Fire up the… Vauxhall Insignia VXR

THERE was a cracking piece in The Champion a couple of weeks ago about a man who used to keep a lion in his back garden every night.

Admittedly he did work for Southport Zoo but he still must be one of the few prepared to put up with a hard-earned reputation as one of the world’s most ferocious and powerful predators, in a world where most people would opt for a slightly tamer tabby as a pet. It’s exactly the same scenario with the Vauxhall VXR8 I tested earlier this year. I absolutely loved the growl from its V8 engine and its leopard-like talent for sheer speed, but it’s a beast I’d struggle to own. It really is using a nuclear warhead to crack a nut.

Vauxhall however realise this and have just the thing for speed freaks grounded in reality, in the sleek shape of the Insignia VXR. As nutcrackers go this is one I doubt you’ll be dissappointed with; it really is one of the world’s great ground coverers.

Take the VXR8 out for a spin and it feels as though it’s constantly on the verge of exploding into a surge of shotgun acceleration, which is exciting when you’re in the mood for it but I’d imagine would start to grate slightly on the Monday morning commute. The Insignia’s 2.8 V6 is much better, being docile and quiet enough for everyday jobs but you always know that you’ve no less than 325bhp at your disposal, ready to deploy at the slightest twitch of the right foot. It’s particularly handy on motorways, where it’ll effortlessly cruise for miles at a time.

But where the range-topping Insignia really shines is when you hunker down into its bucket seats and set if off along a twisty country road, where its four wheel drive and the composure of its chassis really starts to shine. For such a big car it really is a delight to drive, and with plenty of room and gizmos insides it’s unlikely your passengers are going to start complaining.

You might think the VXR’s £36,000 is its biggest problem but in fact it’s its styling; the Insignia is a finely styled saloon, but somehow I can’t help thinking the VXR cosmetics make it look like it was made by Nike rather than Vauxhall. Park it up next to say, a Jag XF and it’s knocked for six in terms of style and prestige.

But you would have said the same thing about the Lotus Carlton twenty years ago, a car that’s gone onto become a classic on account of its ability to effortlessly devour any road it comes across in a way which puts a huge smile on your face.

The Insignia VXR follows in that noble tradition, which is why I’d have one over its cartoonish big brother any day.

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