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One former colleague I regularly stay in touch with is Bryan Hatter. Bryan is a former md of Saab (when the Swedes built Saab models as opposed to Vauxhall-derived cars). I always enjoyed Bryan’s banter and his insights into cars.

Of course, Bryan always had the issue of reinventing for the UK market what were essentially the same cars slightly updated each year – because Saab then had so little money to develop new models.

Although Bryan has tried various other marques (Audi, BMW) he is, and remains, a Saab diehard. So when the new Vauxhall Insignia was launched Bryan was instantly keen to find out what it was like; and how much would change for a Saab 9-5 version. I think you can see where his thoughts are running…

So here’s Bryan’s account of his impressions of the new Vauxhall Insignia.

Bryan Hatter writes: I duly went and tested the Insignia at Vauxhall’s ride and drive event at the Millbrook proving ground.

The first Insignia I drove was a diesel auto. I think the larger output – (unfortunately, they didn’t put spec sheets in the individual cars).
Lots of torque – as you would expect – but higher than expected engine noise in the car. Nice enough though.

The other Insignia I tried was the petrol 2.0 litre turbo SRi auto – with 220PS and 350Nm torque at 2000rpm.

I was very impressed – not only with the performance – compared with my Saab 9-3 2.0 turbo auto (195PS) – but especially with the low transmitted road noise at 105mph round the Millbrook oval. And only a whisper around the door mirrors.

The ride was excellent – better than a BMW 5 Series on run-flats – with well-controlled roll on the road circuit. The ride control was left in Normal, but which I understand still adjusts itself to reflect the manner in which it is driven.

The steering was infinitely better than any recent Saab (not difficult, I know). I would put it on a par with a BMW. Then I found it had 4WD! No wonder I found it so chuckable. It reminded me of my 2002 Audi A4 Avant quattro.

It will be interesting to see how the Insignia estate handles – perhaps they will launch their own quattro competitor.

Overall, I thought the interior trim layout and finish was quite good. The standard sports seats on the SRi were a bit too snug for me – that’s one area where Saab has always been good. I would go for the more luxurious leather option.

My real interest is how similar will the new Saab 9-5 be? And how will they price-position it?

The local Saab dealer tells me it has different ‘clothes’, of course, but with the same under-pinnings. He has seen it in Germany and was very impressed. But, will it be different enough to justify the higher price tag?

I hope Saab continues to offer the 2.3 Aero – I can’t see any sense in them offering a V6. I understand the saloon launch is June 2009 with MY10 availability and the wagon six months later.

So, would I buy an Insignia? Yes – the SRi auto with adjustable ride option, but without 4WD – it puts it into a higher emissions tax segment.

Bryan Hatter blogs for Business Car Manager

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