Skoda Octavia RS - Turbos are us


‘We had fun.’ All right, I need another start. ‘We smoked the hell out of an automobile.’ Correct that again to ‘we went so sideways that we became lateral thinkers.’ Can get better, like ‘we blistered new Bridgestones on our way to 100 kph in 8.34 seconds.’ A bit racier might be, ‘at 220 kph life takes an all-new meaning.’ Guess we will settle on this one – WE HAD SOME FUN!

It was a case of third time lucky for me. Last month, we had two Skodas to test – the flagship Superb and the Octavia Rider. Both failed to tickle my fun glands (no, they are not where you think they are) and that meant some run-flat articles and a scarred relationship with the communication people at Skoda. But then, just then, Skoda decided to get serious about their petrol car sales and launch the Octavia with a de-tuned RS motor. Time for redemption? And how!Let’s get a few things straight – this is not the 180 bhp, road-going kissing cousin of the WRC wonder kid. Having said that, this one uses an all-aluminium, 1781cc, 20 valve turbocharged engine made famous by the Audi TT (the VW Group owns Skoda and in case you didn’t know, the Octavia shares the VW Golf platform with the Audi TT). So, the Indian edition of the Octavia RS develops 147 bhp at 6700 rpm and 21 kgm of torque between 1750-4600 rpm. Yet, as you have read above, this is good enough to make the notchback one of the quickest cars sold in the country today. Discount that V6 rice-rocket (Accord) and the maverick Camry, not many other cars can catch the RS as it discovers the hooligan in you. 

Trust me, I had real trouble keeping this machine on all fours and that was not because it is a bad handler. The problem was that the RS, with its tauter suspension, lower profile rubber worn on 16-inch wheels and that intercooled turbo spooling out a neat spread of power, was egging me on all the time.   You have seen the Octavia before and I have already told you that the RS is a more powerful variant. Now without boring you with another long story, I’ll get to the core areas where the RS stands out.

First and foremost, accept our apologies for not using a bright yellow or red RS for the photo-shoot – the RS is in its elements in those two shades and would have looked far more spectacular than the midnight black car here. That said, I wouldn’t really mind one in gun-metal grey either. As you would have noticed, the car is differentiated by a bolder front bumper with large air-dams, nice 16-inch alloys and an understated rear spoiler. Buy it in red is my advice, since yellow can be a bit  loud to live with on a day to day basis – maybe I am getting old. 

As for the interior, the RS gets a small and sporty three-spoke steering wheel, twin-tone central console, silver dials with red needles (which look great when illuminated) and sporty pedal pads. All that is garnished with vRS badging which makes you feel you are about to drive an M-Power Beemer. Add an MP3/CD player cum radio and the sporty environment is complete. We liked it. We expected the RS to sound better than it did – time some car makers stopped being oh-so-politically correct. On the move, the RS is a seamless performer. Forget the 0-60 run in 3.66 seconds and 100 kph run in 8.34 seconds, what impressed us is the turbo motor’s ability to be consistent when it comes to passing speed acceleration. This car continues to accelerate from 100-140 kph the same way it does the 80-120 kph run. Spirited launches are easy, with ASR cutting in to prevent time-consuming wheel spins. First gear takes you to 70 kph, second all the way to 118 kph and third gear launches you to 175 kph! There is a bit of monocoque shudder that’s characteristic of powerful front-wheel drive cars – almost as if the rest of the car is trying
to cope with the prodigious acceleration. While the transition from merely quick and fast to 150 kph-plus-fast is entertaining, what happens then is pure bliss. The speedo climbs over the 200 kph mark as if it is a non-event and continues its motion around the arc, with the tacho needle hovering around 5000 rpm.   Now I have to say that front wheel driven cars do feel twitchy at speeds above 200 kph, compared to rear-wheel drivers and this is true of the RS too – if your vocation is to sit at 220 kph for a long time, then please spend another ten lakh and buy C-Class Mercedes-Benz. Don’t get me wrong,The Octavia RS is an exceptionally agile and fun car to drive through most challenging driving environments and merely owning the fast lane at insane speeds will be missing the point. Lest I forget, the RS comes with ABS assisted disc brakes all round, with a 312 mm disc with floating callipers up front and 256 mm disc at the rear to ensure sure-footed deceleration. 

When you get the looks and performance and handling, there has to be a trade-off, right?Well this is it – the 205/55 Turanzas mounted on 16-inch wheels cannot offer good ride quality – at least not over the monsoon-marred Mumbai landscape, as I found out. Every pothole visit is accompanied by an unwelcome thud that can bleed an enthusiast’s heart. The wheels do help when it comes to ride height, but when you think of that nice front apron, you slow down and crab your way around speed-breakers. 

Please do not buy the RS if you are looking for a comfortable chauffeur driven car. But by all means buy two if you belong to a car-crazy family that huddles around the television on Sunday to watch Michael Schumacher win yet another F1 race. At Rs 12.9 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai,this is not really a cheap machine, but then it is not another flashy variant with just a sticker job and a go-fast spoiler. Instead, you get to own a genuine thoroughbred that’s only slightly toned down for our country.

I am in no mood to struggle for an ending here. So just go out and buy the car, won’t you?