With RWD and a Corvette V8 engine packed in an avant-garde body, this is the Insignia that Opel should have made.

Name: Opel Insignia

Debuted: 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show

Specs: rear-wheel drive, V8 engine with 344 horsepower, seven-speed automatic gearbox, hydropneumatic suspension

Why We Remember It Now:

With the official debut of the Insignia Grand Sport scheduled for later today, we though that it would be appropriate to dial our time machine to the year 2003 when the spectacular Insignia concept was unveiled.

It came out at a time when Opel had the Vectra and the larger Signum on sale, both of which were retired in 2008 when the production-ready Insignia was launched after being previewed a year earlier by the sporty GTC. The namesake concept was significantly more interesting as it had an unconventional exterior with sliding rear doors suspended on a pantograph. The driver had to press a button on the door handle to open the front doors and automatically slide the rear ones to ease access inside the cabin.

2003 Opel Insignia concept
2003 Opel Insignia concept

Up front it had a prominent grille milled from solid aluminum flanked by a pair of LED headlights, which were quite impressive 13 years ago. As a matter of fact, Opel used a total of 405 light-emitting diodes installed in the headlights, taillights, fog lights, as well as to light up the luxurious interior. The Insignia concept was a technological tour de force, packing electric motors to open the tailgate and rear window at the touch of a button.

With a full panoramic glass roof, massive 21-inch wheels, quad exhaust tips, and lacking B pillars, it’s no wonder the concept made a big splash at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. From a mechanical point of view, it was significantly different than the road-going model launched five years later. Opel actually implemented a rear-wheel drive layout derived from the Holden Commodore and installed an LS1 V8 engine from the Corvette with 344 horsepower (256 kilowatts) delivered to the road via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It was enough American muscle to enable the Insignia concept run to 62 mph (100 kph) in less than six seconds before topping out at an electronically-capped 155 mph (250 kph).

2003 Opel Insignia concept
2003 Opel Insignia concept

Not only that, but Opel engineered the car with a hydropneumatic suspension enabling a silky smooth ride as one would expect from a large sedan with premium aspirations. The sense of luxury continued on the inside where the folks from Rüsselsheim pulled out all the stops: tobacco-brown leather upholstery, turquoise decorative seams, dark ebony wood trim, and numerous glossy surfaces. In addition, some of the areas received a satin-finished aluminum finish, while the use of LEDs and a DVD player with a folding screen gave the cabin a high-tech look.

2003 Opel Insignia concept
2003 Opel Insignia concept
2003 Opel Insignia concept

Interestingly, the Insignia concept was conceived to be easily transformed into a four-seater by electrically folding the central seat into the trunk floor. Passengers sitting in the back on those comfy individual seats had access to a cool box capable of holding two bottles of champagne. As a final touch, a humidor for storing fine cigars made the Insignia concept feel more like a proper limousine.

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