Opel Insignia’s a joy to drive and is worth a look
It was only when I was driving past petrol stations in the last month, watching the prices fall to a more reasonable figure that I asked myself, is it time for the big petrol engine to make a return?
Well, maybe not quite yet, as Irish buyers still favour oil-burning diesels, not realising it may take five years to reap the benefits over a petrol. Manufacturers now offer petrol engines that claim to have similar economy figures to their diesel counterparts and, in many cases, they are excellent.
But what of the big turbo lump that provided so much fun back when cars favoured horse power, rather than worrying about how many kilometres you get from a tank. They seem to be few and far between, unless you go down the high-performance route.
One engine producing almost 250bhp that I recently tested was in the Opel Insignia and there wasn’t an OPC badge in sight. This was a top-of-the-range Elite model with a 2.0 petrol turbo engine with an automatic box, and it was a joy to drive.
Opel has spent a lot of money on engine technology of late, and a new line of whisper diesel engines was launched in Ireland this week (see panel). But you can’t forget about the petrol options. The 2.8 turbo in the fire-breathing OPC is awesome, but the potent 2.0 turbo is equally fun to drive with serious get-up-and-go.
Unlike the OPC, the range-topping Elite model is more serene to drive, with the ability to get down the road quicker than most. It feels luxurious, and the auto box is, well, German feeling.
I have a thing about automatic transmissions. I love the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz versions. Other manufacturers just don’t live up to the quality and feel of the Germans when it comes to slick transmissions. And this is probably why Opel’s auto is so good, because it’s German.
The Insignia turbo slips through the gears with ease, and you’ll find yourself reaching motorway speeds quicker than you think. It can sprint to 100kph in just 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 242kph can be reached if you have a disused airstrip.
Overtaking was a breeze and the Elite model felt more premium than many of its competitors. The redesigned interior is much improved, with Opel losing a lot of the clutter by adding a central touch-screen that gives it a high-end feel.
Opel has given the Insignia subtle changes to keep it fresh, and while not evolutionary on the outside, a new grille, front and rear LED light clusters improve it even further.
The latest Insignia feels like a premium car now, but you’ll have to skip the entry-level models to get the touch-screen.
The Elite model with the 2.0 turbo engine starts from €43,795, which is a lot of car, but what’s hard to stomach is the yearly tax – a whopping €750.
That’s a lot of cash to fork out year on year, and may be a deciding factor for many.
The Opel Insignia has always been one of the best looking big family cars and has proved popular through the years. The latest model has certainly been improved both inside and under the bonnet.
It has fierce competition with the launch of the new Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo, but the Insignia is definitely worthy of a closer look.