Greatest road tests ever: Vauxhall Senator 3.0i 24V

Vauxhall Senator front three quarter

An extra 12 valves transformed the Senator’s performance

Despite its ugly interior, this humble saloon became a genuine BMW rival after an engine transformation

Tested 5.9.90

For a meagre premium, an extra 12 valves transformed the 3.0 Senator from executive also-ran to a genuine BMW and Mercedes rival. 

The 24-valve 3.0-litre straight six from the Carlton GSi split the new Senator’s inlet manifold in two up to 4000rpm and combined it thereafter, producing both healthy lowdown torque and knockout high-end punch. Its BMW 530i-beating 204bhp was sent to the rear wheels while an LSD was an optional extra. 

The 31bhp and 22lb ft torque jump over the £1250-cheaper — but thirstier — 12-valve Senator 3.0i made little difference from zero to 80mph. The new car stretched its legs thereafter, however, and was far quicker for in-gear sprints, its engine rumble becoming an eager roar above 4000rpm. Revised software allowed silky shifts from the electronic three-mode, fourspeed transmission. 

The Senator’s first-class chassis was only improved by the three-mode electronic dampers. In Sport, they reined in roll and allowed the 205mm-wide Uniroyals to deliver impressive grip levels, albeit at the expense of bump absorption, while Comfort mode produced a beautifully cosseted ride. 

Big leather seats, ample space for five, a big boot and good kit levels impressed inside, but dashboard design and switchgear were dated and ugly. 

For: Engine, chassis, excellent room and equipment 

Against: Ugly, dash, uncommunicative steering


Price £25,400 Engine 6 cyls in line, 2926cc, petrol Power 204bhp at 6000rpm Torque 199lb ft at 3600rpm 0-60mph 9.1sec 0-100mph 22.7sec Standing quarter mile 17.0sec at 87mph Top speed 139mph Economy 21.4mpg

What happened next?

The Senator continued on sale until early 1994, and over 33,000 were built in total. As for the 24-valve range-topper, it was also available in manual form,

Source: Autocar

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