Holden Insignia VXR is designed and built by GM-Opel in Germany – but its engine is made in Holden’s Melbourne plant. From Australia the engine is sent to Europe to be installed in many cars sold globally. Though the Aussie engine is the big news, there’s plenty of Australian engineering input in many facets of the car which will play an important part of the future for GM-Holden.

Very much a sports sedan, Holden says Insignia VXR will compete directly with the likes of Subaru Liberty and Volkswagen Passat CC. But we wouldn’t be surprised if buyers on a relatively tight budget also considered the Insignia when the can’t quite gather the money to justify an Audi, BMW or Merc of similar size.

Insignia still has basically the same body we tested on the Opel-badged imports that were sold in Australia for a short time a couple of years back. However, it recently had a significant facelift and, in VXR format, it certainly has a bold and purposeful look that defies the fact the body has been around for almost six years. The 20-inch wheels fill out the guards nicely and play their part in the bold overall look.

Recaro sports seats provide good side support without being overly aggressive.

The cockpit is where the biggest changes have been introduced. The instruments now largely electronic, with two 8.0-inch screens. One scene is used for most, of the major instruments, the other screen for satellite navigation and infotainment displays.

The biggest change here is that the Insignia VXR uses the latest generation of GM’s MyLink system. Through Holden’s MyLink you can connect to Bluetooth and access apps keeping them tuned into music, news, other entertainment and satellite navigation.

Embedded apps include Pandora, Stitcher and TuneIn allowing owners to create their own personal stations, stream their favourite podcasts, radio shows and news, and listen to the world’s radio from wherever they are.

Bluetooth connectivity means the touchscreen can be used to wirelessly stream audio files for playback from a paired mobile phone.


There’s a big emphasis on active safety, that is avoiding a crash. As well as excellent handling dynamics and brakes the Holden Insignia VXR there are Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Alert, Lane Change Alert, Forward Collision Alert, and Automatic Emergency Braking

In Opel (and Vauxhall) speak the initials ‘VXR’ indicate this is the high-performance model in the range, in much the same way that HSV stands for ‘quick car’ in Australia. The VXR is powered by a 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 producing 239 kW of power and a big 435 Nm of torque.

That sort of torque could overwhelm the front wheels of the VXR unless it was backed off at times. So a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system has been developed. Power runs through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Engine performance is excellent, with a minimum of turbo lag and heaps of grunt once the turbo is spooling at its best. Sport mode adds a nice note to the intake and exhaust. And also sharpens up the gearshifts beautifully.

Fuel consumption isn’t going to be a strong feature of a big turbo-petrol engine that’s getting on in years, but 10 to 13 litres per hundred kilometres on interesting country roads and around town isn’t too bad. Treated kindly on motorways and flat roads we got fuel use in the seven to eight litre range.


The GM FlexRide suspension can be set to day-to-day driving in Touring mode; Sport for when you want to get serious on the road but retain an element of electronic backup; and VXR mode which is probably best left for track work because the car lets you make most of your own decisions. FlexRide not only adjusts the damper settings, but also AWD control, steering, throttle and automatic transmission. The results are most impressive.

So confident is Holden in the hot Insignia that it flew selected Australian journalists to the snowfields of southern New Zealand to drive on snow and ice at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds – one of the world’s best. The SHPG is used by many car makers, including the big name Europeans.

Snow and ice certainly didn’t faze the VXR, though you do need to treat the conditions with care as cornering limits are significantly lower and breaking distances frighteningly longer.

On normal roads back home on the Gold Coast we used the Touring and Sport modes and found the VXR had plenty of road grip. There’s good feedback through the steering and throttle control is quite impressive for a car with all-wheel-drive. Brembo brakes haul off speed very rapidly and certainly showed no signs of fade in the relatively hard road driving we tackled on our special test route.

May we suggest you try to tag onto a track day somewhere, sometime to really push your sporty Insignia VXR to the limit? Only there will you truly get to appreciate just how good it is.

It has a smoother ride than expected for a full-on sports sedan. There was generally, minimal tyre noise, but tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces reared its ugly head. However, we have heard worse on other sporty European sedans.

Opel Insignia was launched in 2009, and took out the European Car of the Year award. It has had several upgrades so is getting on in years. There’s little doubt the VXR is the best of the Insignia range, so deserves the honour of being in the vanguard of that 24-vehicle onslaught as Holden moves away from building cars in Australia to being a full importer. This German import certainly provides a lot of performance and style for a comparatively modest outlay.


Insignia VXR 2.8-litre five-door sedan: $51,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for driveaway prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Insignia VXR 2.8-litre five-door sedan)

Capacity: 2.792 litres
Configuration: V6
Maximum Power: 239 kW @ 5250 rpm
Maximum Torque: 435 Nm @ 2250 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 10.9 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 255 g/km

Six-speed automatic

Length: 4830 mm
Wheelbase: 2737 mm
Width: 1856 mm
Height: 1498 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1810 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 70 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Three years / 100,000 km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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