After the Scorpio - the Omega 24V?
One ex-24V Cosworth owner compares his Scorpio with the Vauxhall Omega Elite
The Ford Scorpio 95+ is indeed a remarkable car when you consider the level of comfort, performance and its competitive used purchase price. Ford created the Scorpio to compete in the market sector of large executive cars inhabited by Rovers' Sterling, Renaults' Safrane, Nissans' QX and Vauxhalls' Omega. In theory the Ultima versions had the BMW, Mercedes and Audi users in sight - however in reality Ford only really succeeded in this aim after the Scorpio with the Jaguar X and S types.
Unfortunately Scorpio sales never reached an economic viability and Ford discontinued the car in 1997. Many say the exterior styling and unfounded rumours about reliability didn’t give the car a fair chance of succeeding as its predecessor the Granada had done so well.
As a used car the Scorpio has a lot to offer and the 24 valve 2.9 Cosworth Ultima is indeed a modern classic, the ride and comfort is very good and equipment levels on the Ultima are excellent.
But as the last registrations are practically 1998, and not many Facelift Cosworth Ultimas actually got sold in the UK (around 6000), finding a reasonable lowish mileage example is difficult. Additionally owners of good condition examples are in many cases reluctant to part with the machine.
So what economical alternatives are available in the second hand market for a V6, comfortable and well-equipped large car? In fact not many. What comes next may be treasonous to some…….The Vauxhall Omega, and more precisely the Ultima badge equivalent the Elite.
Ok, some readers may have stopped reading this article, but for those of you who wish to continue - yes, it’s a Vauxhall, however it’s a car with which, in Fords' own admission, the Scorpio was mainly designed to compete and hence shares many similarities. So for those who at some time may be considering what on earth they are going to find to replace the Scorpio with - that’s not going to involve paying Mercedes or BMW used prices - this article may be of interest. Let me state here that personally I believe the 2.9 24V Ultima to be a more interesting car than the Elite; however needs must.
As with the Scorpio the Omega is built just as well as any rival from Bavaria, Stuttgart or Ingolstadt. Yet like the Scorpio and the Ford badge, market perception continues to place a lower value on that Vauxhall badge. This makes second hand purchases attractive.
The first Omegas arrived in 1994; a heavily redesigned model was introduced in 1999. The newer model has slightly sharper lines, improved chassis, more sophisticate Climate Control and re designed interior. Additionally increased engine capacities became available with 2.6 and 3.2 litre V6 models. The latest offering is a 5.6l V8, however GM have I believe back tracked on the original plan (see CarEnthusiast) and will be importing the Australian built GM Holden version. The Omega has now been discontinued by GM.
As a comparison to the Ford Scorpio 24 Valve Ultima, we are looking at a 2000 build Vauxhall Omega Elite, with 2.6 24V engine. The mid ranged V6 provides 178bhp that admittedly is less than the Scorpios Cosworth power plant, however actual acceleration and top speed is very similar, with an electronically limited 140mph, the Vauxhall also utilises a VIS system, however a straighter torque curve is produced than that of the Scorpio 24 valve, thus resulting in no low end “flat spot”. An even faster 3.2 litre is available, but these are reasonably difficult to obtain. Most reviewers point to the chassis of the Omega to be class leading, however my personal opinion is its exacting but gives less feed back than the Scorpio, so one is sometimes unaware when its limits are pushed. Fuel economy in the real world is between 28-32 mpg, even when pressed very hard a 28mpg figure is better than the 24mpg that the Scorpio 2.9 24 valve returned, but obviously the engine capacities vary. Ride quality is excellent with both cars as is comfort. The Elite has 17” Alloy wheels with 235/45 17 tyres fitted.
So both the Scorpio and the Omega provide similar performance and comfort, but for me that’s not the only criteria, the selection of features are just as important.
Both cars have loads of gadgets as you would expect and are very closely matched, the main differences are notably the 2.6 Elite doesn’t have leather as standard. Saloon and Estate examples of Elites have rear self-levelling real time suspension and HID headlamps (High Intensity Discharge, these are a, mercury vapour discharge lamp, operating at several thousand volts).
What follows are my observations of the small differences between the vehicles.
The only notable differences with the tell tail indicators is that the Vauxhall provides a separate MIL and a separate Exhaust Emissions indicator and an Engine Immobiliser indicator, as expected all the other standard indicators are the same. However Front and Rear Fog Lights are also announced with indicators on the instrument panel. The Vauxhall doesn’t have an electronic odometer, but rather the older type mechanical dial version.
The trip computer on the Vauxhall is part of the Multi Information Display (MID), this consists of an RDS Clock, Radio/CD display, Date and trip computer functions. Additional to the Scorpio’s trip functions, a Stop Watch, Coolant level, Washer Level, HID Headlamp range Warning, Brake Pad Warning, Brake Lamp, Brake Lamp Fuse, Headlamp/Tail Lamp and odometer function are included. These are all displayed as text on the display. Optional versions are available with full colour LCD displays incorporating Satellite Navigation, Cell Phone and TV. All the Trip Computer functions are operated by two buttons on one of the stalk controls
The steering wheel in the Omega has six illuminated buttons for Radio/CD and Cell Phone operation, basically the same as the stalk controls on the Scorpio, however a Selection button allows switching between Radio/CD/Tape and the volume controls also adjust a correctly installed Cell Phone Kit’s volume when in a call.
The Cruise Control functions are again similar to the Scorpio, but the controls are stalk mounted.
Traction Control as with the 24 valve Scorpio is standard, an additional option is Electronic Stability Program, this reacts to under steer or overseer and modulates engine output and individual wheel braking.
Automatic Level Control is standard on the Saloon and the Estate.
The Interior Rear View Mirror is electro chromic and motorised, however does not have the dip defeat switch as with the Scorpio.
All four windows are One Touch open and One Touch Close. The Sunroof has an illuminated rotary control with obstruction sensing, this can be defeated by pushing and holding in the rotary control.
The In Car Entertainment has an eight speaker and bass speaker Vauxhall custom BOSE system fitted, with rear mounted bass amplifier and driver. The Vauxhall system is far superior to the original manufacturers speaker system in the Scorpio. The CD caddy is only a four-disc system; the caddy is mounted in the radio rather than the boot.
A not very useful electric rear window blind can be activated from the dashboard.
The Vauxhall does not have a heated front windscreen.
As with the Scorpio a dual zone Climate Control system ensures a constant comfortable climate in the vehicle. Most functions are similar, additionally the Vauxhall has an automatic air recirculation mode, this automatically selects recirculation when polluting gases are detected outside the cabin (this was also a little taken up dealer fit option for the Scorpio). A Residual Heat option allows the heaters to be used with the engine off and automatically switches off when the heating effect becomes close to negative. The passenger side zone can be switched off or quickly set to the drivers side temperature by pushing in the heat selector knobs. Air distribution in manual is more flexible than the Scorpio and appears to have a greater airflow rate. Multiple outlets are provided for the feet so as to ensure a distributed heat flow. The Omega’s centre vents cannot be angled sufficiently to warm the driver’s left hand. Displays can be in C or F, and as with the Scorpio a datum function is available to set up the servomotors. The air conditioning uses 950g of R134a refrigerant, and is apparently a highly efficient system, with the evaporator mounted internal to the cabin area, in opposition to the Scorpios more forward design. Active Carbon Pollen Filters are provided.
Global Closing is the same as the Scorpio, however the Remote Control key fob can also be used to Open or Close the doors/sunroof. The Immobiliser systems operate in a very similar passive manner between both cars. The remote functions for Open/Lock and Tail lid are incorporated in the Key on the Vauxhall. The Alarm systems are again operationally similar, however a button must be pressed on the dash to disable the Ultrasonic Sensors before leaving the car, if pets/children are to remain in. If not the ultrasonic sensors arm if the car is locked or double deadlocked. The Omega also has a separate back up battery pack, and if the main battery is disconnected when the vehicle is armed, the alarm will sound. The deadlocking is again the same with 2 presses of the fob, or hold the key position.
The Tail Lid (Saloon) is either opened from the remote or via a switch on the dash, this is only possible with the key removed, (however a very simple mod exists to allow the operation with the engine running), the lid is not sprung to open like the Scorpio.
Seating & Mirrors
The Elite does not have leather as standard apart from the 3.2 l model. Both front seats are heated and the heat level is variable from low to very hot, heating is more distributed on the Vauxhall with all the back and base warming up. The rear seats are also heated, but these are not variable in heat intensity as with the front. The drivers seat, Door Mirrors and Rear View Interior Mirror are all motorised and three memory positions are provided. The memory positions cannot be allocated to an individual remote control, as with the Scorpio. The passengers seat is electrically operated. The passenger mirror does not dip on reverse. Comfort levels are very good in both the Ford and Vauxhall. Five Headrests are provided and three point seatbelts all round.
Both cars have three stage restraint systems, with Air Bags, Seat Belt Pre Tensioners and three point inertia seat belts. The Elite has four air bags, passenger, driver and two side bags; this was also introduced on the very last Scorpio Ultima. Seat Occupancy Detectors are a Vauxhall option and a transponder based Front Child Seat is available, this defeats the passenger air bag if the Vauxhall Child Seat with transponder is fitted. Active front Head Restraints are also an option. The braking has additional assistance in hard emergency braking.
The Omega’s interior is pleasant and more “German Car” in appearance, but not as styled and flowing as the Scorpio. The exterior is certainly different to the Scorpio without the instantly recognisable curves of the Ford.
Both cars are available with four speed fully electronic automatic gearboxes, apart from the 12 Valve 2.9 variant of the Scorpio, only sold in the UK, which had a semi electronic transmission. The Vauxhall designation for their box is Hydra-Matic 4L30-E Transmission (ML4). (The final models of the Omegas produced had a 5 speed variant the Hydra-Matic 5L40-E Transmission (M82 & MX3), this is again a GM box and is also used in most current BMWs and the Range Rover).
The Scorpio’s transmission is very good, smooth and responsive and the Elite’s transmission is ultra smooth and very flexible. They both have Economy, Sports and Winter modes. Additionally the Scorpio’s box has a manual Overdrive control but on the Elite this is not available.
Gear changes are at much higher engine speed on the Elite until the engine approaches warm up, (its stated this is for reduced emissions and Catalytic Converter protection). The Vauxhall transmission senses the angle of the vehicle and engine demand, speed and fuel flow to compensate with adaptive drive programs for overrun when Cruise Control is selected, on steep gradients and when towing.
The Vauxhall box has an electrical lock so it cannot be taken out of Park (P) when the Ignition key is not in the ignition and the foot brake is not operated. Also an electrical lock will not allow the Ignition Key to be removed, if the Gear Selector is not returned to Park. (A design problem with this, you cant eject the CD multi changer caddy from the radio with out having the key in, then pressing the foot brake and pulling the selector towards 1, to allow room for withdrawal of the caddy!).
A Check Transmission warning is displayed on the MID if a fault occurs with the Vauxhall transmission. No dipstick or filler is available on the Elite, so ATF cannot be checked for level or topped up. The transmission pan must be removed to empty most of the ATF and a filler screw is available on the box under the car.
Three large electrical cooling fans are provided in the engine, two to the rear of the radiator for the coolant and the Transmission Fluid cooler and one to the front for the Air Conditioning Condenser.
The BOSCH MAF fitted to the Vauxhall is very similar in appearance to the Ford version, and would appear as with the Scorpio to be not of the self-cleaning cycle type.
No leather, and no QuickClear windscreen either, but the Omega Elite is worth considering as a successor to the Scorpio Ultima. It is difficult to make a totally objective comparison because the Scorpio 24v is such an all-round lovely car. But in fact 0-70 feels a little faster in the Vauxhall, even with the 2.5. You get smooth acceleration from 0 rpm even though a VIS is used.
The Scorpio scores from 70-90 mph with that awesome Cosworth, thereafter things are probably equal up to (a theoretical) 140mph (I know this is actually a capitol offence even on the M56 at 2 am on a Sunday morning, so I didn't really try it on both cars!!). Straight line flooring does not have much between them, however the extra blast from the Scorpio on the motorway when you kick down at 65 is poetry, so yes I do miss that. The Vauxhall is quieter to a small degree, however it does have a lot more sounded deadening material.
If I could get a 2000+ lower mileage good condition Scorpio, I know that I would have the Ford on the drive - but the Omega Elite is a fairly passable substitute.
Thanks to James Austin for words and pictures.
NB - James had to sell his Cosworth because it became too old to be his company transport. However, the Scorpio is now owned by Garry H and has come back to this site. Welcome, Garry.
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