Holden's huge product onslaught has just commenced and one of the first cabs off the rank may look familiar. Last seen in Australia wearing the Opel Insignia OPC badge, Holden has just taken the wraps off the Holden Insignia VXR and we're about to put it through its paces.
Priced at $51,990, the Holden Insignia VXR launches at $8000 less than the less time it was here wearing an Opel badge. But, it doesn't compromise on features, coming with Holden's MyLink infotainment system and a bunch of Holden-first safety technologies.
Surprisingly there's a whole heap of leg and head room here, despite the fact it has big and chunky sports seats. Passengers get a centre armrest with two cupholders and a storage cavity as well. If you're carrying little ones, there's two ISOFIX points and rear air vents. But, the biggest surprise is the boot, which is 500 litres in capacity, that's 6 lights more than the Commodore.
The interior reminds me of the Holden Commodore and that's a good thing. The steering wheel sits nicely in the hand and the materials around the cabin are quite premium. The Recaro sports seats are awesome and hug you in tightly while cornering — they are heated too and come with electric bolsters. The explosion of buttons that was the Opel Insignia OPC has been replaced with this neat cluster.
And now, the infotainment system has been clustered into a central touchscreen and can be used with voice prompts as well. Arguably though, the best feature is a colour TFT screen that sits in front of the driver. Not only does it display your speed and other critical functions, when you enter VXR mode it offers a friction bubble and lap timer. But, enough talking. Let's take this thing for a drive.
Under the bonnet is a 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 engine. It's an Aussie built motor and mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It's a pretty thirsty engine and averages over 11L/100km — that's SS Commodore territory.
It produces 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque and it'll do the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3-seconds.
The ride and handling over some of these dodgy roads is excellent. The adaptive suspension really caters for dodgy surfaces and then it hardens up as you switch between the Sport and VXR modes.
There are three driving modes available, Touring, Sport and VXR. Touring is for tootling around the city, Sport then steps things up a bit and then there's this, the VXR mode. In the VXR mode, the adaptive dampers firm up to give this thing a sharp feel through the corners.
The feel through this electrically assisted rack is fantastic. It doesn't have that numb feel that some cars do when they are fitted with electrically assisted steering.
The Insignia VXR uses a trick all-wheel drive system that allows it to transfer between 0 and 100 per cent of torque between the front and rear axles. It also uses an electronic rear differential lock to then further help it split torque between the rear wheels.
These public roads aren't good enough to test the all-wheel drive system in the Insignia VXR. I want to find something a little chillier and a little higher to put the all-wheel drive system to the test.
You may have guessed by the stunning scenery, we are in picturesque Queenstown, New Zealand.
This is the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground in New Zealand and it's the playground for manufacturers around the world that want to test prototypes on icy surfaces. We are here to test how the system copes with ice. This is the worst case scenario for a car when it comes to traction.
What the all-wheel drive system in the Insignia lets us do is gradually apply throttle, which sends the torque to the rear and lets us balance the car better. When you're done being sensible though, all you need to do is bury the throttle and hold on as it goes around and around in circles.
The front wheels are pulling it back in, while the rear wheels are kicking it out. It's that adaptive all-wheel drive system that's giving it the control it needs.
The Holden Insignia VXR is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It has showed today that it works great on both roads and ice. If you after the perfect hot sedan that won't break the budget, look no further. For me, I think I need some more donuts.