INSIGNIA VXR’S SUPERB SHOWING ON CARDRONA ICE TRACK RIVALLED ONLY BY AURORA IN THE NIGHT SKY
The stars seemed to be aligned with Holden when the company had the Australasian launch of its performance sedan in Queenstown.
The VXR model of the Insignia large sedan is part of GM Holden’s European fleet that it will be introducing to the Australasian market over the next few years.
With the closure of Holden Australia’s production plant where the Commodore has been produced, the company has looked across its international fleet to add models to the badge here.
The company expects to launch 20 new vehicles here in the next five years. Already this year we’ve seen the Astra hatchback and the Cascade convertibles for sale in New Zealand. Now the formerly Opel-branded Insignia heads to New Zealand dealerships, including the all-wheel-drive VXR model.
Pictures / Simon Darby
The company decided to use the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) at Cardrona to show off the performance and AWD capabilities of the Insignia VXR on snow.
While the car showed off during the day on the ice tracks at the SHPG, at night it was the Aurora Australis nocturnal light show on display in the skies.
Holden NZ will be hoping it’s a sign from above that the vehicle will do well here.
But the company doesn’t expect big numbers for the VXR. Not only is the large sedan segment ever decreasing, there isn’t a lot of demand for AWD performance versions with Holden NZ struggling to suggest a real competitor for the product.
Priced at $69,990, Holden’s first AWD turbo sports sedan is paired with an Australian-built 2.8-litre V6 engine producing 239kW of power and 435Nm of torque. The six-speed auto Insignia VXR has three performance settings: standard, sport and VXR. It also comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring and FlexRide suspension.
That new suspension system showed its smooth abilities on an icy drive from Queenstown’s luxury lodge Matakauri to Glenorchy and return. But the large-performance sedan showed its real abilities on the snow at the SHPG — with traction control turned off and VXR mode dialled in.
The GM Holden instructors used the day to teach the Australasian media the importance of ABS braking, swerving at speed — and the fun stuff, such as how to drift around in a circle (demonstrating oversteer and understeer), then teaching us the Scandinavian Flick, a rally driving technique.
We we had to “flick” the rear of the sedan by sharply turning the steering wheel left then turn right and use the momentum to drift around a corner. The stars were certainly aligned for me, as I picked up the technique first go and when I finished my first four laps, exited the car to applause from the instructors and GH Holden staff.
Even my usually cynical colleagues suggested I missed my calling as a snow-based rally driver and have nicknamed me Scando Flick.
While the exercise was tremendous fun it also highlighted that this vehicle really is a European product, not only with onroad performance but in looks inside and out.
It sits on huge 20-inch alloy wheels with Brembo brakes plus large wheel arches while vertical air intakes and a large grille give it a strong on-road look. The rear has chrome highlights, LED tail lights, dual exhaust pipes and a boot-lip spoiler.
Inside the cabin there is a clean look to the dash with a definite European flavour to the styling.
It’s a shame Kiwis aren’t favouring large sedans because the Insignia VXR joins a list of vehicles that suit our environment, alongside Subaru’s recently launched Legacy AWD sedan and Volkswagen’s Passat.