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Future Classic Friday: Vauxhall Omega

Published 04 August 2017

With the launch of its new Insignia, Vauxhall has been wheeling out the gold Omega CDX that takes pride of place in its Heritage Collection.

It's the first time since 2003 that the company has staked a claim in the premium saloon car market, and the message is quite clear - the new Insignia is a spiritual successor to the Carlton and Omega, and not the Cavalier and Vectra as you might expect.

It won't be an easy message to sell to the public, no matter how good a car the new Insignia is, but there's also no denying that the large car market is becoming something of a niche, just as the mainstream executive market was in the mid-1990s when the Omega first appeared.

Launched in late 1994, the Omega wasn't the easiest sell. With BMW, Mercedes and Audi ramping up their presence in the fleet market and the dawn of the company car 'user chooser', the days of Fords Escort-Sierra-Granada, Vauxhalls Astra-Cavalier-Omega and Rovers 200-400-600-800 forming a social strata of company car drivers were rapdily dwindling.

Vauxhall Omega (3)

And while the Omega was, in many respects, a cracking car, it was also one that was launching itself into a dying market - a fact borne out by 2002, its last full year on sale, the Omega sold less than a third of what it did in 1995, it's first full year. A large number of those later cars went to Vauxhall management, too.

But the car had its fans. It was comfortable, well-equipped and, in estate form, genuinely capacious - you could get more in the back of an Omega than you could a Volvo V70. It was a massive hit with traffic police, especially in V6 form, as it was rapid, handled superbly and could carry all manner of kit - indeed, when it was announced that production would cease in 2003, we know of at least two police forces that bulk-bought them so they had a few left in reserve. It was also an impeccable tow car, well loved by the caravan fraternity. 

For the mainstream buyer, there were initally three engine choices - 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 2.5- and 3.0- V6, soon followed by a 2.5-litre straight-six turbo-diesel developed in conunction with BMW. 

A significant facelift in 1999 brought with it a new face, wider rear lights and uprated engines, with the 2.0-litre replaced by Vauxhall's 2.2-litre four pot, which had a lot more torque but was subsequently far less reliable, and 2.6-litre and 3.2-litre V6s, with a new range-topping MV6 model, with a whopping 210bhp (allegedly more if you opted for the constabulary tune...).

Vauxhall Omega (2)

Like all big execs from mainstream car makers, the Omega floundered as a used car. Massive depreciation, badge snobbery and poor maintenance in later years meant that many were cast aside, unloved and too expensive to run for many cheap car buyers. The attrition rate was vast.

But today, there's a following for the model, and while scruffy Omegas are still worth next-to-nothing, there's demand out there for good ones, especially V6s in upper trim levels, and prices are starting to sneak up.

Indeed, you only have to look at the surge of interest in the Omega's predecessors, and the prices people will pay for good Carlton GSi 3000s and Senators to recognise that a well preserved Omega CDX or MV6 will, one day, be something quite collectable. That day will be quite soon, so now is a good time to seek one out.

Comments

   on 7 August 2017

The Omega is the only car I have repeat ordered, having had two in succession, a 2.5 CDX followed by a 2.5 Elite. The best shape was the earlier car, with the later vehicle having a more boxy appearance. It sold (badly) in the USA as the Cadillac Catera. After the second Omega I moved on to the Jaguar S-type.

TorqueSteer    on 7 August 2017

It's no Senator but still...

Corps Diplomat    on 7 August 2017

I agree the pre-facelift is a much nicer shape. I'm always on the look out for a good estate version but they're getting few and far between these days.

Tony Schumacher    on 6 March 2019

Was the 2.2 that bad a car? I had one for twelve months or so and it never missed a beat come rain or shine!

   on 3 March 2021

l have a very tidy Vauxhall Omega 2.0 16v saloon and inside and out is very clean. l paid £650 for the car with 11 months MOT and everything is all good as the paint work and engine and gearbox is in excellent condition. l will be keeping the car as my last motor as l took it from Cornwall to Grimsby and the car never missed a beat. l have owned a Vauxhall Carlton GSI 3000 and the drive is different more harder on the road as the omega is comfortable on the road with softer on the wheels. in 1999 l owned a Lotus Carlton which was a fantastic car but sadly rust and bills for getting it back on the road was hellish so it had to go which was gutting really. 12V Carlton GSI manual was difficult as moving the gears from first to second the car did nothing but as soon as you hit 3rd the car became alive. l had the Omega 3.2 V6 which is very powerful too but as soon as you get problems like engine breathers and oil issues. But as being a Vauxhall driver for many long years l still think the 2.0 16V is the best for its driving and handling. Rear wheel drive cars are the best in my mind and having the high powered Carlton GSI's and The Lotus Carlton but it comes to petrol bills and running costs with garage bills and parts. l will always be a great fan of Vauxhall and the omega is one hell of a fine handsome motor car. Kindest regards Matthew Rogers

Roy P Kemp    on 27 March 2021

I have and run a 2001 Omega 2.2 16 valve auto in Gold for the past 4 years,
covering 46,000 miles in that time. An excellent car. utterly reliable and still in very
good condition. A much better car than my previous BMW 530D. Tows the caravan
perfectly and I have no intention of changing it.

27.03.2021. Roy P K.

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