2013 OPEL INSIGNIA OPC REVIEW
What’s hot: Big power, big torque, nice style.
What’s not: Soft dynamics, automatic gearbox not up to the task.
X-Factor: Inexpensive, comparatively, for a hi-po Euro performance saloon.
Vehicle Style: Luxury performance sedan
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.9 l/100km
Cue then to the all-wheel-drive Opel Insignia OPC. With 239kW from its 2.8 litre turbocharged V6, the Insignia OPC is Opel’s most powerful production car ever - and it can be yours for a shade under $60,000.
With a unique bodykit and a more purposeful stance than the more prosaic Insignia variants, the Insignia OPC looks terrific. It’s also comfortable, thanks to a pair of brilliant Recaro seats and loads of luxury equipment.
And it’s certainly fast. Although, that said, it isn’t a balls-out turbo AWD executive express; Opel’s OPC Insignia is more luxo-cruiser than raw hammer.
Inside the OPC, black abounds: black leather trimming the seats, steering wheel and gearshifter, and a black headliner to boot.
Quality feel however is inconsistent, with a soft-touch upper dash and hard scratchy plastics on the lower dash and centre console.
There’s also a button-heavy centre stack that’s hard to interpret at a glance.
Happily, the Recaro-badged front seats look dramatic, are form-fitting and offer great support, while the flat-bottomed OPC steering wheel also feels great.
Compared to the regular Insignia sedan, the OPC’s front seats are mounted 15mm lower to put the driver in a sportier position.
There’s plenty of adjustability in the (powered) seats and steering column, and once settled there’s a clear view of both the instruments and the road ahead.
There’s plenty of standard equipment too. Sat-nav, bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and Bluetooth phone integration are all standard.
There’s also cruise control, trip computer, front and rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beam and a USB audio input.
And, though there’s a rear differential sitting beneath the boot floor, the Insignia OPC’s luggage capacity is identical to the rest of the Insignia range.
That means 500 litres of space with the seats up, and 1015 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded - plenty for most.
ON THE ROAD
We hopped into the Insignia OPC straight after having driven the razor-sharp Astra OPC, and the difference couldn’t have been more stark.
While the Astra responds crisply and communicates plenty of feedback to the driver’s fingers, feet and rear end, the Insignia goes the other way.
You feel somewhat distant from what’s happening at the wheels and in the engine bay. A quick glance at the speedometer tells you that, yes, you are indeed travelling rather quickly, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
The Insignia is, after all, geared more towards luxury than outright sportiness.
It comes with a six-speed automatic only, and while the 2.8 litre V6 - aided by a single twin-scroll turbocharger - huffs out 239kW and 435Nm, its substantial turbo lag makes it a lazier performer than the highly-responsive 2.0 turbo four in the Astra.
You really need more than 4000rpm showing on the tachometer before things begin to happen with any real urgency. And a certain amount of forethought is required to compensate for the turbo lag.
A quick look at the dyno chart explains the OPC’s unwillingness at low revs - peak torque is produced at 5250rpm, which is unusually high for a turbocharged V6. Most turbo sixes produce peak torque at less than half that.
However, once that turbo lights up you’d better hold on. At full steam, the Insignia OPC piles on speed like a jet fighter.
It even sounds like a jet. The whine of the turbocharger’s compressor can be faintly heard from behind the well-insulated firewall, and it’s even louder from outside the car. The V6 engine is silky-smooth too, with a throaty exhaust note.
It’s a shame then that the transmission isn’t up to scratch. The six-speed auto is slow to respond, whether it be kicking down a gear when the accelerator is floored or reacting to a tap on the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The trans works fine however when trundling through traffic, but a performance gearbox it ain’t. It also drags on the engine when a manual downshift is requested, rather than blipping the throttle to match revs.
Thankfully the suspension is better-sorted than the transmission. Ride comfort is - for a performance sedan on 19-inch alloys - outstanding.
Like the Astra OPC, the Insignia OPC rides smoothly over minor bumps and has enough compliance to smooth out bigger ones, without excessive body roll or being floaty through corners.
Grip is also good. On the partially wet roads of the launch route the Insignia felt more secure than the Astra, and it had lots more grip under hard acceleration (the AWD system is capable of funneling 100 percent of drive to either front or rear).
Where the Astra would spin its front wheels, the Insignia just hooked up and blasted off.
It understeers a little, but torque steer is minimised by the same HiPerStrut front suspension set-up that’s also enjoyed by the Astra OPC and GTC.
ON THE TRACK
It’s unlikely that many Insignia OPCs will see much track time, but we relished the opportunity to put it to a more challenging dynamic test at Eastern Creek.
Thumbing the ‘OPC’ button on the dashboard sharpens up the steering, slackens the stability control and gives the accelerator a keener response. It also puts the adjustable dampers into a firmer setting.
Out on the track, the difference between Normal, Sport and OPC modes is obvious. Normal is too soft, Sport is slightly better and OPC is juuuuuust right.
The suspension is much firmer and body roll is reduced, yet there’s still enough compliance to iron out the odd ripple strip. The transmission also seems to wake up, although it’s best kept in check by shifting manually.
At high speed driving, the Insignia’s tendency to understeer is more pronounced. To help counteract it, the active rear diff shuffles more torque to the outside wheel, but the only cure is a slower entry speed.
The OPC’s Brembo brakes with two-piece ventilated and cross-drilled front rotors work well in normal high-speed driving, but repeated hard use on the racetrack saw them fade noticeably.
The transmission is also not suited to track work. It shifts too slowly which can lead to frustrating moments when you’re left in the wrong gear by corner exit, frantically slapping the shift paddles to try and make the gearbox respond faster.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
It rides exceptionally well, has a solid spec list, a powerful (but peaky) turbo six and has a riotous soundtrack to go along with it, but it just feels... soft.
And really, it all boils down to that six-speed auto. It dulls the engine’s response, and we suspect it’s the reason why the torque curve is so top-heavy.
But, for the market it’s shooting for, perhaps Opel doesn’t need to worry too much about that.
Since the Passat R36 disappeared from VW showrooms two years ago, the Insignia OPC has arrived in a market without any natural rivals at its price point.
The current Passat V6 FSI Highline undercuts the Insignia OPC by $4000, but has less power and torque than the Opel and lacks features like high-performance brakes, an active rear differential and bi-xenon headlights.
Other potential competitors include the 195kW/350Nm Subaru Liberty GT, but is also not as focused on performance as the Insignia. Truth be told, the Liberty is also much less attractive.
Rather, Opel says the Insignia OPC rivals cars like the Audi S4, which only has slightly more power and torque, but at $119,900 costs almost exactly twice as much as the Insignia.
At the end of the day, the Insignia OPC’s value-for-money is its trump card.
- Insignia OPC 2.8 litre V6 turbo sedan - $59,990
Note on photos: more images of Australian model are coming.