When Vauxhall launched the current Omega range, it said that it would try to whip up interest in the sportier MV6, which went into an area of the market this big, relaxed motorway cruiser had never explored before. It seems to have worked. The MV6 now takes about 15% of all Omega sales.
Of course, for a sports saloon, it has entirely the wrong badge . . . Sorry, reading from somebody else's script there. But that's the problem, isn't it?
If a car in this market sector wasn't built in Munich, Stuttgart or Coventry, the pundits often reject it out of hand, which must be pretty maddening for people like the Omega design team, who in this case have done a pretty good job of sportifying a commodious executive saloon. Estate too, because that body style is available at £1000 extra, although MV6 sales in this country are predominantly of saloons.
One thing's for sure: the Omega doesn't give much, if anything, to its direct rivals when it comes to matters like panel fit and exterior finish. Even if few of us would pass an exam on the Andon monitoring system and Poka Yoke, whatever in the name of all that's bloodsome that may be, it's obvious that for the current model the Russelsheim factory has gone in for some very impressive quality control.
And the MV6 really looks the part of a large-scale sports saloon. You won't miss it, thanks to those xenon headlights, front airdam, lowered suspension and 17" five-spoke alloy wheels fitted, as any enthusiast will note, with uni-directional, low profile Michelin tyres.
If you really want to let rip with styling add-ons, the Vauxhall i-Line catalogue is full of Irmscher accessories from Germany. But the standard MV6 is sleek and understated. I'd leave it looking as the factory intended.
It's pretty good inside too, where the lesser models and even the luxury Elite may not quite match their particular competition. The MV6 has very supportive sports front seats, and alloy-look inserts on the fascia, doors and gearlever surround. Leather upholstery costs £1000 extra.
The Omega is a majestically roomy car in any form, and it also has massive luggage space. There's some top class gadgetry available either in the standard package or at extra cost. For instance, the Omega has Vauxhall's best-ever automatic air conditioning system, which monitors the outside weather and even takes account of which direction the sunlight's coming from. And a very sophisticated satellite navigation system can be fitted.
How does the MV6 go, though? Well, the three-litre V6 engine has a 200bhp-plus power output, and it really zings this sizeable car along. There's no lack of performance, sustained right through the rev range.
The sports chassis, with the body sitting 15mm lower, the special tyres, and revised spring and shock absorber settings all contribute to that extra handling precision and cornering power which make just the right amount of difference, while not sacrificing much in the way of ride quality. Brakes are powerful too, thanks partly to the high-pressure assist system which Vauxhall calls Quick Power.
Any three-litre Omega is an impressive motorway mile-eater, but the MV6 also relishes the sweeping bends of hill and country roads. It's fast, stable and well-balanced, and it gets the power down. This is one of the best efforts of a company whose customers sometimes suffer from a lack of co-ordination and intent between the engineers and the marketing men. And the price is pretty keen for what you get.