Opel Insignia OPC: First Drive

The Opel Insignia OPC is based on the same platform as the new-for-the-US Buick Regal, but adds the torque-vectoring Haldex AWD system from the Saab 9-3 Turbo X and a 325 HP turbocharged V6. Can anyone say "GNX?"

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If you read our review of the 2011 Buick Regal, it was pretty plain to see we liked the car a lot. It's probably the most fun, nicest-looking, sporty FWD mid-size sedan in the market. And we're saying that about a Buick, not an Acura TSX or Mazda6.


The Regal is more or less exactly the same as the Euro-spec Opel Insignia, which means by commutative property, since we like the Regal, we like the Opel Insignia. When GM takes that enjoyable, 220 HP front wheel drive car and puts a stonkin' 325 HP, 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 with a six speed manual and a Haldex all-wheel-drive system in it capable of rear-axle torque vectoring, it's a fair bet we'll be giddy with excitement. Then they add 14-inch (front) Brembo binders, Recaro bucket seats, 20 inch wheels and body work so aggressive it makes one's inner hoon squeal. GM brought one along during the Regal drive and let us have a crack at it.

It might not be the fastest, hardest cornering, most extreme factory tuner in the world, but God damn it looks good. This could have the three-cylinder wheeze-fest from an old Geo Metro and we'd still want to roll around naked on it. That's not to say it isn't fast, 0-60 MPH takes 5.8 seconds, which is impressive for a car that weighs 3,990 Lbs.

But lifting off the accelerator is a high crime. Maybe it's the super-grippy Recaro buckets, the Darth Vader meets Tron interior graphics or the knowledge that you're driving one of the only OPC's to ever grace these shores, but you can't help but drop the transmission down a couple cogs and obliterate the speed limit with dangerous regularity. It's easy to find oneself hunting for even the slightest bend in the road to exaggerate into a high speed corner. The car's good, but more importantly, it's involving.

The OPC bases much of its greasy bits on the Saab 9-3 Turbo X powertrain, though it's tuned to a higher level, it makes many of the same moves. That Saab had only 280 HP, but the torque vectoring AWD system is identical.

Compared to the Regal, the Insignia OPC is more of a boy racer, such things are obvious based on the obnoxious body work and giant wheels, but it lives at an interesting intersection of hooligan and grown up. The car is tighter in corners, but doesn't punish you over jarring bumps, turn-in is faster, but it isn't tiresome. Should you lose your mind and want a more sedate experience, you can turn the car down a couple notches with three different suspension settings, each progressively softer until its throttle response and damping rate is rather pedestrian.

The fact that GM brought this car to a Buick Regal media launch is not a signal lost on us. We aren't saying GM is preparing a version for the United States, but the shoulder shrugs and veiled smirks from GM engineers say they're at least thinking about it. Although there was much talk of the letters "G," "N," and "X" but none of it coming from anyone wearing a GM badge — and unfortunately, GM's CEO's already nixed the idea. Still, a car fan-boy can dream, can't we?