Welcome to the Now and Wow of Opel's Insignia GSi
Whopping price tag but a real gem
I have to admit, I'm not a great man with the Now. You know, the Now in which we are being relentlessly urged to live so we can stop worrying about tomorrow, next week; to cease wallowing in past mistakes and future fears - all the things that foist more pressure on us.
I find embracing it is easier said than done. I think it can be especially difficult for those of us who grew up in an era when we expected things to go wrong almost as part of our fate and faith. But I know many who live by, and thrive in, the Now.
So for a bizarre sort of reason this week I'm dipping into the ever-present and inviting you to join me for a little while.
It is the only way I can properly convey the essence of this week's test car. (We'll see what happens after this Now; a few steps at a time).
The car in question is the revived GSi performance line, as manifested in the Opel Insignia 5dr family hatch.
If I were to apply my usual jabs of pragmatica to it, the entire review of the powerhouse motor would border on the irrelevant (some say my reviews do anyway) - simply due to its price and power.
The GSi is a real whizzer but has a whopping price tag too (around €53,000 for car on test). In my normal non-Now world, the price and future value would be predominant concerns as I was driving: how could you justify that sort of money?
You're talking Honda Type-R, VW 'R', BMW-series, Mercedes C-Class money here.
So, soon after setting off on my first drive in it, I was persuaded, and resolved despite misgivings, to get back to the present rather than fear for the future.
That let me derive as much enjoyment as possible from its slick, but steely-edged, driving without having to contemplate nagging realities such as depreciation and the increased likelihood of speeding points.
It worked big time for me - and for the several passengers who travelled with me on numerous journeys. This is the sort of car that engenders faith in a brand: Opel have something of a gem here even if it only does compete at the top of the market.
It doesn't snort, flash and flare its abilities like some; it just drives particularly well. When a motor like this can transfer the energy of motion and direction with such verve, driving becomes joy without effort.
The chassis, allied with different modes including 'Competition', was exemplary in finding the right blend of taut and pliant. It was just a great feeling. Secured with all-wheel-drive, it hugged corners and the 8spd auto box seamlessly slipped through the speed ranges.
That's what made it fun, real fun: it involved me in the drive but made few demands.
And the most noise I could extract from the 2-litre bi-turbo diesel was an above-average purr with the pedal floored in mid-gear range. That's an excellent engine - all 210PS of it.
I could drive this GSi all day; indeed it felt like I/we did for several days. There were trips to the midlands, airport as well as loads of poor-road driving.
Inside, the special Cobra seats were exceptional. That's what you call looking after your lower torso, back, shoulders, neck and head. No wonder I only changed driving positions by minute margins.
This GSi is/was a deceptive 'beast' whose low-key brilliance lifted us all. The more we drove, the fonder we became of it - always a great sign.
A couple of times I was about to interject a price-and-diesel-future-linked 'but' - only to be reprimanded by the on-board Now advocate.
He was correct: it is a car to be sampled for what it is, not what it will be or might cost. Enjoyed it so much.
But old ways yield slowly and I have to sneak in a couple of real-time complaints as I return to the harsh-reality of a different Now.
The steering was too light for me, though it never affected my directional confidence but I'd have liked more feedback.
And the interactive infotainment display/screen was disappointing; hard to read; quite frustrating. I don't remember it being an issue in previous Insignias. The voice control was clumsy, long-winded and poor on pickup; it jumped to a lot of telephone-name conclusions that, even allowing for my abysmal diction, bordered on the absurd. I lost my cool with it several times. I expected the whole system to work better for me. Agreed, these are minor matters in the overall context, but they irritated and there is no escaping that reality even in the Now.
In fairness, they took only a little gloss off what was a memorable drive. Cars such as the GSi either delight you or they don't.
This does/did for me.
For Now anyway.
Facts & figures
Opel Insignia GSi 2.0 bi-turbo diesel (210PS) 5dr, 8spd auto, 4x4; 0-100kmh/7.9 seconds, 7.1l/100km, 184g/km, €750 tax.
Standard spec includes: Navi 900 IntelliLink, Wi-Fi hotspot, 8ins touchscreen, smartphone connectivity; Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri voice command; FlexRide chassis (Sport, Tour, Competition mode); Brembo brakes, 'Twinster' adaptive 4x4 drive, GSi bumpers/side sills/rear spoiler; Bose system; two-zone climate control, leather AGR sports front seats, 20ins alloys, IntelliLux LED Matrix headlights, parking sensors, forward-collision alert.
Price: €53,600; with options €53,950. Petrol from: €49,500