7 Apr 17

First Drive: Opel Insignia Grand Sport

The 'Mk 1' Insignia from 2009 put Opel firmly on the fleet map, convincing customers with a pleasing design, advanced technology and enhanced quality. The new generation has big shoes to fill and faces a toughened competition. Opel’s approach? Move up the ladder in every possible aspect, while keeping prices attractive.

In a fleet market increasingly dominated by premium brands, not least in the D segment, mainstream OEMs need to rethink the positioning and substance of their products to remain competitive. For the Insignia, Opel has swerved the wheel towards luxuriousness, space and sophistication, an approach underlined by the suffix Grand Sport. Is it sporty, then? Not quite. A sovereign motorway cruiser which corners pleasantly? Absolutely.

Bigger, but up to 175 kilos lighter   

One glance at the Insignia Grand Sport suffices to appreciate how much the general proportions have changed. It sits on an evolution of its predecessor's platform, the wheelbase of which has been stretched by 92 mm – which is good news for the rear passengers. They find themselves 23 mm closer to the ground (the front occupants 'drop' 30 mm), while the roof line has been lowered by 29 mm. In theory, this means no headroom is lost, but tall people such as yours sincerely feel their (sparse) hair rub against the ceiling when sitting in the back.

That’s perhaps not something you would expect from a big German saloon. But let’s not forget this is a five-door hatchback with a tremendously long sloping tailgate. Indeed, the four-door version has been axed, as it was by far the least popular body type in the previous Insignia family. Positive points: the Grand Sport offers 3 cm more interior width, making it wider than the E-segment Volvo S90, while it weighs 175 kg less than before. Indeed, the new Insignia blurs the lines between D and E, just like its main competitor, the VW Passat.

Only conventional powertrains

Our test drive in the Frankfurt area started with the 170 hp 2.0 CDTI Blue Injection mated to the standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Within minutes, this powerful diesel convinces with its progressive torque build up and smooth operation. It is perfectly in tune with the model’s vocation, namely to drive effortlessly, but not boringly. Shifting through the gears is agreeable, but the gear ratios privilege an allegro, ma non troppo driving style.

We also got the opportunity to try out Opel’s new 1.5 petrol for a short drive. Even though it obviously offers less torque, it is far from anaemic – at least the 165 hp model – and boasts interestingly low CO2 figures: from 129 to 136 g/km. It offers the choice between a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic – just like the most attractive fleet engine, the 1.6 CDTI. With 105 g/km, the most frugal livery of this small diesel is the EcoTec Start/stop 110 hp. A hybrid, you say? Not in the pipeline, and neither is a CNG derivative.

Higher CO2 levels?

Those who have studied the technical specifications will have noticed that the Grand Sport’s carbon dioxide emissions and NEDC fuel consumption figures are higher than the previous Insignia’s, even though the vehicle weighs less. Take the 1.6 CDTI: it used to emit 99 g/km, now its tailpipe releases 105 g/km into the air. The explanation lies in the fact that Opel has already developed the new generation with the new WLTP fuel efficiency standards (Worldwide Harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedures) in mind.  

Contrary to the currently applied and much criticised NEDC standards, of which the origins date back to the 1980s, WLTP figures are much closer to reality. They take into account optional equipment and include both higher speeds and faster acceleration. As from September 2017, all OEMs must use these new procedures to establish the official fuel consumption figures, which will obviously be higher than the NEDC ones. Because Opel wants to give its customers maximum transparency, it already publishes the WLTP figures of all models launched since the current Astra.

Ride and handling

The Insignia Grand Sport is a big car, but not that nose-heavy. The lightweighting strategy clearly pays off in this area, too. The understeer limit lies beyond the point where most drivers dare to go, while the general balance makes for a progressive nature. The Autobahn stability is remarkable – this is clearly Opel’s flagship’s habitat. Serenity is the word that comes to mind – undoubtedly, the excellent insulation plays an important role here.

We were able to try out both the adaptive suspension called FlexRide (inluded in the Dynamic trim) and the standard one. FlexRide offers three driving modes: Normal, Tour and Sport. The latter is the one most active drivers will select by default – it stiffens up the dampers and lessens the assistance on the steering wheel, making for a more involving and direct driving experience without compromising passenger comfort. The standard suspension reaches an excellent equilibrium, which leans slightly more towards soft and forgiving than dry and communicative.

For the discerning customer

Those who cannot do without athletic performance and/or flawless grip can opt for the 2.0 Turbo 4x4, a four-cylinder petrol engine that puts its 250 hp onto the road through an Aisin-sourced 8-speed automatic (indeed: the same one used by Volvo) and a torque-vectoring twin-clutch system on the rear axle. An impressive device made by GKN that replaces the differential and makes a certain Ford Focus RS the king of road-holding - or drifting, as the case may be.

If it’s customisation you are after, Opel now offers a programme called Opel Exclusive. It provides an unlimited range of body colours with special finishes, based on your personal preference. The bright orange of your cat’s eyes or that satin blue of your favourite tie? Anything is possible. In addition, Opel Exclusive will include an expanding range of additional personalisation possibilities such as leather options, a selection of wheels and decorative design elements.

Top connectivity and safety

As many accidents happen while people are setting their sat nav, Opel includes a Destination Download feature in its OnStar connectivity system (standard on Edition and above). Just press the button, ask the operator what you are looking for and he will send the address directly to your car. Opel OnStar also includes Automatic Crash Response (eCall), Stolen Vehicle Assistance, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a smartphone app allowing you to locate your car, remotely check the important vehicle systems and get the diagnostic results in a monthly e-mail.

The Insignia Grand Sport won’t settle for less than 5 stars in the Euro NCAP tests. Its standard active safety equipment includes Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection. If a person is hit by the car nonetheless, the bonnet pops up to absorb the impact. A head-up display, incredibly efficient IntelliLux led matrix lights and adaptive cruise control are affordable, recommendable extras. One last thing: the rear window wiper disrupts the elegance of the car – perhaps that is why it is not standard – but it enhances rear visibility in wet conditions.   

The bottom line

The Opel Insignia Grand Sport turns heads and makes perfectly good sense in most any aspect. According to Opel, its TCO is lower than its predecessor, thanks to the combination contained list price – high residual value, lower SMR costs and less expensive tyres, while it offers even more value for money. Product-wise, it is finally on a par with its main competitor again, the Volkswagen Passat, the green powertrain chapter excepted. For the user-chooser, making a choice is now merely a matter of preferences.      


  • E-segment substance for D-segment prices
  • Top notch connectivity and safety equipment
  • Lower weight benefits dynamics and fuel consumption
  • No green powertrains (yet)
  • 8-speed automatic only on 2.0 Turbo 4x4
  • Rear headroom, relatively small boot
Key specs 2.0 CDTI
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder
  • Power output: 125 kW/170 hp @3,750 rpm
  • Torque: 400 Nm @1,750 rpm
  • NEDC fuel consumption / CO2: 5.2 l/100 km / 136 g/km
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual front-wheel drive
  • Length/width/height (mm): 4,897 / 1,941 / 1,455
  • Boot capacity (litres): 490 – 1,450
  • Standard wheel size: 225/55 R 17 W
  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Skoda Superb
  • Ford Mondeo
Most interesting fleet model (EU5 region) 1.6 CDTI EcoTec 81 kW Edition (105 g/km) equipped with Business Pack
Authored by: Dieter Quartier