By Mandy Parry-Jones, Goodwood, England
In fact HSV Managing Director Phil Harding told CarAdvice last year that this was one of the cars he was seriously considering as an addition to the HSV range.
Tucked away in a far corner of the Supercar enclosure at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed was a very important car making its public debut in the UK – the Vauxhall/Opel Insignia VXR.
Perhaps this was a telling sign that Goodwood is much bigger than the public debut of a street car, or maybe it was a telling sign that Vauxhall/Opel is lying low while a decision is made as to ownership of the company.
Other companies such as Audi, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Mazda and Alfa Romeo had their own large feature stands in the main exhibition area but not GM.
While Goodwood echoed with the sound of screeching tyres and the roar of engines, not too far away in Luton, Vauxhall workers wondered about their future as Canadian company Magna continued talks with GM on a buyout.
Vauxhall’s Insignia VXR is due to become public property just after Goodwood and this was the first time it had been seen in motion as it tackled the Goodwood hillclimb in demonstration runs twice a day.
Recently Vauxhall in the UK said that it already had an order book with 15,000 names listed for the Insignia VXR out of a total of 30,000 due for production in its first year.
Firmly set in its sights are the likes of BMW’s M3 and the Audi S4, a difficult couple to shoot down but the Insignia VXR just may be able to aim that high.
With a sub six second 0-60mph speed provided through the muscle of its 325bhp Insignia engine and forced to the ground through a sophisticated four-wheel-drive chassis, this car should have a good go at taking the fight to the loftier BMW M3 and Audi S4 even if only in terms of performance and not chic badging.
Vauxhall’s 2.8 litre V6 Turbo ECOTEC spits out its power through the use of a micro-alloy forged steel crank, a 60-degree cylinder angle, a single, twin-scroll turbocharger and variable value timing – it is a sophisticated powerplant.
It can easily top 240km/h and while we were not able to drive the vehicle it nevertheless was impressive at Goodwood, not such a given when surrounded by such lofty company.
As it is based on the 2009 European Car of the Year, the Insignia VXR has a very good working platform on which the company has mounted its 4X4 technology and refined it with extensive testing at Nurburgring in Germany.
Highlights of this package are a ‘HiPerStrut’ - GM talk for high performance struts - front suspension system with an adaptive 4X4 system that incorporates an electronic Limited Slip Differential (eLSD) and a 10 millimetre reduction in ride height over the Insignia SRi.
The HiPerStrut system is unique to the VXR and serves to reduce torque-steer and maintain negative camber during cornering, thus improving ultimate grip levels in wet or dry conditions.
Standard 19-inch alloy wheels, 20-inch lightweight forged alloys with bespoke tyres are also available; do little to hide the impressive Brembo brakes with colour-keyed callipers and vented/cross-drilled discs.
Looking over the car at Goodwood, where it was shoehorned under a canopy was difficult, made all the more so as it was surrounded by some of the most outstanding supercar designs on the planet.
But when separated away from the Bugattis, the McLarens, and the Pagani Zondas sharing the paddock, you can see a design that shows finesse, there is hint of tearaway lurking under the guise of a softly shaped sedan.
Its plain bonnet and main grille are underscored by a deep bumper with twin mesh grilles and scoops flanking each side. From the back the rear spoiler and dual chrome exhausts signal its fiery intentions.
There is a touch of Alfa Romeo styling to the rear but the front shows definite and clear GM roots that said, the two meet beautifully creating a low purposeful sports design that is individual enough to stand out but not so quirky that it disenfranchises the masses.
Inside the stylishly simple, spaceship inspired Recaro front seats are figure hugging and sit you perfectly behind the two-tone steering wheel.
Just a personal observation but the centre console seemed a little too cluttered however, the rest of the interior had nice touches but appeared quite dark, lifted only by the touches of silver. It was a hot day and it was hot inside.
Vauxhall/Opel is planning to cover all angles with the Insignia VXR by introducing hatch, sedan and sports tourer (read station wagon) versions.
The sports tourer version is the fastest station wagon that Vauxhall has ever put its name to and is the first to incorporate Adaptive 4X4 and an eLSD.
Well Mr Harding just when will these start wearing the HSV badge down under?
All VXRs are available with a colour palette comprising Arden Blue, Power Red, Carbon Flash Black, Silver Lake, Olympic White and Technical Grey.
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