Chasing Premium: 2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport

We examine Opel’s new upmarket offering.

2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: Opel.de
2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: Opel.de

“It would appear that emissions, efficiency and cost are driving the V6 over a cliff. I would not wager a whole lot of money that Opel will still offer a V6 when the Insignia is replaced.” We got that one right. Opel revealed the 2017 Insignia-replacement the other day and we find that “the engine range is made up exclusively of turbocharged four-cylinder units and is crowned by a 247bhp 2.0-litre engine”. (Autocar)

This is somewhat odd given Opel’s wish, repeated since 1976 to take on the premium brands. Further, since the Insignia GS will become the 2018 Buick Regal, there will be a V6 available for the same body. Even if the uptake was not more than 1o% for a V6 Insignia a case could be argued for the halo effect. Even if the premium peers have sixes on offer, most of the other brands don’t so that would be a reason to choose Opel over Ford and Toyota, if not Skoda. The four-door has been removed from the line-up. Again, odd. The Buick will be a saloon. The premium peers are all saloons. What gives?

2017 Opel Insignia GS: Opel.de
2017 Opel Insignia GS: Opel.de

On the plus side, the Insignia GS is a decent looking car, quite visually consistent though – initially at least – I think it’s less distinctive than the current car which I got wrong by disliking it at first. I will take a little while to react to this one.

You can read an interview with Opel’s chief designer, Mark Adams, here.

I misread the interview and now realise that, unusually, Adam’s does not say they wanted to make the car look more premium; he is not positioning the new car in relation to any demerits the predecessor might have (he designed that one too). He simply states “We want to create a vehicle that definitely has a premium aura, even if it is a value proposition. We wanted a car that would make people almost start to question their judgement in a way. If they can get a car that looks so good and offers so much value, why would you think about going up other than for reasons of brand snobbery?”

2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: Opel.de
2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport: Opel.de

The message here is that Opel justifiably stands behind the 2008 car but has made measurable improvements on weight and rear-space. This makes a nice change where the designs says something like ‘the new car is much more mature than the last one which looked like a Playmobil toy’. It’ll be more revealing to see the car in the metal – Opel’s press photos are a touch on the airbrushed side to say much.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

21 thoughts on “Chasing Premium: 2017 Opel Insignia Grand Sport”

  1. “If they can get a car that looks so good and offers so much value, why would you think about going up other than for reasons of brand snobbery?”

    That’s the big question, and full points to Mr Adams for being so upfront. Most of his peers would have made a statements along the lines of ‘with this new Middleclass Exodus excelsior_sport, we want to redefine people’s perception of the Middleclass brand and demonstrate the premium values that we stand for’.

    Here in Germany, Opel staged a big marketing campaign a while ago, which was about ‘re-parking of the mind’ in terms of the Opel brand (that’s a clumsy translation, by the way). It addressed Opel’s image deficit head-on, but in a confident, un-apologetic way. It was also one of the first visible signs of Karl-Thomas Neumann’s management of the brand, and a ‘ballsy’ one at that.

    1. This is what the campaign I’m referring to, by the way:


      (photo: s-f.com)

      ‘60% of the male population believe red-heared women are racier.
      90% of them have never met one.’

      A while later, another message popped up, in a similar layout:

      ‘Is Opel still the way you remember it?

      Have a look yourself!’

    2. So this is Opel’s equivalent of that recent/ current annoying Ford campaign in the UK trying to get the average Joe to re-imagine Ford as some crazy, exciting, premium badge? I have to say it’s done with more thought, words and class by Opel. Oddly, I think most Brit enthusiasts would say Opel would help Vauxhall gain more image in the UK.

    3. Maybe my translation didn’t help the cause, but I must stress that the Opel campaign was quite different from any ‘Unlearn’ shenanigans.

      Opel’s image here in Germany was disastrous, what with a new CEO taking over every second month, not to mention factory closures and the wannabe-sale to Magna. Ignoring this fact had been the advertising strategy for years, and it didn’t work.

      Starting with this campaign, Opel was telling the public that it wasn’t building premium cars, but good cars – unlike the company’s reputation suggests. So all this advertisement did was to acknowledge reality, which is quite a (sorry for repeating myself) ‘ballsy’.

  2. There seems to be a view afoot that the rearmost section of the side DLO inset to the d-pillar is a glossy plastic blanking plate. I find it hard to tell and be definitive given the – as Richard so elegantly puts it- the air-brushed look of the pictures. I don’t like the crooked reverse angle of the chrome strip that surrounds said feature, it’s far to sharp and pointy given the other forms around it.

    Otherwise, I think this is an elegant thing, albeit with strong overtones of the KIA Optima, the Passat, the Mazda 6 (front fascia), Audi A7 (side profile) and the Skoda Superb (side body feature lines and pressing into the rear doors) – the latter seems to be GM’s target, which is testament to the long term strategy that VW has pursued with that brand.

    1. The Superb is too good for its own good. It’s lacking the quaint warmth of previous generations of Skodas (particularly the Ingenlath cars), and it renders it very difficult indeed for anyone to make a case for Audi’s lacklustre current-generation A4. The Superb is just too sharp.

    2. SV: If that huge triangle is a cheater panel then I will be disappointed. I am trying not to prejudge the car and I can recall being wrong about the last one/current one.

    3. S.V. this is the most pertinent issue of 2016. Have GM, in a claim to present a more ‘premium’ design, shot themselves in the foot? It’s like kerning – even people who are not design-literate will register this sort of detail on a sub-conscious level, and think less of the whole as a result.

    1. Well, I so hope it is not, but other observers on other sites/ fora seem convinced of it. It would be a very strange design choice, and Mark Adams seems a solid and unpretentious Design leader, so I live in hope.

    1. Yes: I’d noticed that. At one stage they had the Yamaha V8 in the S80. Before they had five-cylinder units and PRV-6s. Many Europeans won’t miss the cylinders; isn’t a deal-breaker for many Americans? As we know Genesis offers a V8 and Hyndai have V6s on some models. Volvo are hobbling themselves, Opel too (the commonality with Buick makes ommission hard to understand).

  3. On none of the pictures I’ve seen is there see-through on the back panels, though the infil looks like genuine glass, not black plastic. Actually, if you consider the structure, there needs to be a fair amount of metal behind the rear door which wouldn’t leave much room for any opening greater than the pathetic keyhole on the current Clio. If that was so, I could see why they’d do without it. With the glass and brightwork, even if there is no actual hole there, they aren’t actually saving much money doing it that way. It may be a bit dishonest of function, but it avoids having a nasty little trimmed irregular triangle in each C pillar when viewed from inside.

    Overall, though maybe not as enthusiastic, I agree with Richard that the outgoing Vectra grew on me. It had a pleasing visual compactness, and I seldom mistake it for anything else. This new one is blandly handsome from central casting. As a kid I could never understand witness reports in newspapers “police are looking for a dark saloon, maybe a Ford or Vauxhall” but, actually, if this ran over my toes “um, officer, I think it was a Skoda .. maybe or an Audi”. Has Mr Adams taken the task of making something to compete with the best of VAG a bit too literally?

    1. After staring at the car for a while I noticed there’s less brightwork on the front. That distinguishes it from the outgoing car which is Senator-Royale in its shininess (that’s good). For 2021 the Insignia GS will get a bit more brightwork. That’s how brightwork is used: take it off, put it on, take off, put it on. There’s no absolute principle for its use.

  4. Well, yes, I understand what you mean when you say they are hobbling them self, but I think it might be because they develop their own 4 cylinder (and the 5 they used to have) but the V-engines where always out of house.
    Their most important market is China/Asia, with Europe as second. US is third and may be a big market but not big enough to dictate engines. They claim they made the choice out of emission needs.

    1. Maybe it’s not so much fitting the engine which is my focus but the cost of compliance. Conceivably the US engines are too thirsty. GM would be sensible if they designed the US motors to allow for European demands.

    1. Uh oh. The estate looks like a mis-step too. They’ve gone down the Kia route of a fat C pillar and chrome to disguise the shape of the estate box… why would you do this? It just makes the design less easily understandable.

  5. Another car maker on the edge of the precipice; how can GM continue marketing such mediocre drudge when it has been clear for some years now that like society in general, the middle ground is rapidly disappearing? When Opel are struggling to compete with Kia and Skoda yet continuing in the same manner of poor quality control and slapdash after sales service, what is the point of them? The midmarket D segment has contracted considerably yet competition is fiercer than ever and when the Chinese get their act together – it’s only a matter of time, there’ll be no room for the likes of Opel and Ford. If GM had bitten the bullet and come up with something original and crossover shaped, I think they might have had a future. And yes I hate crossovers but car manufacturers have to be profitable at some point. Their days in this segment are over, who in their right mind would choose this over a Skoda Superb, VW Passat or Kia Optima? Due to rapid depreciation it’ll have to be heavily discounted for leasing to undercut the premium sector. The sales boom in China has stalled so that gravy train is no longer going anywhere.

    1. Depreciation: supply and demand control this. By now BMW and Mercedes outsell the Insignia and Mondeo. I expect buyers will twig their cars aren’t exclusive. I think 20 years ago buyers figured a used BMW was a good purchase because it was a cheaper way to get a car people figured was expensive and relatively rare. The cars were also markedly more polished inside and out. Today there can’t be many who consider BMW and Mercedes exclusive. I can’t see stark differences in the products when price is factored in. Up until this daft fake window revelation I thought the Insignia GS a credible proposition. It really is a big failure of taste to ask the graphics to do more than engineering can live up to. This one must be a “gift” fromsenior management. Based on his output so far I can’t see a chap like Adams wanting this. It’s a by-product of platform sharing. Opel generally don’t do this kind of thing (Chevrolet do it more) but let’s not forget the equivalent choices made by Mercedes (whole cars down to egregious detail flaws). BMW don’t do this though sometimes produce a mediocre vehicle; Audi and VAG still seem to avoid these design muck ups (and get called boring for their pains).

  6. Jacomo: the top of the D-pillar on the estate seems to be problematic, a bit like the Citroen Picasso with its mess of rails and glazing. There´s a little triangular thing hanging off the tailgate window.
    Markus: thanks for the link. It is a cause for some furrowing of my brow.

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