With our time in the 2016 Holden Insignia VXR ticking over two months now, we’ve been busy testing its daily driver, support, and performance car abilities. We even took ‘Big Red’ to the race track…
Throughout all these activities, the Holden Insignia VXR has soldiered on and performed well in most. Unfortunately, the areas where the Insignia has fallen down slightly are arguably the ones that give the whole car meaning: performance. This isn’t to say that the Insignia belies its VXR badge’s promise, but the somewhat disappointing powertrain is not what we’ve come to expect from our locally-built Holdens.
We were keen to live with the Holden Insignia to see whether it could continue to proudly wave the flag for the Holden. A hero car that we could all look towards post-Commodore, and be a saving grace in light of the imminent demise of local manufacturing.
At least, in terms of what the quintessential Australian motoring enthusiast is after, the all-wheel-drive Insignia is likely not what people may be looking for. Sadly, it seems as though all the hallmarks of the much-loved Commodore – a big, brutish engine, plenty of power, immediate torque, rear-wheel drive, and loads of space – will likely die along with the iconic large car when Commodore production ends in 2017.
It’s all a bit morbid to hammer on about how much things will change once local manufacturing ceases, so we’ll focus first on some of the better aspects of living with the Insignia VXR.
Expecting it to be a so-so daily driver, the Insignia has actually fared rather well on the Monday-to-Friday commute. Leaving everything in ‘Normal’ settings, ride comfort isn’t terrible, considering it’s a sports car, the steering is light and easy to work with (albeit has a tendency to tram line over bumps and corrugations) and the interior is a pleasant place to be. Cold starts in the Insignia result in quite a loud start up with a high idle which does takes a while to settle down. Perhaps some consideration for the neighbours might be in order when firing it up on a cold Melbourne morning.
When hopping into the cabin you’re pulled into your pre-set driving position courtesy of memory seats which automatically slide the seat forward and back to aid entry and exit from the cabin.There’s a plethora of gadgets and screens to become acquainted with, and enough interior space to ensure a comfortable commute without cramping up. In fact, the interior has been a standout which we’ve consistently been genuinely impressed with. A touch uncomfortable over longer drives, but the Recaro buckets do what they were designed to and hold you in nice and tight.
The infotainment system is set out in a clear and concise way, and functionality is only improved should you decide to plug in your iPhone utilising Apple CarPlay. There are some nasty and cheap-feeling plastics around, but generally most surfaces are well put together and nice enough for the VXR's $51,990 (before on-road costs) asking price.
We've already used the Insignia to help out on several shoots for other cars. On a recent Porsche Macan GTS shoot, the Insignia carried the seemingly endless amount of gear that goes into producing our videos. Boasting a Commodore-beating 500-litre boot, there’s more than enough space to chuck gear into, and the pop-open boot is easily accessed by a button on the key – very handy in our experience. The car was capable enough to keep up with the Macan too, and low enough to mount cameras on in order to get that perfect shot.
Turning our attention to the more exciting aspects of owning the Insignia, this month we focused more on the VXR's performance characteristics. With the 2.8-litre twin-scroll turbocharged V6 engine developing 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque, the VXR has ample punch for everyday use. Mind you, you will have to wait patiently as the revs build before there’s any real experience of surging torque.
Curious as to how those numbers in the spec sheet translated to the real world, we took the Insignia out to do some basic performance testing. We've previously suggested that the Insignia should reach 100km/h in around 6.0 seconds, give or take a few tenths of a second. Well, it turns out, in the real world, this is not so. On a straight bit of tarmac with no incline, we were only able to manage a best 0-60km/h time of 3.8 seconds and a 7.5-second 0-100km/h sprint.
That’s disappointing off-the-mark performance based on gathered claims, and also in comparison to its competition, the Subaru Liberty 3.6R (7.2 seconds), and Toyota Aurion Sportivo (7.3 seconds). However, the Insignia went on to redeem itself when it came to braking. Coming to a complete halt from 100km/h in 37.3 metres, the Insignia’s 355mm Brembo front brakes took care of stopping in an surprisingly short distance considering the car's 1796kg (tare) mass. To put that into perspective, it’s a slightly shorter stopping distance than a lesser-weighted Commodore.
One of the highlights we’ve experienced in the Insignia VXR since the last update was taking it to a Driver Dynamics Level 3 High Performance track day. Usually David Zalstein's stomping ground, we figure setting the 'Big Sig' on Sandown Raceway could help it claw back some performance points.
Up bright and early on a very balmy and wet 11°C day (sooo uncharacteristic for Melbourne…), we first experienced a quick driver's briefing, warning of the dangers of a wet track and the difference a change in surface can make. Sandown Raceway is a mismatch of different sealed surfaces, some 30-years-old, some less than five.
Even with the VXR's fancy Haldex-derived all-wheel-drive system on board, the Insignia skipped and slipped about over the surface changes – even at low speed while feeling out the track. Though, to be fair, the story was far worse for the poor punters on the track with rear-wheel-drive cars.
Winding out the turbo-six along Sandown’s straights, the Insignia has the ability to keep pulling intently, only hampered by slow gear changes from the six-speed automatic transmission and turbo lag when exiting a corner. Switching to manual shifting via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, you have to pre-emptively pull the paddle before reaching redline, partly because it takes a while to shift and partly because a power-cut occurs when you exceed 6500rpm.
Despite this, the Insignia actually held its own in the rain on a slippery track – to the point where we were hassling WRXs and a couple Boxsters (mind you, in all likelihood they could have had slow drivers…). Although the turbo-lag can be frustrating in the dry, the slower power delivery actually works in the VXR's favour in wet conditions, and keeps the traction control from intervening and cutting power when coming out of a corner.
A wet day usually means less wear on brakes, and the Insignia’s 4-piston Brembos held up well over eight or so 20-minute track sessions.
Steering weights up in VXR mode and feels more natural than the light steering we usually experience around town in Normal mode, though in either setting, the steering isn’t particularly communicative in transmitting what the front wheels are doing, with grip levels ascertained by the amount of front-end push. Considering the weather conditions, the Insignia is still a quick thing to hammer around a track. And quite fun as well.
Funnily, a whole tank of fuel was burned throughout the day at Sandown (33L/100km). An interesting and often overlooked cost, adding roughly $100 to the price of a track day (normally $350).
This brings us to the Insignia’s running costs. Thankfully, we’ve had no problems with the car yet, but it does hit the hip pocket hard in terms of how often you’ll be heading to the fuel pump. Our average refuel cost over seven refills has been $95.52 with an average of 62.08 litres of fuel going into the tank every time.
With one final month before having to hand the 2016 Holden Insignia VXR back, we’ll be sure to sneak in a few drives through the hills, continue to use it as a daily driver, and perhaps even use it for a weekend getaway to see how close it can get to matching the Commodore’s open-road reputation.
If you have any questions for us about the Insignia before it returns, please shoot us an email or comment in the 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: 3276km
Travel since previous update: 2188km
Consumption since previous update: 13.1L/100km