Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Skoda’s accent is on performance

HOW fast do you want a car to go when you research buying a new model?

HOW fast do you want a car to go when you research buying a new model?

Put it another way: does a car’s potential performance matter to you as a motorist?

I ask these questions because some drivers are more than aware of the inherent power of the vehicles they are driving.

To others it is an irrelevance — something that only occupies the thoughts of lesser minds.

All some drivers want to do is get from the proverbial A to B. To these non-car loving folk if the bus or train was easier or cheaper then that would be a definite option.



To carmakers, of course, the performance of a car matters a lot — be it the smallest supermini or the largest (and most powerful) supercar. This, to carmakers, is what sells cars.

Oh, and the way a car looks, which naturally accounts for many sales.

But taking delivery of this week’s drive — the excellent Skoda Octavia vRS 4x4, my first thought was what would your average car buyer make of that tricksy nomenclature, vRS?

Sounds good — sexy, even — but what exactly does it mean? We know that car specifications are littered with acronyms: the Octavia I have been driving was no exception. There was ABS, EBV, MSR, ASR, EDS, HBA on its spec sheet — I could go on but I sense I may be losing you. And please don’t ask me to explain what those initials mean. Even the car nerds among you must know life is just a tad too short for that.

Anyway, suffice to say that somewhere in the car salesmanship manual it is written that it’s really okay to blind customers with science.

We would have it no other way. Because we, the punters, like to feel we’re getting our money’s worth.

Surely that lot above — the ABS, EBV et al — convinces even the most cynical of customers that this car is packed to the rafters with gadgets and gizmos.

So I did what everyone does nowadays and turned to Google. I searched for “vRS”. And, oh dear, ye olde internet had a field day: it came up with everything from Video Relay Service to (my favourite) Visual Roof Survey.

Those didn’t quite fit the bill, so I persevered. Victor Rally Sport seemed more feasible. Indeed, the Skoda Octavia vRS’s livery I was driving was an uncompromising Rallye Green metallic paint (£360 as an optional extra.)

So maybe I was getting closer to what it meant. But once you release a question like that into an internet search there’s every chance you’ll end up in forum hell.

So I gave in and called Skoda. A nice man told me the lower-case “v” in vRS is taken from the caron accent over the “S” in Skoda.

And the RS stands for Rally Sport — apparently formerly a common term but now a brand name secured by another carmaker — so Skoda improvised to make vRS its own.

If you are still with me, thank you for that! But I do wonder if these canny (if largely meaningless) marketing tools actually sell more cars.

There is a similar mystery over how carmakers denote horsepower (and expect us to understand how they do this) but I can sense a dizzy spell coming on, so will save that for another day.

Certainly, Skoda should not have a problem shifting this Octavia vRS 4x4. It is, says the Czech carmaker, “the fastest Octavia ever”.

And it does shift — it moves quickly from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and swiftly on (where allowed) to a maximum top speed of 142mph. But aside from the performance, what I really liked about the Octavia vRS was how easy and satisfying it was to drive.

Its six-speed DSG 4x4 transmission was smooth and subtle. Even when loping along in sixth gear in auto, the 2.0 TDI engine was laid back and full of torque (pulling power).

And if you wished to up the ante in performance, there were the DSG paddles on the steering wheel to resort to and a Sport mode that considerably quickened both pace and pulse.

There was also a lot of room inside this car. I mean the boot was cavernous — I reckon at least large enough on its own to carry the load of a small estate.

But there were also big vRS Sports seats and lots of legroom both up front and for rear-seat passengers. This car has been compared performance-wise with various GTi hatchbacks on the market. That’s all well and good but with the Octavia vRS you also get a shedload of space and comfort inside.

If performance in a car does not float your boat, then I think you are missing out and should check out a car’s performance possibilities before you buy. Ease of passage these days on our crowded roads is an asset.

The Skoda Octavia vRS was simply a great pleasure to drive.



Skoda Octavia vRS 4x4

Total price (including options fitted): £29,475

Body: Hatchback

Engine: 2.0 TDI 184PS

Transmission: six-speed DSG 4x4

Combined mpg: 57.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 129/km

Max speed: 142 mph

0-62 mpg: 7.6 secs



Options include:

• Rallye Green metallic paint: £360

• SmartLink: £150

• vRS leather with heated front seats £925

• Key features on all vRS models include:

• 18in Gemini anthracite alloy wheels

• Three-spoke multi-function steering wheel with DSG paddles



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