There’s something about performance badges, isn’t there? AMG, M, GTi and in this particular case, vRS – simple letters that evoke worship and produce obscene amounts of power, using said badges as pretexts. The letters might be different, but they all mean the same thing – more speed. The key word here is ‘more’.
Not too long ago (or was it long ago?), the Octavia vRS arrived in a cloud of tyre smoke and was the quickest accelerating car in India for some time, with a huge bump up in power over its normal siblings. Motorheads loved its soulful feel and flocked to it. Owners of stock Octies tried painting their cars yellow. The vRS cars always had to be yellow. And they still have a reputation built over many years of setting the road on fire. The new Laura vRS has a lot to live up to. And it starts off in great style.
I know it’s the same 1798cc engine as in the Laura TSI with the same 160 horses torturing the new 205/55 R16 rubber through the same precise six-speed manual gearbox. By all means, I should have a ‘same old, same old’ ticker repeating in my brain. But I can’t explain the butterflies in my stomach as I find myself facing the first empty stretch of tarmac I come across in the car. That devil-horned yellow spoiler sitting in the rear view mirror seems to be sneering at the back of my head. I look at the sporty-as-hell steering wheel that says ‘vRS’ and my grip tightens of its own accord.
A performance-badged car’s parking spot is meant to be a shrine, decorated with shiny black rubber marks and the smell of incense... er, tyre smoke hanging in the air. And the Laura certainly doesn’t disappoint. Sending the superb-looking loud pedal to the floor sends the Laura vRS from 0-100 kph in 9 seconds – in the wet, with the stability programme trying to cut in. That’s marginally slower than the Laura TSI we’d tested earlier, but then that was in the dry. Since power ratings and kerb weights of both cars are similar, I’d say performance too would be similar.
But there are changes and quite nice ones, at that. The interior is as sporty as a stadium and the seats are fantastic – sporty and supportive. All I remember is the cool black colour and vRS badging everywhere – brilliant. Then there’s the fantastic sports steering wheel – even more brilliant, although there will be some who will question the lack of steering-mounted controls. This car is not for them. Even more so when you look at the changes made to the suspension or rather, feel them as you go through the first set of corners you encounter.
The suspension has been stiffened and as mentioned previously, the Laura vRS gets fatter rubber on bigger and better-looking wheels. As you can guess, it feels even more planted than the stock car and sticks like glue around corners. And as you can probably also tell, ride quality has suffered a bit – you feel every part of the road surface under the wheels, but I’m not going to say that’s a bad thing. You buy this car to feel connected to it and the road, and that’s exactly what it does. Now I’ve got two right feet when it comes to left-foot braking, but even I can go really fast in the RS and not see heaven’s gates opening for me. Just the right amount of thrill, but no scares. Brilliant.
And it’s massively practical too. It’s got the same notchcback that opens into a huge 560-litre boot – imagine the number of NOS bottles that’d fit into it... now there’s a sight! The motor’s just as friendly as the rest of the car too, and you can potter around town at 40 kph, if you feel like it. With that yellow and its practical interior, the RS can even do the school run – there’s your justification for that bright colour. Sporty and spacious, without more power – should they have badged this ‘GT’ instead, I wonder.
So does the new Laura vRS tick all the right boxes? Let’s see. Bright yellow colour? Tick. Sporty trim? Tick. An engine that’s eaten all the steroids in the parts bin and now produces a gigantic leap in power figures? Er, no. And that’s my problem with the Laura vRS, really. It does not earn that badge – not yet. I really like this car, but try as I might to justify it, as it stands, this car is simply a sporty trim level for an already good car. Maybe if they’d saved this engine until now, people (us motoring hacks, largely) wouldn’t complain. But things being as they are, I certainly expected more.
That’s the reason for these badges to exist – more. There’s no point if the men behind the badges don’t go the whole hog. Marketing exercises don’t cut it when such things are in question. These badges are opportunities to hold common sense ransom and wring adrenal glands to within an inch of their lives. And when a famous badge is hammered onto a car, but cannot make it go any faster, it is a bit sad. However, like me, if all you’ve ever wanted was a yellow RS, well, you can finally buy one again.
Seven steps to vRS a Laura TSI into a true-blue 220-230 bhp road burner!
1. A Superchip remap. Instant bump up to 200 bhp with our fuel quality – Rs 40,000
2. Conical intake kit with heatshield – Rs 22,000
3. Bolt-on exhaust – Rs 20,000
4. Forge or Turbosmart deflector, with electronically controlled blow-off valve – Rs 18,000
5. Koni suspension damper set (four) – Rs 40,000
6. Sparco seats – Rs 35,000 each
7. vRS replica bodykit (bumpers, skirts, spoiler, daytime running lamps) – Rs 1.5 lakh
Check out www.superskoda.com and build your own daydream vRS!