Published on April 26th, 2017 | by Seán Ward0
First Drive: The All New Insignia Grand Sport
I was always rather fond of the old Vauxhall Insignia. It had such a radically different design to its predecessor, the Vauxhall Vectra, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it had come from an entirely different company. Now though the Insignia has been gracefully put to one side, replaced by the all-new Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. For how long will people use the ‘Grand Sport’ name? Probably not long at all, but rest assured this is an all new car, and one that’s aiming higher than any of its predecessors.
Let’s start with the basics. On the design front the Insignia Grand Sport draws inspiration from the Monza Concept Vauxhall brought to the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013. (If you’ve never seen a picture of it before I advise you do so when you’ve got some spare time on your hands because it is utterly stunning.) It’s somehow less awkward than the old Insignia, and physically it’s a fair bit bigger, too. The wheelbase is 92mm longer and the overall body 55mm longer, and the front and rear tracks have been widened by 11mm and the body widened by 7mm, all to give passengers more space and make the car feel more secure on the road.
New headlights aren’t normally something to talk about too much but with the Insignia Grand Sport they’re actually quite clever. Using technology from the new Astra, each light is made up 32 individual LEDs which can move, dim, and be turned on and off independently of each other, and because the LED’s light is so focussed you can leave full beam on all the time and the car will dip the LEDs that would ‘hit’ the car in front or the car coming the other way. As a result your full beams can actually light the path ahead for the car in front as well as yourself, shining up to 400m down the road. Impressive stuff, and it means you can enjoy a spirited drive at night time without having to constantly adjust the lights.
Inside the interior is simpler and more elegant than before. Vauxhall hasn’t banished the button entirely, thankfully, instead choosing to keep access to the car’s core functions through physical buttons and the less important, less frequently used functions through menus in the entertainment system. I don’t know whether you’ve ever driven a car with no physical buttons, the only option being to use the nav screen, but on a bumpy UK road it’s an absolute nightmare, and one than takes your focus off the road.
As I said, the Grand Sport is longer and wider than before, but despite that it’s on average 175kg lighter than the outgoing model. Why? Because weight, as we all know, ruins the economy, ruins the performance and ruins the driving experience. So can you feel a difference?
While the Grand Sport feels like a bigger machine on the road (Vauxhall wants it to be knocking on the door of Mercedes rather than just nestling in amongst the likes of the Ford Mondeo or Mazda 6) it doesn’t feel unwieldy. Vauxhall did some of their suspension tuning on the Nurburgring, as you do, but they also did a huge amount of it in the UK, and rather than testing in the UK for a UK specific set-up the data was used to tune cars for Europe, too. As a result it is incredibly smooth to drive, and while there’s a little bit of body roll there’s also an awful lot of grip.
The steering isn’t very communicative but it is quick, so you get to know quite quickly where the front wheels are going to go. Quite often you won’t need as much steering angle as you’d have first thought.
There are three petrol and three diesel engines, at least for the moment. On the petrol side there’s a 1.5 litre turbo with either 140bhp or 165bhp, or there’s a range topping 2.0 litre turbo with 260bhp. Diesel wise there’s a 1.6 litre turbo with 110bhp or 136bhp, or a 2.0 litre with 170bhp. That being said, there will no doubt be a VXR model in the next year or two and in just a few months time there will be a twin-turbo diesel with 210bhp…
The car I spent the most time in was the range-topping 260bhp 2.0 litre turbo petrol. It’s definitely not the car most people will buy, but as the only slightly performance orientated model in the range for the time being it seemed like the one to try. With 295lb/ft of torque, a 0-60mph time of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph it certainly isn’t a slouch, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it doesn’t feel hurried or unnecessarily sporty.
It has an eight-speed automatic gearbox but there aren’t any paddles behind the steering wheel, for example, which is actually quite refreshing because you’re encouraged to enjoy power in an effortless sort of way rather than point to point, manual gear-changing speed. The other cars across the range have six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearboxes, depending on the trim level and the engine, and while I didn’t try the six-speed auto the six-speed manual wasn’t too bad at all.
My time in the new Grand Sport was fleeting but interesting. Prices start at £17,115 and rise all the way to £26,445 for the 260bhp petrol, making the new Insignia Grand Sport look like something of a bargain, and not the kind of “oh my word that’s so tacky but it’s good value” sort of bargain.
The whole range is very well equipped, the engines are good, the interior is excellent, and some models even get torque-vectoring and all-wheel drive. While it may not be exciting it just feels like you’re getting so much more car than you used to, and that can’t possibly be a bad thing.