Based on the successful 2009 European Car of the Year, and available in hatch, saloon and Sports Tourer body styles, the high-performance Insignia will be Vauxhall’s first VXR model to adopt 4X4 technology, using a bespoke chassis developed through an extensive test programme at the gruelling Nurburgring circuit in Germany.
Highlights are a ‘HiPerStrut’ front suspension system, Adaptive 4X4 with electronic Limited Slip Differential (eLSD) and a 10 millimetre reduction in ride height over the Insignia SRi.
The HiPerStrut system is unique to the VXR and serves two primary functions: firstly, to reduce torque-steer, but also to maintain negative camber during cornering, thereby improving ultimate grip levels in wet or dry conditions.
Complementing these features are standard 19-inch alloy wheels (20-inch lightweight forged alloys are a cost option) with bespoke tyres, revised bushing and damper settings on both axles, and Brembo brakes with colour-keyed callipers and vented/cross-drilled discs.
‘The Insignia VXR is not just about absolute power, but a combination of usable performance and chassis sophistication which is the match of premium rivals, such as Audi’s new S4,’ said Andy Gilson, Vauxhall’s Marketing Director. ‘In essence, it’s an ultra-fast performance saloon that will appeal to buyers who appreciate subtle yet distinctive styling, but who need to know that there’s real substance below the car’s metal.’
And substance the VXR has a-plenty. At the heart of the Insignia VXR is Vauxhall’s advanced 2.8-litre V6 Turbo ECOTEC engine, with its micro-alloy forged steel crank, classic 60-degree cylinder angle and die-cast alloy oil sump – all features found in many a race engine. Producing 325PS, the engine uses a single, twin-scroll turbocharger and variable valve control for quick throttle response, and accelerates from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, achieving an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
With a design inspired by the Vauxhall/Opel GTC concept car, many of the Insignia VXR’s styling cues will be familiar to those who saw this groundbreaking concept at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show. A deeper bumper, incorporating bold, twin mesh grilles either side of the main grille, dominates the front of the car, and at the rear, all models gain a rear spoiler, while all VXRs have a bespoke bumper moulding incorporating dual matt chrome exhausts.
This sporting theme continues in the Insignia VXR’s cabin. Recaro front seats, a new VXR steering wheel, VXR gearknob and unique mouldings are standard on all cars, along with different instrument graphics, VXR sill plates and a black headlining.
Combining all the technical highlights of the VXR hatch and saloon with best in class-matching luggage capacity (rear seats up), the VXR Sports Tourer version is not only the fastest estate car Vauxhall has ever produced, but also the first to incorporate Adaptive 4X4 and an electronic limited slip differential.
A 540-litre load space behind its 60:40 split rear seats increases to 1530-litres with the seats down. And accessing this area has never been easier, thanks to the VXR Sports Tourer’s standard electronic tailgate, which can be operated off the driver’s key fob, or via a rotary knob on the inside of the driver’s door.
All VXRs are available with a colour palette comprising Arden Blue, Power Red, Carbon Flash Black, Silver Lake, Olympic White and Technical Grey.
Sitting at the top of the Insignia range, the new models will be an important addition to Vauxhall’s performance-bred VXR family, which already includes the Corsa VXR, Astra VXR and 562 horsepower VXR8 Bathurst S.
Bespoke chassis settings and unique, new front suspension design
Re-tuned FlexRide system allows drivers to exploit chassis’ full potential
Adaptive 4X4 with electronic rear slip differential
“I was personally involved in the development of the Insignia VXR. Our target was to rival the ‘best of the best’, and I very much enjoyed extensive testing on the most demanding race track in the world, the Nurb*rgring Nordschleife.” – Hans Demant, Vice President, GME Engineering
Using a significant evolution of the regular Insignia’s MacPherson strut front suspension, Vauxhall’s engineers have created a new architecture for all Insignia VXR models, based around the HiPerStrut (High Performance Strut) which both improves grip and allows more power to be applied during cornering.
While the suspension uses the same fixing points as in other Insignias, the kingpin inclination angle has been reduced from 13 to 9 degrees, therefore shortening the spindle length by 23 millimetres to 44 millimetres.
Each of these reductions allows drivers to better exploit the Insignia VXR’s 325PS power potential (a 65PS increase over the current 2.8-litre V6 Elite model). The reduced kingpin angle means less camber loss, which allows the front tyres to retain more of their contact patch with the road during cornering, therefore delaying the onset of understeer. And the shorter spindle length significantly reduces torque steer reactions and improves resistance to steering kickback through rutted bends.
The ride height on all versions of the Insignia VXR has been dropped by 10mm front and rear (compared with that of the existing SRi 4X4 model), and spring rates have been stiffened by 5 per cent at the front and 12.5 per cent at the rear. In addition, bespoke suspension bushes are used, which are 12.5 per cent stiffer than the regular car’s.
To achieve the best handling balance, the anti-roll bar diameter has been reduced by 13.9 per cent at the front (from 28mm for the SRi model to 26.8mm) and increased at the rear by 9.3 per cent (up from 26mm to 28mm).
Bespoke Brembo braking system & Pirelli P Zero tyres
The Insignia VXR’s braking system has been substantially upgraded to cater for the extra performance potential. The result is a joint set-up between Italian specialist, Brembo, and VXR’s engineers which comprises four-pot front callipers, vented and perforated 355 x 32mm front discs (up from 337 x 30mm on the SRi). High performance brake pads are also standard.
Known as ‘co-cast floating brake discs’, the rotors were developed by Brembo specifically for the Insignia VXR and feature a unique cast iron braking surface with an aluminium ‘hat’, combining the heat resistance benefits of cast iron with the lightweight properties of aluminium. As a result, drivers will suffer less fade under repeated brake applications, as well as more pedal feedback during extended braking.
While the Insignia VXR’s front discs have each gained 1.4 kilograms, due to their increased diameter, each calliper is actually 2.5 kilograms lighter at 5.2 kilograms, meaning that the overall unsprung mass is down, improving agility, steering and handling precision.
Complementing this heavily revised package are Pirelli P Zero 245/40 tyres, fitted to standard, flow-formed 19-inch rims. Forged aluminium 20-inch wheels with 255/35 tyres are optional.
Enhanced FlexRide system
Standard on all Insignia VXRs is an upgraded version of the FlexRide system, which adapts the car’s damping, as well as its steering and throttle parameters.
Like the regular Insignia, the VXR has three different modes, but each has been revised to suit a more spirited driving style. The Standard mode delivers ideal all-round performance, combined with decent damping compliancy for every day driving, with Sport tightening the damping and reducing body roll.
However, to make full use of the chassis’ potential, there’s VXR mode. In this setting, the steering becomes more direct, the throttle more responsive and the damping is fully optimised for performance driving. Drivers will even see the dials’ backlighting change to red.
Pressing the VXR button also provides two sub-modes: the ‘bump’ sub-mode stiffens the damping still further, ensuring that the wheels engage with the road surface instantly after hitting a bump; and ‘roll regulation’ mode, which reduces body roll to an even greater degree.
For the first time on a Vauxhall VXR product, Adaptive 4X4 is also standard, featuring an electronic rear limited slip differential. The system is based on the regular Insignia’s, but has been recalibrated to suit the VXR’s greater performance potential.
2.8-litre V6 Turbo engine develops 325PS and 435Nm of torque
0-60mph in 5.6 seconds
New engine software, reduced back pressure and shortened final drive
The Insignia VXR is powered by a 2.8-litre V6 Turbo engine producing 325PS and a massive 435Nm of torque, both at 5,250rpm. It reaches a (restricted) top speed of 155mph and sprints from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds*, while 50-75mph in fifth gear is despatched in 7.1 seconds*, illustrating the engine’s flexibility (standard V6 Elite: 8.4 seconds).
Increasing power by 25 per cent and torque by 9 per cent over the standard V6 Elite model has been achieved by creating bespoke calibration for the Insignia’s Bosch-Motronic engine management unit, increasing turbo pressure to 0.9 bar, and significantly reducing the back pressure in the exhaust, from 160-170mbar to 75-80mbar.
Developed by Remus – a name already synonymous with VXR and Triple Eight Engineering, which prepares Vauxhall’s BTCC race cars – the stainless steel exhaust system is 20 per cent lighter than the standard unit. And thanks to a recent amendment in EU regulations, performance cars producing more than 190PS are allowed one extra dBA of drive-by noise, meaning that the VXR now not only has a deeper exhaust note than the standard V6, but also a slightly more vocal one.
*Hatch and saloon models
High tech 325PS V6 Turbo engine
The 2.8 V6 Turbo engine in the Insignia VXR boasts a wide array of high-tech features: a classical cylinder angle of 60 degrees and overhead camshafts driven by double chains; variable valve control and a four-bearing crankshaft made from micro-alloy forged steel - a material commonly used in racing engines. The advanced construction of the V6 includes details such as friction-reducing, coated pistons. These are provided with hard-anodised ring grooves for longer life, run in cast iron sleeves and are cooled by oil spray. Sinter-forged steel conrods, outlet valves filled with sodium for improved cooling and the oil sump which is die-cast in aluminum for extra structural rigidity also illustrate the advanced overall design of this engine.
Operating with a 9.5:1 compression ratio, the engine has a single, twin-scroll turbocharger. The intercooled unit, installed centrally above the transmission, has an integrated charge air control valve and feeds the engine with up to 0.9 bar boost pressure (versus 0.6 bar for the V6 Elite). The turbine wheel is made of a high-grade special steel alloy. Due to the twin-scroll design, the turbine is fed uniformly from both banks of cylinders. Separate channels – one for each cylinder bank – separate the exhaust gas pulses. This keeps energy-related losses of the turbocharger low, while benefiting exhaust gas flow and operating efficiency.
The continuously variable, electronically controlled and hydraulically activated phasing of the inlet camshafts ensures a rapid throttle response and strong torque, even at low engine speeds. The inlet camshafts can be turned within a range of 50 degrees relative to the crankshaft in order to adapt the valve control times, and thus the charge cycle, to the prevailing engine load and speed. Both the inlet and outlet shafts are made of high-strength aluminum, which makes them especially lightweight, heat-resistant and durable.
In addition to the quick response behavior of the turbocharger, the rapid but smooth build-up of engine power is due mainly to the 32-bit Bosch-Motronic engine management system. The control unit’s software was specially adapted to the Insignia VXR and regulates all key functions such as ignition timing, fuel injection via VXR-specific injectors with higher flow rates, turbo boost pressure, airflow measurement and throttle valve position.
The exhaust manifolds have double walls, with the innermost made of hydro-formed stainless steel. This reduces exhaust emissions after a cold start because the manifold absorbs less heat. In addition, air is blown into the manifold for up to 30 seconds after a cold start so that the upstream catalytic converter responds more quickly.
Delivering drive to all four wheels is the Insignia’s manual six-speed gearbox, which has been adapted for the VXR with a shortened final drive ratio (from 3.76 to 3.90:1) to offer optimal performance.
SPOTLIGHT: VXR SEATS – THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF COMFORT & GRIP
In collaboration with sports and racing seat manufacturer, Recaro, Vauxhall ‘s engineers have developed bespoke High Performance front seats for the Insignia VXR, which incorporate both companies’ expertise and experience in ergonomics.
Seat engineers replaced the traditional suspension system of the seat back with a plastic shell, its racing-like contour made possible by the use of injection-moulded plastic. This manufacturing process, which was first patented for the Corsa VXR, reduces costs without compromising safety and has been a major technological breakthrough in the industry.
The High Performance seat sits 15 millimetres lower than in other Insignia models, and because it is lower to the floor provides more thigh support for drivers and front passengers.
“The Insignia VXR’s High Performance front seat is perfect for drivers who want excellent support through curvy country roads or if they attend a track day at a race circuit,” said Armin Rossman, Group Leader of High Performance Front Seats. “This is the kind of use our seats were designed for, since they stabilize the upper body when the car is being driven at high speeds.”
Trimmed in leather and fitted with integrated airbags as standard, the Insignia VXR’s High Performance seats are class-leading for adjustability, with a height range of 65 millimetres and length range of 270 millimetres, allowing drivers of all shapes and sizes to find a comfortable seating position.
In addition, the VXR’s High Performance seats have improved tilt adjustment, four-way power lumbar support and ergonomic seat contours, including superior side support and supporting foam pads.
VXR BRAND GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Since its launch in 2003, Vauxhall’s VXR brand has enjoyed immense popularity among UK car enthusiasts, and today VXR products out-sell sister brand, Opel OPC’s , in any single European market, providing drivers with a more affordable – but highly credible – alternative to so called ‘premium’ performance cars.
But VXR is by no means simply a brand dreamt up by marketing men. VX Racing, the BTCC team which has dominated touring cars in Britain in recent years and currently holds all three British Touring Car Championship titles, was a perfect partner for VXR in the early years and created a firm foundation for its evolution.
Vauxhall’s most popular VXR is the Astra, which went on sale in October 2005 and has consistently sold between 1800 and 2400 cars per year, but the first VXR-badged cars were the mid-engined, two-seat VXR220 and the V8-engined Monaro, which wowed customers at the 2004 British Motorshow at the NEC.
Since then, Vauxhall has developed a comprehensive range of VXR models, and is now the only UK manufacturer to offer a performance line up stretching from a 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder car to one with a 6.2-litre, V8 engine.