Power & Grip: Opel Insignia “Ultimate 120 Years” Leads the Way

Power & Grip: Opel Insignia “Ultimate 120 Years” Leads the Way

20.02.2019: 120 Years of Opel Automobile Production Exclusive anniversary offer: Opel Insignia “120 Years“ special model at top conditions

20 Years of Opel Automobile Production

    Exclusive anniversary offer: Opel Insignia “120 Years“ special model at top conditions

    Decades of driving enjoyment: Kadett, Diplomat, Calibra, Insignia GSi and Co.

    Pure precision: FlexRide chassis and Twinster all-wheel drive with torque vectoring

    All aboard: Democratisation of technologies is core brand characteristic


Opel has been building cars since 1899.
It all started with the 4 hp Patentmotorwagen “System Lutzmann” – according to a company brochure at the time, “Always only the best of the best”. In 2019 Opel celebrates 120 years of automobile production – and thereby 120 years of innovations.

The German brand has a long tradition of pioneering high-tech advancements and bringing them to series production. Lively engines and safe chassis with plenty of grip have always played a prominent role – for example in the 1.3 Litre with “Opel synchronous suspension”, the Diplomat B with de Dion rear axle, the Rallye Kadett GT/E and the super dynamic Calibra Turbo with all-wheel drive.

The best example of this today is the Opel flagship: thanks to the combination of Twinster all-wheel drive with torque vectoring and FlexRide chassis, the Insignia is a traction champion. It is a driving machine par excellence – especially in winter on snow and ice. Now the Insignia is available as an extensively equipped “Ultimate 120 Years” special model with optional, silky-smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission.

Assistance systems such as Park Pilot and Cruise Control are on board as standard while features such as the multi-adjustable ergonomic active seats and heated leather steering wheel increase comfort. The Insignia “Ultimate 120 Years” also features other top technologies such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Automatic Emergency Braking, Head-up display, the Multimedia Navi Pro with eight-inch colour touchscreen and adaptive IntelliLux LED® matrix light. The “120 Years” models are real eye-catchers with exclusive light-alloy wheels, stylish chrome details as well as OPEL lettering and the “120 Years” logo on the door sills.

“With our comprehensively equipped “120 Years” anniversary models we once again demonstrate how valuable practical technologies are,” says Opel’s managing director of sales and marketing, Xavier Duchemin. “We thus have exactly the vehicles in our portfolio that our customers want – at very attractive conditions.”

Opel Motorwagen represented “the highest achievement in engine design to date”

The Opel Insignia in general and the Insignia “Ultimate 120 Years” in particular show that it is a core brand characteristic to always offer customers more than they expect in the respective vehicle class. The foundation for this was laid at the end of the 19th century by the Opel Patentmotorwagen “System Lutzmann”.

It already offered two technology highlights: the first was the pneumatic tyre, which was invented by Robert William Thomson in 1845, but had not yet found noteworthy use in automobile production. The second was the one-cylinder, 4 hp engine. In January 1901, this engine brought Opel to claim that the cars built in Rüsselsheim “represent the highest achievements in engine design to date in terms of simplicity of the mechanism and robustness of construction”.

“Dizzying speed” thanks to two-cylinder 12 hp engine

“Always only the best of the best” is another certified Opel motto. And because the Rüsselsheim automaker, like all automobile and engine manufacturers, was confronted with the demand for more power from the outset, they already set the bar even higher in 1902. The company's first two-cylinder engine, developed under the direction of the technically trained brothers Fritz and Wilhelm, delivered 12 hp.

The Opel with Tonneau body reached the "dizzying speed" of up to 45 km/h. This was more of a theoretical value, since the roads were only paved and sufficiently surfaced in cities, if at all. It was without a doubt the mechanical oil pump that made progress noticeable. The hand pump with sight glass, which had to be operated by the driver every 10 to 15 kilometers, had now finally become obsolete.

Opel synchronous suspension ends the age of the horse-drawn carriage

A milestone in Rüsselsheim's technological development ensured that not every infrastructural shortcoming fully seeped through to drivers. The “Opel synchronous suspension” presented at the 1934 Berlin trade fair was the alternative design to the still widely used front wheel suspension “without axle”. Horizontal coil springs and double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers in the spring housing (Dubonnet suspension unitprevented pitch oscillations.

Together with the semi-elliptical leaf springs and hydraulic dampers on the rear axle, they allowed the car to glide over potholes. Compared to the 24 hp Opel 1.3 Litre model, which also featured a box frame with diagonal struts and crossbeams, four-speed transmission and hydraulic brakes, many competitors with designs dating back to the age of horse-drawn carriages suddenly looked quite old.

Straight-six brings premium feelings into mid-size class

The Rekord A “6” clearly showed how Opel continued to drive forward the “democratisation” of high-quality technologies. The heart of the top model launched in 1964 delivered an impressive 185 Nm of torque from 2.6 litres displacement. Its smooth, calm performance defied its power, with the refined straight-six engine giving the mid-size limousine and coupé a premium feeling.

This was based on the old school design principle with in-block camshaft, valve pushrods, rocker arms and overhead valves. Hydraulic tappets enabled a maintenance-free valve train. The short-stroke engine significantly upgraded the Rekord A towards the end of its career and was also an ideal fit to the new upper-class Kapitän and Admiral models thanks to its convincing character.

As if Opel had built the best road imaginable into the Diplomat

The Rüsselsheim carmaker continued to make no secret of its penchant for advanced drive and chassis solutions. For example, the sales brochure of the Opel Diplomat B launched in 1969 stated, “We built it from the inside out”. Meaning? “Technology sets the tone”. That's fair to say – especially in view of the de Dion rear axle which was highly praised by experts.

This elaborate design combined the advantages of the track and camber-constant double-jointed rigid axle with independent wheel suspension which benefitted low unsprung weight. The differential on the auxiliary beam, the drive shafts with constant-velocity joints and length adjustment, longitudinal and wishbone control arms for precise wheel control, stabilizer as well as coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers completed the picture. Everything together looked “as if we had built in the best road imaginable”.

105 hp catapult for the “Rocket from Rüsselsheim”

105 hp in a compact car was also a statement in 1975. With the Kadett GT/E, Opel let loose a “competitive base model”. The powerful everyday automobile with superb driving characteristics was to sporty-oriented “average consumers” what the racing car was to rally and race drivers.

The high-torque 1.9-litre injection engine, which was also used in the new Manta GT/E, catapulted the “Rocket from Rüsselsheim” with a kerb weight of only 900 kilogrammes from zero to 100 km/h in 10.2 seconds. It boasted a top speed of 184 km/h and later with the 2.0-litre engine even reached 190 km/h.  For best grip and high cornering speeds, the engineers from Rüsselsheim left nothing to chance when it came to the chassis: thanks to stiffer coil springs and special Bilstein shock absorbers, the chassis was well equipped to handle high engine power and offered abundant safety reserves.

High-tech straight-six combined refinement with top speed

At the end of the 1970s, Opel introduced the Senator as the successor to the legendary KAD series (Kapitän, Admiral, Diplomat). The new Opel flagship was convincing both in terms of technology and quality and put in an excellent showing in direct comparison with limousines from Stuttgart and Munich. One vehicle class below this, the Opel Omega replaced the Rekord E in 1986 and was named “Car of the Year 1987” the following year. For both the Senator and Omega models, Opel developed a completely new six-cylinder in-line engine, which was one of the best units of its time in terms of performance, refinement and power delivery. A coin could stand on its edge on the valve cover of this idling engine without tipping over due to engine vibrations.

Particularly challenging for Opel engineers was the fact that the new engine was to provide superior, smooth propulsion in the upper-class Senator 3.0i 24V model, while at the same time resolutely powering the Omega 3000 24V, the sportiest version of the mid-size limousine, to the top. It was a balancing act that the engineers mastered with flying colours.

The new 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine delivered 150 kW/204 hp. Four-valve technology and the innovative dual-ram intake system ensured superior power delivery and plenty of driving fun even at low rpm, with maximum torque of 270 Nm. The engine thus impressed with excellent acceleration and high elasticity in all rpm ranges. The Omega 3000 24V with five-speed manual transmission sprinted from zero to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds, the heavier Senator 3.0i 24V needed two-tenths of a second longer.

DSA safety chassis with multi-link rear axle offers high reserves

To ensure that the higher engine power reached the road safely and evenly, Opel engineers equipped the sporty Opel Omega 3000 and Omega 3000 24V as well as all Senator models with a newly developed multi-link rear suspension system. The system based on the DSA safety chassis guaranteed high safety reserves in all speed ranges and driving situations. The engineers achieved this through an additional guide element. Without this additional diagonal arm, a firmer chassis setup would have been necessary, which would have led to considerable losses in comfort, especially in Senator models – not something customers would have appreciated. Thanks to many years of computer-simulated development work, the engineers were able to improve steering precision and cornering behaviour.

This was particularly evident in fast cornering and load alterations, but also in sudden lane changes and evasive manoeuvres. Especially in high-performance engines, large torque differences affect the driven wheels, leading to self-steering reactions of the vehicle. The new DSA multi-link rear axle reduced this to a minimum. Opel engineers thus succeeded in bringing the significantly increased performance with the new six-cylinder engines safely onto the road without sacrificing comfort or making compromises in vehicle setup.

Opel Calibra set standards with progressive design and all-wheel drive

Opel went into the last decade of the last century with progressive design. The Calibra presented at the 1989 IAA not only won numerous international design awards, the four-seat sports coupé was also technologically convincing across the board. The Calibra impressed with the lowest drag coefficient of all series production cars; the Cd value of 0.26 earned it the title of “Aerodynamics World Champion”.

From the end of 1990, the all-wheel drive already familiar from the Opel Vectra was available for the coupé. The system promised high traction, outstanding braking stability and safe handling in all situations. A Visco clutch provided the necessary torque balance between the front and rear axles during cornering. It also automatically distributed the drive torque between the two axles depending on front wheel slip. The rear axle thus took over between 15 and 60 per cent of the drive, in extreme cases even up to 100 per cent. Opel engineers achieved a further increase in driving safety with the hydraulic multi-disc clutch. By interrupting drive power to the rear axle at lightning speed during braking, the system ensured outstanding braking stability in all driving situations, also thanks to the standard ABS system.

Due to its sporty, tapered design, the Calibra virtually demanded a top version with powerful performance – which Opel supplied from 1992. The Rüsselsheim automaker replaced the 16-valve engine with a newly designed turbo unit unit based on the proven four-valve engine, which required only a few modifications by the engineers. However, these ensured a significant increase in output from 150 to 204 hp with almost the same fuel consumption and, in conjunction with the all-wheel drive, made the Calibra Turbo a real competitor of the Porsche 968, which was almost twice as expensive at the time. One of the special technical features of Opel's new turbo engine was the integration of the turbocharger and exhaust manifold into one component. This integral system worked with particularly low thermal losses and significantly higher turbocharger efficiency. The newly developed turbo engine marked the beginning of a new era, with turbocharged engines finding their way into more and more models and vehicle classes.

FlexRide chassis with three individual modes for precisely gauged driving fun

From 2008 the magic Opel word for even more driving fun and safety was “FlexRide”. Initially reserved for Opel's new flagship Insignia, the mechatronic chassis with adaptive damping control was introduced in the new Astra generation just one year later. The special feature: with FlexRide, the driver could adjust the driving dynamics according to his own preferences by selecting the Standard, Sport or Tour mode – a real rarity in the compact class segment.

Thanks to the DMC (Driving Mode Control) unit, the chassis aligned itself to steering manoeuvres, acceleration behaviour, road conditions and the desired mode at lightning speed. In Tour mode, the dampers are softer and the steering is smoother. This makes long car journeys less tiring and more relaxed. In Sport mode, FlexRide offers a more dynamic driving experience with top response: the damping stiffens up, the steering reacts more directly and the electronic throttle offers a swifter pedal response. In order to visually highlight the now sportier car, the illumination of the instruments changed from white to red.

Insignia with FlexRide and all-wheel drive with torque vectoring

The Opel flagship Insignia currently marks the ultimate in precision and driving fun – at its sportiest as the top-of-the-line GSi model. Also on board is the further developed FlexRide chassis, which here even comes with a special Competition mode. This gives the sporty driver more freedom before ESP intervenes.

The state-of-the-art Twinster all-wheel drive with torque vectoring is a perfect match for the sports chassis. This pioneering high-tech system features two electrically controlled multi-plate clutches that replace the conventional differential on the rear axle and ensure very precise torque transmission to each wheel. In other words: thanks to torque vectoring, a perfectly dosed amount of power is sent to each individual wheel.

Depending on the driving situation, the wheels are accelerated individually in fractions of a second – regardless of the surface or whether it is wet, icy or snowy. So annoying understeering, i.e. pushing over the front wheels, is largely unfamiliar in the Insignia GSi; it precisely follows the course that the driver selects by steering command. In combination with special sports tyres and the 154 kW/210 hp two-litre BiTurbo diesel engine (fuel consumption according to NEDC1: urban 9.4 l/100 km, extra-urban 5.8 l/100 km, combined 7.1 l/100 km, 188-187 g/km CO2; fuel consumption according to WLTP2: combined 8.0-7.6 l/100 km, 208-198 g/km CO2), the Insignia GSi, tuned on the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife, reaches speeds of up to 233 km/h and becomes a razor-sharp driving machine.

[1] WLTP measurements converted to NEDC values for comparison

[2] WLTP combined figures (for information only, not to be confused with official NEDC values)


Martin Golka, Colin Yong photos Opel

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/opel-insignia-ultimate-120-years---186714.html

20.02.2019 / MaP

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