| 3.1°C Dublin

STILL A CRACKER

Santa came early this year - and he even brought a red one.

A coincidence I'm sure, but still, there she was in all her magnificent glory - the answer to every big boy's dream.

Sitting gracefully on stonking 20-inch V spoke alloys dressed in ultra low-profile tyres, one could have been forgiven for thinking it was indeed the big day.

It sure felt like it as the reality began to sink in that this is no ordinary Insignia.

It wasn't even a sporty version.

No sir.

This is the flagship of the German car giant's performance department where they eat hot hatches for breakfast, dinner and tea.

A quick look at the accompanying rap sheet will give you some insight into what we are dealing with here.

BEAST

Under the hood beats the heart of a beast - a 2.8 litre, 6-cylinder turbo charged powerhouse that generates a mind-blowing 325bhp.

What that means in layman's terms is a 0-100kph of 6 seconds and a top end of 270kph.

It's also constant four-wheel drive, so the handling is superb and the grip unyielding, but more about that later.

The Insignia has been around since 2009, but the initial design was so radical that it still seems fresh today, though tweaked to within an inch of its life.

On the OPC, the fang-like air intakes on either side of the front bumper and the chrome finish complements perfectly the thicker central bar in the grill.

At the rear it's a similar affair with the twin exhausts nestled behind chunky casings while an identical chrome strip now bleeds into the rear light clusters.

Climb inside and the same muscled-up sportiness greets you from the leather, flat-bottomed steering wheel to the super sexy Recaro sports seats.

Peppered around the cabin are reminders of its potency, with OPC flashes on the gear knob and sill plates to the aluminium finish on the wheel, central console and even the pedals.

Thankfully, the OPC styling is not in-your-face or too loutish.

In fact, it looks quite subtle, unlike the drive which is kick-ass.

The secret ingredient here is the OPC chassis with HiPerStrut suspension which manages the steering and suspension separately coupled with an electronic limited slip differential which eliminates torque steer.

If you're feeling a bit cocky there's Sport and OPC modes should you feel the need to test your abilities or indeed nerve.

Each setting firms up the dampers while increasing the steering sensitivity and freeing up more grunt at lower revs.

What you get is a blistering drive that is sure to put a big smile on your face.

Yes, the steering could be that little bit more informed.

And yes, the noise from the exhausts could be a little bit louder. And yes, it could do with being a little less thirsty, but isn't that all part of the subtle charm?

With a price tag of €53,495 you'd think that the price would be its biggest enemy, but again it all boils down to emissions.

Sitting in the highest CO2 band, the OPC attracts road tax of €2,350 a year.

That' enough to spoil anyone's Christmas.

This is the new Opel Karl - the supermini that thinks it's a limo. It will be powered by the new 900cc, three-cylinder engine from Corsa. On sale from next summer.


Privacy