Skoda Octavia RS review
Dhruv Saxena, Mechanical engineer trying to find his place in the world of automobile journalism.
The Skoda Octavia RS (called vRS in the UK because Ford threw a fit over Skoda using ‘RS’ tag) moniker is not new to India. Both generations of the Octavia sold here (second generation sold as Skoda Laura) got RS versions, but they left enthusiasts feeling a bit short-changed as Skoda never brought them here in the same spec as their European counterparts. No such feelings this time, though, as the Skoda Octavia RS launched last month is nearly identical to the one sold in Europe. I got behind the wheel of one and a few days is all it took to convince me that buying a Skoda Octavia RS is the best way to spend 30 odd lakhs. Read on to find out why.
What does it look like?
In the RS guise, the Octavia sheds its classy dinner attire for a more racy number. Changes to the exterior include new front and rear bumpers, a boot spoiler, bigger 17-inch wheels, and a lowered ride height (lowered by 15 mm). The list of cosmetic upgrades may not be long, but its a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts as it is instantly recognizable as something more aggressive than your average Octavia. Out on the road, it turned more heads than I expected it to. The Corrida Red played a major role in that I suspect.
It is based on the facelifted Octavia that was launched back in June. Which means it has the same ‘love it or hate it’ quad-headlamp setup. To be quite honest, I disliked it when the first images where released. My opinion did a complete 180 after seeing it in the flesh, however. The new front bumper adds a sporty touch to the nose thanks to the larger air intake and sharply cut lower lip. It also houses the signature RS LED fog lamps. The tail section features a dual exhaust pipe setup and a reflector strip that runs across the bumper. The grille and bootlid both bear the 'RS' badge.
What’s it like on the inside?
The Octavia’s black-beige theme makes way for an all-black interior. Skoda has dialed the sportiness up with front sports seats with Alcantara leather upholstery, contrast red stitching, and the ‘RS’ logo embroidered on the headrests. The rear seats get a similar treatment as well. A flat bottom steering wheel wearing a perforated leather jacket, an RS gear knob, and steel foot pedal covers round off the changes to the interior.
The practicality quotient remains as high as the rest of the Octavia variants as it gets the same spacious cabin that can seat 4-5 and a cavernous boot that can be expanded from 590 L to 1,585 L by folding the rear seat. Skoda offers the Octavia RS in fully loaded form so, the list of features is rather exhaustive. There’s a dual zone climate control, a butter smooth 8-inch touchscreen, a panoramic sunroof, 12-way electrically adjustable front seats with memory function for the driver’s seat, and ambient lighting with 10 different colour options.
On to the more relevant bits now.
What’s it like to drive?
So, here are the headlining numbers – 2.0 L turbocharged TSI petrol producing 230 hp @ 5,500-6,200 rpm and 350 Nm @ 1,500-4,500 rpm mated to the DQ250 6-speed DSG sending power to the front wheels. And, according to Skoda’s claims, the Octavia RS can crack the ton in 6.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 250 km/h. There are disc brakes on all four ends.
The specs looked promising and I had heard enough people rave about the car so, I was quite eager to experience it first hand. I strapped myself in, thumbed the start button and shifted into drive prepared to be blown away. But it was all a bit anticlimactic as everything felt rather normal. It felt no different from a standard Octavia 1.8 TSI as it accelerated gently with the gearbox upshifting around 2,000 rpm keeping the fuel consumption in check. What is all the brouhaha about, then?
You see, to unmask the true nature of the Octavia RS, you need to give the gear lever a slight tug and shift into Sport mode. In ‘S’ mode, the engine becomes shouty, the DSG holds on to a gear until 6,000 rpm and the exhaust makes a lovely ‘braaap’ sound on the overrun. The engine almost never drops under 2,000 rpm and stays in the meat of the powerband. Mashing the throttle results in a hint of wheelspin before the traction control sorts it out and helps the RS dart forward.
Front engine, front wheel drive cars have a fundamental flaw wherein they tend to suffer from oversteer as the wheels are required to do the steering as well as put the power down effectively. However, the Octavia RS deals with it rather brilliantly thanks to the XDS+ limited slip differential. I don't want to drone on about the technical aspects of the way it works, though. What's important here is that fact that understeer is dealt with very effectively. It ensures the outside wheel spins faster and the ‘torque vectoring effect’ helps you hold your line as you accelerate through a sharp corner. It also helps keep the car stable so, the overenthusiastic lot doesn’t end up soiling their pants.
Despite the slightly stiffer suspension setup, the ride never felt uncomfortable. Sure, it's not as plush as the vanilla Octavia’s, but it never felt overly harsh even over some terrible patches of road. At lower speeds, surface imperfections do tend to filter in, though. While a lower profile would’ve certainly enhanced the visual appeal, I would recommend sticking to the 45-profile tyres as they help deal with sharp edges better. The Octavia RS sticks to the tarmac and movement about the axes at high speeds over undulating surfaces is well contained. In fact, the RS feels much more planted at triple-digit speeds than the regular variants thanks to the stiffer setup.
The clever onboard electronics combined with the way the Octavia RS has been set up eggs you to push it hard. The steering with its perforated leather wrap is nice to hold and although being an EPS unit puts limitations on feel and feedback, it still does a rather admirable job of helping the driver place the front wheels accurately. The superbly snug seats play their part too in holding you in place through quick lateral movements.
Should you buy one?
I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I lied when I wrote, “a few days is all it took to convince me that buying a Skoda Octavia RS is the best way to spend 30 odd lakhs.” Because it took just about an hour to win me over. Yes, it is that good. The only negatives I can think of are an iffy aftersales network and a relatively higher maintenance cost. However, Skoda has been working hard to address these issues and, based on feedback from some Skoda customers I have spoken to recently, things have improved by leaps and bounds. Also, it can be quite thirsty. I know fuel efficiency figures will hardly hold any relevance to prospective buyers, but for what its worth, the Octavia RS returned 6-7 km/l as per the onboard computer under aggressive driving in ‘S’ mode. That figure will easily go up to 10-11 km/l in ‘D’ mode, I reckon.
The Skoda Octavia RS looks sharp, can seat four comfortably, has a cavernous boot, and comes loaded to the gills with features. Heck, it will even park itself. But, above all, the car is an absolute hoot to drive. For an enthusiast, the Skoda Octavia RS is undoubtedly the best way to spend 30 odd lakhs.