielding body control, weights
up the steering and sharpens throttle response. Alerting you that the beast
is unleashed, instrument illumination switches from glowing white to a power-dressing
red whenever the VXR button on the dash is pushed. If you want the fastest change
to another ratio, use the wheel's paddle-shifters rather than the kickdown.
As you'd expect, the ride firms up with each step up from normal to Sport and
Sport to VXR. Like almost all of these driver-adjustable systems, the default
settings are often best for everyday driving, particularly as the majority of
it in the UK is now done on traffic congested roads. Which is why normal is
what most drivers will use most of the time as it lets the VXR lope along at
its most comfortable.
When you crave that addictive adrenaline hit you can choose between Sport for
'sporty' and VXR for tied-down and hot-to-trot. Flicking between settings is
as quick as you can physically press the appropriate button on the dash. And
whatever rate of knots you're travelling at, you can rely on the Brembo brakes
discs all round with massive drilled and vented front discs
to pull you up clean and hard.
Despite the headline power, where the Insignia VXR scores particularly well
and quite unexpectedly is in the ride department.
One look at those massive 20-inch alloys wrapped in 255/35 lo-pro rubber and,
knowing the suspension has been lowered by 10mm, you'd bet your shirt that you
were in for an unforgiving ride.
the contrary, the VXR rides smoothly; its well-judged suspension taking road
imperfections in its stride and, better still, without any of the fidgeting
normally caused by the biggest rims. The result is a very comfortable ride over
all roads and for all journeys the 'Tourer' part of the VXR's
name is totally honest.
Despite the headline
power, where the VXR
well and quite
unexpectedly is in
the ride department.
One look at those
massive 20-inch alloys
and, knowing the
suspension has been
lowered by 10mm, youd
bet your shirt that
you were in for
an unforgiving ride...
And whatever the weather, one thing you can be assured of is sure-footed grip.
The four-wheel drive system gets the power down without drama
no spinning wheels; and no unexpected line changes when you boot the accelerator
exiting a bend. Well-suited, then, to the UK's unpredictable weather.
More good news: turn-in is crisp and accompanied by decent bite from the Pirellis
at the front-end, and the meaty, flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped wheel is nicely
grippy with perforated 'work' areas and just what
you need to direct the VXR in press-on mode.
De rigueur for a 'dedicated follower of speed' are the big Recaro sports buckets:
they're first rate, with highly effective side bolstering and perforated mesh
centre panels; and the built-in lumbar support is very good. The Recaros feature
integral headrests so you also get first class shoulder support; superior under-knee
and under-thigh support enhances long-distance comfort. Height and reach adjustment
of the steering wheel is generous, plus there's electric height adjustment for
the front seat bases and height-adjustable front belts.
Equally good is the driving position. You sit low in the cockpit-style cabin,
separated from your front passenger by a prominent centre console and deep transmission
tunnel. A four-dial instrument set all with chrome bezels, slim
red needles, VXR-exclusive faces and white markings is complemented
by shiny black inserts in the fascia, centre stack and doors plus there's some
classy chrome filleting; even the overmats get the VXR treatment, with smart
Kit is plentiful, with all the core essentials such as four one-shot auto up/down
windows, auto lights and wipers, powered boot opening and closing, privacy glass,
cruise control, power door mirrors, auto-dim rear-view mirror, and a driver
information centre displaying a range of information including digital speed,
tyre pressures, speed warning, oil pressure, lap timer, average fuel consumption,
The list goes on with the already mentioned Recaro sports seats, climate control
(that keeps it as hot, or as cold, as you want), VXR interior trim, alloy pedal
set, MP3-compatible CD player with DAB radio, ambient interior lighting, bi-Xenon
headlights, four-wheel drive, adjustable dampers, Brembo brakes, ABS, brakeforce
distribution and an electronic stability programme along with front, front-side
and curtain airbags and 19-inch alloy wheels (the 20-inchers are optional).
'Tourer' part of the VXR's persona should satisfy most, if not all, of a family's
space needs. For a start you'll find a good number and mix of storage solutions
throughout the cabin. The rear cabin is very passenger-friendly for adults,
with loads of legroom to stretch out in and good backrest angles on the 60:40
split/fold seats. Foot room and headroom are also good, while adding to the
pleasant ambience are decent-sized windows that keep it airy despite the black
of the VXRs
persona should satisfy most,
if not all, of a
For a start
find a good
number and mix of
throughout the cabin
and the back is very
A wide, well-padded centre armrest makes it home-from-home for two six-footers
using the individually-shaped outer sections of the rear bench seat
and also makes available cup-holders and a lidded storage box that doubles as
a tray (a large ski-hatch is there should you need it). A third person can take
the 'piggy-in-the-middle' spot, even an adult, although best not to when the
driver is in VXR mode!
And with all five seats in use, the easy-to-load boot (the cargo floor is just
above knee height) offers 540 litres for your luggage; with the rear seats folded
down, this expands to 1,530 litres (the 335i Touring has 450-1,385 litres; the
S4 Avant 490-1,430).
In addition, the Sports Tourer has Vauxhall's FlexOrganiser system for organising
and securing luggage using a combination of nets, hooks, straps and storage
boxes. If that's not enough, there's more storage space under the boot floor
as there's no spare only a tyre repair kit. You can even select
the height to which the power-operated (opening and closing) bootlid will open
it's conveniently operated from the driver's door, by a bootlid
button or from the key fob.
Who'd have thought that the terms 'comfortable' and 'eminently usable' could
be applied to a VXR model. But it's true in Sports Tourer guise
the Insignia VXR is a monster tamed; and all the easier to live with in automatic
spec. It's also a handsome long-distance touring estate that effortlessly doubles,
on a daily basis, as a competent and versatile family 'holdall' that averages
24.1mpg (officially 25.7). And whenever the moment comes, a push on that 'VXR'
button transforms it into a devilishly effective A-to-B machine.
Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer VXR Auto | £36,730
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-60mph: 6.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 24.1mpg
Power: 320bhp | Torque: 320lb ft | CO2 259g/km