First drive: Skoda Octavia vRS 245
The hottest Skoda yet hasn't forgotten how to be practical
Is this a new Skoda Octavia?
It’s the Skoda Octavia vRS 245, the latest hot Octavia, and the most powerful and focused yet. At its heart is a choice selection of components from the VW group’s performance toy box, with 242bhp and front-wheel drive.
So why would I choose it?
Value is its first asset. It costs more than the basic petrol Octavia vRS 230, but adds a number of things, not least an additional 15bhp. You get inch-bigger 19in alloys, loads of gloss black exterior trim, Alcantara interior trim and heated electric seats. Mechanically, there’s a new sports exhaust and an electronically controlled differential for the driven front wheels. For those who like driving, that’s the most crucial difference over standard.
In bald figures, it’s only marginally quicker than its base car. Its 6.6sec 0-100kph time is 0.1sec better off than the vRS 230, while its 250kph top speed is identical. In theory, though, that diff will make the 245 a more satisfying car to drive quickly.
What is it like to drive?
It remains a fast saloon with practicality high on its to-do list. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine has the same boisterous mid-range as always, and the new sports exhaust adds a tangible hint of drama to acceleration. It’s also as sharp to turn into corners as ever.
The steering isn’t particularly abundant in feel, and when you press the ‘vRS’ button – which puts the engine, suspension and diff in their sharpest settings – it gains lots of unnatural weight.
But pop the car in its individual mode – tailoring it to match softer suspension and lighter steering with the most potent engine and diff settings – and you have an effortless and fun car to blast along a back road in. It’s grippy and secure at all times.
It’s firm, mind. Those larger wheels seem particularly vulnerable to the impact of potholes and badly surfaced roads. The car is surefooted, and isn’t upset or knocked from its line by large bumps, but ride comfort suffers. Even when you’ve set the suspension to its ‘Comfort’ mode.
And how’s the diff?
On the road, the effects of the new differential aren’t always obvious. You have to really commit to a corner to feel its benefit as you power out of the other side. On a track, it makes the Skoda relatively sharp for a large front-wheel-drive car, but this isn’t a monstrously effective diff setup.
Get really greedy with the throttle out of a corner and there can still be wheelspin, triggering the stability control which then cuts power just as you’re craving it. More measured use of the throttle makes it a much sweeter car to drive, but you still need to treat it as a front-driven car with a reasonable amount of power and torque. The diff doesn’t work magic here.
Anything else of note?
While the six-speed manual is strong, and provides welcome interaction with the vRS, the auto is especially impressive. It’s the first vRS to get the latest seven-speed version of DSG (the base vRS 230 has six speeds) and while it’s not perfect – it’ll upchange for you at the redline even when you’re using the paddles in manual mode, for instance – it provides extra flexibility to a car that’s versatile at its very core.
Indeed, think of this as a large family car with a pleasingly sporty edge when you want it, and the vRS 245 is a success. We’ve always liked the petrol vRS more than the diesel, and the extra power and diff make this the petrol of choice if you’ll be enjoying the Octavia when it’s empty of kids and their paraphernalia.
Skoda Octavia vRS India launch in September 2017