Blimey, the Vauxhall Insignia's going a bit Batmobile on us. Vauxhall's Geneva show concept car is the Flextreme GT/E, and the designers hint that a lot of the styling ideas here will turn up on the next Insignia in five years' time.
The designers pretty much took up residence in a wind tunnel, and got the cd down to 0.22. They managed to avoid the bread van tail of your usual low-drag saloon (step forward Mr Prius) by shaping a swoopy pair of blades over the rear wheel arches. Apparently the blades ‘cheat the air into thinking the car has a cut-off tail', according to designer Malcolm Ward. Like, wow. We had never before attributed the atmospheric gas with the power of cognitive reasoning.
Cutting drag was important in this car because it's another low-energy machine. Power comes from the same system as the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevy Volt. It's driven by a 150bhp high-torque electric motor, with a load of batteries in the centre tunnel and under the back seats. You charge it up overnight, but if you run out of juice on a long journey, a small petrol generator kicks in to keep the battery out of complete flatness, and keep you going with performance undiminished.
To prove it, Vauxhall-Opel's boss Nick Reilly drove an Ampera prototype on the 300-mile run from Opel HQ near Frankfurt to the show at Geneva.
Vauxhall was in ebullient mood at the show, with a promise of billions of pounds of new investment from the American parent GM. That's a remarkable turnaround given that just a few months ago Vauxhall-Opel was nearly bankrupt, GM in the states was already bankrupt, and Vauxhall-Opel was nearly panic-sold.
Paul Horrell, Consultant Editor of Top Gear magazine