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Holden Insignia VXR sedan 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
6
Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the 2015 Holden Astra VXR with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

If you've grown up on a diet of hairy-chested performance Holdens, you have some adjusting to do.

When the Holden factory shuts in 2017, the next generation of the European-made Opel Insignia is odds-on to be the next car to wear the Commodore badge.

All-wheel-drive instead of rear-drive, six cylinders instead of eight and turbocharging in place of good old cubic capacity

And the VXR version will fill the very large shoes of the SS in the line-up. It's a different beast entirely — all-wheel-drive instead of rear-drive, six cylinders instead of eight and turbocharging in place of good old cubic capacity.

Design

The Insignia shares a family likeness to the Commodore but is shorter and narrower. That shows inside where rear shoulder and legroom aren't as generous as the homegrown Holden.

The cabin presentation, though, is a step up on the local hero, with two big digital screens — one in the dash and one in front of the driver — to display enough information to satisfy a commercial jet pilot.

The satnav can be brought up in front of the driver, there's a big digital speedo and, if you're foolhardy enough, you can even look at how many Gs you're pulling through corners.

The Recaro leather seats feel snug and supportive and are reminiscent of a Volkswagen Passat, with white stitching on the cushion, while the leather steering wheel feels sporty as well as luxurious.

On the downside, the touchscreen is fiddly to use and baffling to navigate.

About town

The Insignia has just about every gadget you'd need for navigating the daily grind. There are front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking at lower speeds and a rear cross traffic alert to stop you from being collected when you're reversing out of a driveway with limited vision. But it's a bit of a beast to manoeuvre in tight spots, with a wide turning circle (almost as wide as a LandCruiser) and limited rear vision.

There are three levels of suspension tune for the Insignia. In normal mode, it is reasonably compliant over bumps and potholes, although it is a little busy, as you'd expect with a sports-focused model. The stiffer sport and VXR settings are definitely best left for smooth country roads. You won't win any traffic light drag races either, as the VXR takes a while to get its 1800kg bulk moving. The transmission can also be a bit jerky on the downshifts, especially in sports mode.

On the road 

The Insignia keeps a careful eye on its driver on the freeway as well, with blind-spot and lane-departure warning and cruise control that keeps a safe distance from the car in front and warns of an imminent collision. The only negatives are a tendency for the tyres to follow grooves in the road and a booming exhaust at cruising speeds that can become intrusive.

Find a twisting bit of tarmac and the Insignia really comes into its own. The engine is happy when there are some revs on board, allowing you to exploit the all-wheel-grip and the meaty Brembo brakes.

Hit the VXR button and the gear shifts are quicker, the throttle more responsive and the steering heavier

It's still a heavy car but it feels more agile through the corners than a Commodore and the steering is nicely weighted. Hit the VXR button and the gear shifts are quicker, the throttle more responsive and the steering heavier.

On top of that, the all-wheel-drive set-up adjusts the torque at each wheel to give you maximum drive out of corners.

Performance 

The Insignia is crying out for a better engine. The Aussie-built single-turbo 2.8-litre V6 is off the pace when compared to engines of similar capacity.

It doesn't deliver maximum 435Nm of torque until 5250rpm, which means it struggles initially to shift its weight. Compare that with the slightly lighter Falcon XR6 turbo, which makes 533Nm at 2000rpm.

We tested it with satellite timing equipment against a humble Toyota Aurion and it was 0.7 secs slower to 100km/h.

Once it gets to its sweet spot, the Insignia gets along quite smartly, but it's not really going to impress anyone who's grown up on a diet on big, ballsy V8s with lots of torque.

Verdict

The newest Holden ensures that the brand will have something worth driving when the Commodore makes its final bow — but Holden fans will have to adjust to a brave new world of high revs — and higher prices. In isolation — or compared against more expensive, less powerful German competition — the VXR makes sense. But until memories of the SS and XR6 turbo fade, it remains a pale and pricey imitation of the Aussie performance sedan.

What it's got 

Blind spot and lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, satnav, leather Recaro seats, adjustable suspension, rear camera and sensors, heated front seats.

What it hasn't 

Stop-start technology for saving fuel, a V8 under the bonnet.

Ownership 

Holden's capped price servicing program is one of the better ones. The Insignia costs $229 a service for the first three years. With services due every nine months, that adds up to $916 over three years. The Holden's warranty period isn't as generous, lagging the leaders with 3 years/ 100,000km cover.

Pricing Guides

$22,975
Based on 17 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$15,999
Highest Price
$25,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
VXR 2.8L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $15,999 – 25,990 2015 Holden Insignia 2015 VXR Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6
Pricing Guide

$15,999

Lowest price, based on 17 car listings in the last 6 months

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