There’s a lot riding on the wheels of the Holden Insignia VXR.
Because, when the Commodore vanishes next year, the smart money says the Insignia will replace it and if the Insignia VXR is a taste of the future, things are looking rosy for the General.
The VXR has an Australian heart beating under its German bodywork: a 2.8 litre turbo V6 that belts out 239 kilowatts and 435 newton metres and propels the Insignia VXR to 100km/h in just 6.5 seconds. The original Commodore also had a 2.8 litre six-cylinder engine back in 1978, but it could only eek out a puny 64 kilowatts.
But there is much more to Holden’s first ever, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sedan, that has the plushness of a Calais and the sportiness of the SS.
During my time with the Insignia VXR it rained, a lot, but its electronically controlled, adaptive all-wheel-drive system that feeds power from the front to the back axle and from side-to-side across the rear axle to negate any traction loss, turned wet roads dry, such was the grip. I also took it onto several gravel roads and the same thing: no slip, just grip.
The three mode Holden Flex Flex-Drive system lets you to choose between ‘Standard’ ‘Sport’ and ‘VXR’ and I found it hard to pick the difference between the first two as both felt very conservative in their set up. But a flick to VXR mode upped the engagement and enjoyment levels considerably. The steering weight and feel is increased, the driver aids dialled down and the independent front, multilink rear suspension stiffened up to corner flat, but without running the ride and the gear changes and throttle become snappier.
The big sedan entertained me with its cornering composure, grip and body control, on familiar undulating winding roads near home, that are laced with wide and tight bends.
I also gave the Insignia’s radar-controlled adaptive cruise control a workout and drove from Melbourne to Geelong without touching the pedals, as it automatically maintained a safe distance to the car in front.
Like many swift Euro sedans, the VXR it isn’t festooned in wings and scoops. In fact it has a very clean silhouette, even mildly understated, but eye-catching thanks to its gob-smackingly beautifully crafted, 20-inch alloy wheels.
Inside its über luxurious; perforated black leather Recaro sports seats with contrasting white stitching, a nicely sized, multifunction D-shape steering wheel, with gearshift paddles, satin silver trim, gloss black panels and a fusion of electronic and analogue dials. The ‘My Link’ infotainment screen has a suite of media, Bluetooth, navigation and entertainment menus and apps to play with, including several digital radio options. Looking around, the fit and finish is first rate and there are plenty of gentle curves and soft touch surfaces. Rear seat passengers enjoy a reasonable amount of legroom, though headroom is a bit scarce for taller folk. The boot is deep and long and took a couple of large Samsonite cases in its stride.
At first I was a bit shocked at the $51,990 (+ORC) price tag, but looking at it as a Calais replacement, it’s not much more, it’s sportier, and more refined, with loads of technology.
And you do get a lot for your money, in short, it’s packed to the rafters with standard kit.
Safety wise it features front and rear park assist, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, auto emergency braking (a first for Holden) six airbags, reversing camera with cross traffic alert, lane change and lane departure warnings.
It’s always hard to follow an icon.
Interestingly it was another Opel based product that succeeded last time; when the Commodore replaced the much-loved Kingswood in the late 1970’s. Time will tell whether the Insignia can repeat history , but its refinement, sophistication, technology and sportiness is a great start.