VAUXHALL is pushing the boat out with a four-wheel-drive version of its award winning Insignia which is as posh as it is practical.
To mark the launch of its new diesel engined estate the car maker teamed up with an iconic brand of speedboats loved by the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery and Sophia Loren.
Take a look at the picture and the boat on the trailer is a 1960s Riva, a plaything of the jet set and worth a cool £500,000.
The car doing the towing is the new Insignia Sports Tourer 4x4 which costs significantly less at around £24,000.
Nevertheless the new Vauxhall is decked out to impress and fitted with a special device to protect the investment behind.
The hitch up between the two came on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy – a favoured destination for the rich and famous.
The location – and the valuable prop – were chosen by Vauxhall and its German owners Opel to show how the company is setting out its stall to move up market and rival premium marques such as Audi and BMW.
While Vauxhall may still have a way to travel it is heading in the right direction with the latest Astra and Insignia setting new standards in terms of looks and refinement.
Since its launch in January last year 55,000 Insignias have been sold in Britain putting it at the top of the sales charts outselling even the Ford Mondeo.
The Insignia is also shedding its rep-mobile image, attracting a growing number or private motorists who have been shelling out for higher specification models.
Buoyed by such success Vauxhall is now entering a new phase with the diesel 4x4 estate and an optional leather trim which would not disgrace a Bentley.
In rich tan, the Indian Summer upholstery costs an extra £1,500 and it takes more than two hides of the finest Nappa leather to complete a single interior.
It’s an indulgence few would have considered in a Vauxhall a couple of years ago but now with its future a little more stable as parent General Motors recovers from financial crisis the British brand is thinking big.
The Insignia is a good car, handles well and has some decent engines – its qualities recognised with the Car of the Year accolade in 2009.
The two-litre diesel with all-wheel-drive is playing to the Insignia’s strengths.
With a six-speed manual gearbox it can average 47 miles per gallon while automatic transmissions on higher grade models knock that down to 41.7mpg. CO2 emissions are 159 and 179g/km respectively.
The Haldex four wheel drive is a smart system which varies the power to each wheel automatically.
On a motorway the Tourer will be front wheel drive while a blast on twisty mountain roads around the Italian lakes saw power to all wheels come into play delivering great traction and plenty of agility for such a large car.
There is even a bit of off-road ability thanks to an electronic limited slip differential channelling the drive to just one wheel if necessary.
The set up is such that power can be distributed 100 per cent front to rear as appropriate meaning good fuel economy for a 4x4.
The engine develops 160PS which translates into a 0 to 60 time of 9.8 seconds, a top speed of 130mph and there is not too much in the way of diesel noise getting inside.
Adaptive chassis settings – Vauxhall calls it Flexride – can alter throttle, gearing and suspension for additional comfort or for sporty driving which makes this something of a multi-role estate.
The towing equipment adds another £580 to the price and includes self-levelling suspension as well as traction stability control.
This is a clever extension to the car’s electronic stability programme which detects wobble in the trailer and checks it instantly, faster than the driver can blink.
It works at speeds of up to 50mph and as Vauxhall demonstrated on a handling track it works impressively with the potential to be a life saver.
Snaking an Insignia towing two tons of caravan through a slalom course it prevented what would otherwise have been an unavoidable roll over catastrophe.
Big Vauxhalls have always been a favourite among caravan owners and the new stability system makes the Insignia estate an outstanding tow car.
With the 4x4 Tourer not on sale until September exact towing performance has still to be determined but Vauxhall is aiming at a braked trailer weight of two tonnes and 750 kilos unbraked.
Luggage capacity ranges from 540 to 1,530 litres and there is a variety of anchorage systems available to secure cargo.
The new Tourer will top out at around £31,000 making this an adaptable and well thought out leisure vehicle – or workhorse – with other four-wheel-drive estates such as the Audi A6 Avant and Skoda Superb in its sights.
With a Riva Aniston in tow the Insignia is possibly overstepping the mark but the quality of this estate has got more than a fair chance of moving Vauxhall’s street cred up a notch or two.