2016 Holden Insignia VXR: Long-term report one

$36,910 $43,890 Dealer
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The turbocharged all-wheel drive Holden Insignia VXR joins the Melbourne long-term fleet.

It's no secret that a locally-built Holden will soon be a thing of the past, and in the place of homegrown performance heroes such as the SV6 and SS Commodores, Australians will have the choice of European-built product. And one currently-available model that may point toward Holden’s performance-car future is the 2016 Holden Insignia VXR.

We won't lie, our first pick for a new long-term Holden test car wasn't a 2016 Holden Insignia VXR, with most of the CarAdvice Melbourne office salivating at the thought of a VFII Commodore SS V Redline Wagon. Paul drove the Insignia VXR over in Queenstown last year, however, and thought it was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. So, to see if the Insignia VXR can live up to his judgement over a longer period, we arranged to have one for the next three months.

Our eye-catching Power Red example costs $51,990 (before on-road costs) and comes complete with no optional equipment left to specify (apart from metallic paint options). Since returning to showrooms in mid-2015 (after previously leaving as part of Opel's 2013 exit), and swapping its Opel badge for a Holden one, the Insignia has dropped $8000 from its previous list price of $59,990.

This 'new' figure lands the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive four-door into a relatively niche segment. For less money, you can get the all-paw Subaru Liberty 3.6R, front-drive Skoda Octavia RS, or rear-wheel-drive Holden Commodore SS V. And for the Insignia's old price, you can slide yourself into the limited edition supercharged Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint — that's if you can find any examples left. Mind you, for this money, you can alternatively get yourself into some cracking hot hatches.

Despite being introduced nearly eight years ago, the Insignia VXR has kept up with the times relatively well – partly due to a facelift in 2013. Its big party trick though, is its adaptive Haldex all-wheel-drive system, which can juggle between zero and 100 per cent of torque between the front and rear axles. It also teams with an electronic limited-slip rear differential to further split torque between the rear wheels.

The Holden Insignia VXR also introduced some Lion-brand firsts, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-change alert, and adaptive cruise control.

The cabin is a much sportier affair than what we’re used to from Holden, with eight-way power adjustable Recaro seats (heated and with memory function), an 8.0-inch TFT instrument display, and 'Sport' and 'VXR' driving modes - both changing the Insignia’s driving characteristics. The Insignia uses a newer version of GM’s MyLink infotainment system, which includes digital radio, updated satellite navigation maps and a general redesign of the user interface.

Despite being 122mm shorter than its Commodore stablemate, there's plenty of room inside the mid-sized Insignia, plus adequate storage space. We’ll come to learn just how much of James Ward’s 'stuff' we can fit into that 500-litre boot - a boot that somehow manages to be 4L up on the bigger Commodore - in the coming months, however.

Powered by a twin-scroll turbocharged 2.8-litre V6, the Australian-built engine develops 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque, both at 5250rpm. It may sound flattering, but in practice, there’s not as much low-down torque as the setup might suggest, with 100km/h taking around 6.0 seconds to show on the dash. The Insignia feels a bit lethargic off the line, and its hefty 1796kg of weight (76kg heavier than a VFII Commodore SS V Sedan) really shows as you’re trying to get moving. Its effect on fuel consumption is also obvious, with the VXR claiming 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

Once you do get moving, however, the Insignia VXR carries itself very well. Keep the engine working hard at above 3000rpm, and the turbo V6 thrusts the car forward with great ease. When coming into a corner, the AWD system works its magic and the result is that you’re able to power through a bend faster than you realise. Fitted as standard with 255mm-wide Pirelli P Zero tyres on all four corners, the whole package not only works well in the dry, but also in the wet.

The six-speed automatic transmission can be a little clumsy and jerky at times, with minor throttle inputs resulting in downshifts to second gear, even in 'Normal' mode. We’re finding that the whole car just feels better when you shift through gears yourself via the car's steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters – although perhaps this option is not always ideal for the daily commute.

During a phone call with James, he described the Insignia VXR as being "very similar to a Nissan GT-R, but with nowhere near the amount of 'Go'". And it’s not hard to see how that appraisal came about. The 2016 Holden Insignia VXR combines all-wheel-drive traction, a sonorous and exciting exhaust note, and turbocharged V6 performance to create a four-door sports sedan that’s capable enough to handle nearly all it attempts.

It is, though, a different experience to driving a naturally aspirated Holden performance car - we’re all so used to the grunt of a lazy V8 just being there whenever you 'need' it. We haven’t had the Insignia VXR for long, but already, just like the low-down torque hole the Insignia has, we have a big V8-sized hole in our hearts.

Throughout its tenure at CarAdvice, we plan to put the Holden Insignia VXR through its paces. This means around town, on country drives, as a workhorse camera car, and maybe even a little time on track. Build quality, fuel efficiency, running costs and day-to-day liveability will come into question over the next three months, however, we’re optimistic our stint in the 'Red Baron' will assuage our fears and show us that imported Holdens aren’t all that bad.

As always, if you have any questions for us about our 2016 Holden Insignia VXR long-termer, please let us know in the comments section below.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Holden Insignia VXR images by Tom Fraser.

2016 Holden Insignia VXR
Date acquired: April 2015
Odometer reading: 1088km
Travel since previous update: N/A
Consumption since previous update: N/A