I can recall the first time I arrived at Mondello Park to report on a race meeting. I was driving a Vauxhall and there was an amount of confusion, Opel being the brand in the Republic of Ireland. A perfect case of badge engineering, so on our island we have the best of both worlds and it’s worth noting the Republic is the only right hand drive market for Opel.
Bruntingthorpe, an old Wellington bomber base, was the launch location for the latest offering from Opel/Vauxhall, today it is one of the largest car parks in these islands where thousands of new and used vehicles are located.
However within its confines is a high speed track which is frequently used and on this occasion it was part of the programme to launch the new Insignia GSi. On hand to assist were F1 coach Rob Wilson and the first DTM Champion Volker Strycek.
I first met Rob when he raced a F3 car at Mondello Park; currently he coaches eleven of the current crop of F1 drivers. So you can imagine, a few tales were exchanged.
For many, it is welcome to see the GSi name back, twelve years have passed and the new Insignia, as I discovered, is more than worthy to carry the iconic badge.
Two variants will be offered, Grand Sport and Sport Tourer and I was able to get behind the wheel of both.
Two engines are available- a bi-turbo diesel and a petrol turbo both with respectable power outputs. The diesel with 210PS and the petrol with 260PS and both with two litre capacity.
The launch exercise featured the diesel, a new unit and clearly the good folks at Opel and Vauxhall still have faith in the diesel engine, good news for fans in Ireland and there are many.
In harmony with the eight speed automatic transmission which includes paddle shifts, the changes are seamless.
Worth noting that in the combined fuel cycle the reward with the Insignia GSi can be as much as 40.4mpg. (7l/100km). Of course this is all down to the driver’s right foot!
In bringing the newcomer to market, much emphasis was placed on handling and ride, with the famous Nurburgring used as one of the test venues.
The proof of the pudding they say is in the eating and over fast flowing roads in Leicestershire the handling was nothing short of impressive, much of the credit due to the adaptive rude chassis which is quite rigid and despite all of this all onboard enjoy a comfy ride.
All wheel drive is a major feature of this new GSi model which rides on twenty inch rims shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. I asked Volker had the car been set up for these tyres and he answered no, explaining that considering the customer replacing special tyres can be expensive and of course if the tyres cease production, that is another problem.
The new GSi has a lower ride height that the standard car, some 10mm all to the advantage of handling and with performance comes a requirement to stop, that is well catered for with the fitment of Brembo four cylinder brakes and I can vouch for the brakes, they are really up to the task.
The exterior styling does not shout, “I am a grown up boy racer” rather it borders on being conservative; the giveaway is the chunky alloys. Really you could class it as something of a “Q” car.
The interior is well executed with a raft of technology and infotainment, let me assure you, boredom will not arise when you drive or travel in this newcomer. One item I must highlight- the special performance seats created in-house for the new GSi, very supportive and comfy with full adjustment.
Colour is important and exterior choice is six fold, both cars I tried were in a sporty bright red, just the right shade for the latest newcomer to the fast lane.
The story of the Insignia GSi has really only begun as later this year Exclusive versions will be added and for those in the market for a small sporty car, a Corsa GSi is also coming our way.
After having tried the new Insignia GSi I could not help compare it with a number of similar cars from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, it would be easy to judge it on price alone; the starting figure is £32,975. (€37,493). N.I. In the R.O.I. the GSi starts from €49,500.
This newcomer offers so much more, the German premium brands would best keep a close eye on their rear view mirrors; this one is coming up fast.
Now all that is left is to get the opportunity to take the wheel of the petrol version, for now I would happily settle for the diesel.