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Vauxhall Insignia VXR Supersport: Unexpected power

Vauxhall wants to be seen as more than an "everyman" brand. It wants to be up there with the German big three, but can it make it? The Insignia VXR Supersport seems to be a step in the right direction.

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I maintain that Vauxhall's desire to be a premium brand is a slightly foolhardy thing to publicise. It's honourable and everyone's allowed to dream, but has anybody in the history of the world woken up and said: "One day, when I've worked hard enough, I'm going to get my dream car -- a Vauxhall Astra of my very own."

I doubt it.

That said, when Vauxhall unleashes a fast one on the world, a VXR, I tend to get a bit excited. I get excited because the chaps behind VXR models don't appear to think in the same way as those behind the Golf GTI, Audi S3, Ford Focus ST, et al. No, they think: "How much power can we feasibly throw into this thing before it becomes a monster?"

The results are usually pretty awesome. The Astra VXR is a mental little machine, capable of speeds that a four-wheel-drive hatch really shouldn't be, handles well, has silly wheels, and looks like it wants to hurt you. As a result I rather like it.

So when news dropped that there was going to be a 165 mph Insignia VXR "Supersports" my ears pricked up. Good things this way come, thought I.

The Insignia has an interesting image -- people believe that they're bought a rep mobiles, company cars and the like. That the people who drive them aren't all that exciting, that they like beige and possibly have a large selection of dips on standby in case anyone ever comes over. Those who choose the VXR Supersport, though, they're a bit more exciting.

Because what they've done is chosen a big, comfy car that happens to have a turbocharged 2.8-litre V6 with 321bhp and 321 lb. ft. It'll take its occupants from 0 to 62mph in 5.9 seconds and it'll manage 165 mph, which makes it one of the fastest estate cars money can buy. They also get all-wheel drive, which means that if they decide to push the car beyond its, or their, limit they stand a better chance of not falling off the road.

The way the car delivers its power is glorious, it slings you towards the horizon with a similar ferocity to a big, comfy GT car. You feel the car lift slightly as you apply pressure to the pedal, then all of a sudden you find yourself approaching speeds that'll get your license removed from you rather swiftly.

Inside the VXR is pretty comfortable -- there's leather where you expect it to be, not too much plastic, and the controls are in sensible places. The only problem being the sheer multitude of buttons -- there's a few too many there to make it feel premium, though.

It's fast, comfortable and lovely, really. If you went for a drive in one you'd enjoy it very much and probably take a brochure home for a read. However, someone would probably ask you why you're not looking for an Audi, or a BMW. Because even though the VXR is around the same price as the slower, less powerful entry-level Audi A6, it doesn't have the "right" badge for most people.

That, in this case, is a great shame.

Engine 2.8-litre Turbocharged V6
Power 321 bhp
Torque 321 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed    165 mph