Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sport Tourer
Large alloy wheels and silver air intakes mark out VXR
- Striking looks particularly in Arden Blue finish
- Flexible performance from V6 engine
- High level of specification
- Practical load area
- Centre console is quite busy
- Some cabin plastics feel a little cheap
- Throttle response is sometimes sluggish
- Fuel economy is poor especially when performance is used
A key car in the Vauxhall range, the Insignia represents the model that must perform the widest range of roles. From business car to family transport, the Insignia offers a very wide range of trims, engine and transmissions as well as bodystyles. Now there is a VXR-version of the Insignia Sports Tourer, and this combination of features means it may offer the most versatile package of all.
The exterior design of the Insignia VXR ST is an understandable combination of themes seen elsewhere in the Insignia range. From the front it is indistinguishable from the VXR saloon, but distinctive nonetheless: the bold grille, wide air intakes and purposeful stance leave you in no doubt of its performance potential. The same applies for everything forward of the B-pillar, as the ST is broadly the same as the saloon in this respect.
At the rear the VXR ST shares its shape with the regular Sport Tourer, and the long roofline leads into the steeply-raked tailgate. Still something of an unusual design in this segment, the Sport Tourer's tailgate is very wide with a wraparound effect, which, as well as lending it a distinctive look, is also a boost to the car's practicality. It extends the usable load area by a crucial few centimetres and makes for easier loading too.
Underneath the attractive skin the VXR ST also has something unusual to offer. The twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine is a unique configuration in this class, promising athletic performance if not necessarily great economy. Putting all that power to the road is a four-wheel drive system, also something of a rarity on a Vauxhall model but ideal for a car with this power and also one designed to be a family vehicle.
Sitting at the top of the Insignia range the VXR ST also competes with a disparate range of rivals. It takes on regular performance cars also at a similar price bracket, yet the versatility and the high specification means it may also tempt buyers looking at a less exciting and more expensive premium brand product.
Our verdict on the Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sport Tourer
The multitude of abilities displayed by the Insignia VXR Sport Tourer is highly impressive and, although not flawless, it is genuinely usable in a huge variety of situations. By offering such performance in a fuss-free manner and with very little compromise in terms of comfort or practicality, it gives hope to buyers who need more space but don't want to give up on driving pleasure.
The downside of the strong V6 performance and four-wheel drive security comes in running costs. Even when driven with restraint, it is hard to achieve respectable fuel economy and, with a diet of Super Unleaded required, it will not be cheap to run. Insurance costs are likely to be relatively high, too, due to the added performance.
Space and practicality
Clearly, the estate rear of the Sports Tourer models come with practical advantages in terms of load space. The cleverly designed rear makes the additional room particularly easy to access and make use of. The estate body also removes the sloping roofline that limits headroom in the rear of the saloon and hatchback making the VXR ST feel more spacious. Legroom is very good and there's plenty of storage available in the front of the cabin for oddments.
Controls and display
The Insignia's spread of buttons can be daunting at first, particularly because of the small lettering, but once familiar with the layout it all makes sense. Additional controls for the audio can be found on the steering wheel along with cruise control settings and sat-nav controls mounted next to the armrest are very useful. The instrument layout is traditional and concise and aided by the LCD panel for the comprehensive trip computer. Some of the controls, such as the rear windscreen wiper, are less traditionally but still sensibly positioned and chrome finish to the knobs and bezels is a nice touch.
Despite the performance the VXR ST is not a tiring car to drive. Although there is a slight increase in road noise thanks to the larger wheels and tyres, it is still a comfortable long distance cruiser. Passengers will enjoy the comfortable seats, while the standard Recaro seats in the front offer superb support.
The Insignia maintains a strong standard of security with remote central deadlocking, alarm and immobiliser. Covered storage in the front armrest, glovebox and under the boot floor means valuables can be kept out of sight.
Standard ESP along with seat-side, curtain and front airbags offer an excellent basic safety package in the Insignia. This complimented by a raft of extraneous aids such as auto lights and wipers that make the process of driving less demanding. Built to offer a high level of protection in the event of a crash, owners should have few qualms about carrying precious loads.
With the promise of high performance and responsive handling the VXR ST is an enticing prospect from behind the wheel. In ordinary driving the flexibility of the engine and the responsive handling are good and promote a relaxed style. When the conditions permit a single press of the VXR button sharpens the throttle and steering response and, with all the performance used, it is a genuinely fast car with ample grip and a surefooted feel.
Family car appeal
An excellent family car thanks to its roomy and practical interior, the VXR ST is ideally suited as a business car from nine to five and a family vehicle on evening and weekend duty. Able to comfortably seat a growing family of five, it will also be a hit with any car enthusiasts in the family thanks to the impressive performance.
First car appeal
A little too expensive and much too fast for a new driver, the VXR ST is not suitable for the inexperienced.
Quality and image
The Insignia is a concerted effort on the part of Vauxhall to move away from the dowdy image that haunted the Vectra. A more upmarket affair in terms of styling, the VXR ST builds on the excellent reception for the saloon and hatch variants with a stylish design with plenty of road presence and far greater kerb appeal than its predecessor. Quality is definitely a big step forward, although it is still behind premium rivals.
A well proportioned car, there are few issues with accessing the front or rear passenger sections of the VXR ST. Greater headroom makes the rear less restrictive for entry. The huge tailgate means access to the boot space is unhindered and a power-tailgate option makes it truly effortless to get items in and out.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The VXR has a high standard specification including sat-nav and the system is relatively easy to operate with a clear display. Sound quality is good, too, with DAB radio also providing impressive audio performance.
Colours and trim
With the more dynamic bodywork on the VXR version, some more strident colours are available. The Arden Blue finish looks particularly handsome, although the more subtle shades work well, too. Inside, darker trim complements the cabin well, although there is a lot of dark plastic.
The Insignia's design makes it a little harder to park than it could be, as the low nose and long tail leaves the driver relying on the parking sensors to ensure safe parking. The sluggish throttle response can also be a little awkward to manage at low speeds.
Space saver spare wheel fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (158bhp); 1.8-litre (138bhp); 2.0-litre (217bhp); 2.8-litre (256bhp and 325bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (128bhp and 158bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed automatic gearbox with manual override. Trim levels: S, Exclusiv, SE, Elite, SRi, VXR.
Audi S6 Considerably more expensive but classy and fast
BMW 535i Touring Another expensive rival though with less power than the VXR
Volkswagen Passat Estate R36 High quality and four-wheel drive too, a stylish rival
Saab 9-3 Sportwagon Former in-house rival is good to look at, less impressive to drive