When it comes to finding a test route to try out a new car, Donegal is one of my favourite places; what a back drop as the kilometres roll past.
My latest outing was at the wheel of the Insignia Country Tourer AWD, a newcomer which has left an impression which will last for a long time. Depending what part of our island you live in, there are two badges- Opel and Vauxhall. On this occasion, the Insignia had the V badge. This is one set of wheels with style and pace and when I arrived in Ballyshannon amidst a sea of black leather jackets, the County Donegal town was holding a Rory Gallagher Festival, the bright Lava red Tourer caught more than one eye.
Pace comes courtesy of a two litre turbo diesel engine with a very usable 210PS allied to an eight speed automatic transmission. Enough to get from rest to 100kph in less than eight seconds and on to a top speed in excess of 140mph, (225kph).
My week with the Insignia not only saw me in Donegal but also in counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, I discovered it was the sort of vehicle that you simply needed the slightest excuse to get behind the wheel.
Described by many as the sporty top-of-the-range Insignia with sporty looks and premium qualities and I would have to agree with this statement and I must add the all wheel drive capability.
Many will recall in bygone times such a vehicle would have been described as an estate or shooting brake, terms very rarely used today by car manufacturers. Somehow Country Tourer sounds just that little bit more modern, having made such a statement the old terms could come back; I believe there is a current Mercedes using the name Shooting Brake. The Country Tourer is more spacious and considerably lighter than its predecessor, has a much sleeker profile is equipped with a wide range of innovative technologies.
Despite its all-round black protective cladding and silver front and rear skid plates, tough and its off-road appearance, it has style aplenty and today the customer wants this in abundance when they choose a new set of wheels. Despite all of this it will face many challenges from competitors and my time behind the wheel has convinced me that it is right up there with the best from Volkswagen and Audi and is certainly more affordable. With a vehicle of this type, practicality is a factor and when it comes to loading the tailgate can be opened without touching the car, a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper is enough to open the tailgate with another kicking motion required to close it. To increase loading space to 1,665 litres, 135 litres more than the outgoing version, the new model comes with optional 40/20/40 foldable rear seats, enabling even more flexible loading space configurations. Still with space and the wheelbase has been increased by 92mm, enabling a more spacious cabin.
I know of one photographer who found the Country Tourer just perfect for his job; ideal Monday to Friday for work and a superb leisure vehicle for the weekend. We all enjoy our comfort and the leather premium ergonomic front seats aided greatly on a longish drive; the heated outer rear seats, heated windscreen and the heated steering wheel are all part of the package; mind you, I had no need for the heated steering, ideal first thing on a cold and frosty January morning. The leather seats are an option and other options fitted to my test car, IntelliLux LED matrix headlights, Winter Pack, Power Tailgate with Sensor, Heads-up display, 8-inch Display, Brilliant paint and if only one option was able to me then I would go for the Heads-up display, a super extra which displays your speed at eye level on the windscreen.
With this modern age most of us demand connectivity and entertainment and here once again this vehicle scores; an 8-inch colour touch screen, AM/FM/DAB digital radio/ Bluetooth audio streaming, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, USB audio connection and seven speakers (five front, two rear).
For those who may not know, Rory Gallagher was a blues and rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. Born in Ballyshannon and brought up in Cork, he recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. His albums have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. He received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London at the age of 47.