Vauxhall Omega Elite (1996)

If the number of cars seen on the road just a few weeks after launch is any measure of future success then Vauxhall’s new Omega seems destined to break records for I have rarely seen so many examples of a new car so quickly, that distinctive V grille – the new corporate nose – a common sight already on our highways.

Rarely also does any car have 2 direct predecessors for the Carlton saloon/estate and the luxury Senator ranges have both gone to be replaced by one extremely wide range of Omega saloons and estates encompassing the best features of both former ranges and adding so many new ones that it goes to the top of the class immediately.

Vauxhall Omega

Neither the Carlton nor the Senator sold in as great numbers as Vauxhall would have wished for, the former seeming unable to find it’s real niche despite being excellent value for money, the latter unloved by the luxury car market although smart buyers found them a superb used buy and the Police – who bought thousands for motorway patrols – loved them for their unburstable engines, incredible durability and high performance and were reluctant to part with them.

All of those admirable virtues seem to have been carried over into the Omega if the top of the range Elite is anything to go by for the car impressed me greatly and it is easy to understand the favourable reviews it has received from the European motoring press.

A sleek looker with real road presence, the big, slippery, body of the Omega offers superb space inside, good head and legroom, superbly comfortable seats and a huge boot, yet, despite it’s size it is as nimble as many smaller cars, a real treat to drive. The extraordinarily wide range of 4 door saloons runs from under £16,000 to just under 27 grand so, for both the executive and luxury car markets,   there seems to be something for everyone and the similarly priced estate car range is simply cavernous inside.

Atop this range sits the piece de resistance, the opulent Elite, the much admired 3 litre V6 engine, stunning performance, every conceivable luxury and impeccable roadmanners make this a viable alternative to any offering from the more prestigious European makers of luxury cars, indeed in the 2.5 litre TD version it shares an engine with one of the most well known names in the game, the excellent 2.5 litre BMW turbo diesel engine.

That opulent cabin, acres of black leather and wood trim, is liberally strewn with goodies, everything that one could reasonably want in a luxury car, ABS – standard across the entire range – cruise control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, electric windows, mirrors and roof, a 6 CD autochanger, 8 speaker, stereo, aircon, full leather trim, driver and passenger airbags, a remote security and locking system, the list goes on and on and much of the equipment is standard across the entire range.

Vauxhall Omega

Wonderfully smooth and quiet, the 24 valve V6 has been the subject of much favourable comment and seems the perfect power plant for the Elite, terrific performance with great refinement, not even raising it’s voice in anger when pressed hard and perfectly complemented by the standard 4 speed, dual range automatic gearbox, a seamless shifter. A 5 speed manual is an option and slightly better performance figures are a result of that choice but, whichever, the Elite, a big car at 4.8 metres long, is very rapid and has superb balance and stability, sure footed handling on the twisty bits yet still a limousine like ride.

Vauxhall’s new Omega both feels and acts like a high performance luxury saloon that can live with the best of them and if the company has suffered in the past from not being perceived as a luxury car maker then the Omega Elite will surely change all that for it’s as good as any and better than most.

First Published 1996 – Article © Graham Benge 2007

Editor's choice