Skoda Octavia RS TDI First Steer
– by Paul Maric
On a day with wind chill cold enough to freeze blood, a pack of apex-hungry journalists arrived to Wakefield Park Raceway just outside Canberra to put the new Skoda Octavia RS TDI through its paces.
The drive from Canberra airport was not all that interesting. Some highway, coupled with a few back roads was all that was on offer. If anything, it gave us a good chance to see how the new RS TDI fared through the hustle and bustle of the city and its outskirts.
I set off from the airport in a DSG equipped model. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder 125kW diesel motor, which produces an impressive 350Nm of torque, always seems to be at the right revs, allowing consistent driving and easier power delivery when it’s required.
The best part about both engines is their fuel efficiency though, try 5.9-litres/100km for the RS TDI and 8.1-litres/100km for the petrol RS, while 0-100km/h is done with in 8.4-seconds for the RS TDI and 7.3-seconds for the RS.
Engine noise is surprisingly negligible in the RS TDI. Gone are the days of noisy, tractor like diesels. These high-tech diesels offer state of the art technology such as common-rail injection, which allows them to be frugal and pack bucket loads of torque.
The steering is one of the RS’s strong points. The direct feeling and perfect weighting make it a pleasure to drive in the city and also on the back roads.
Brake feel is yet another strong point. Whether you’re stomping down hard on the anchors or gently applying them, confidence is always maintained. This was amplified out on the race track where the RS TDI was seriously put through its paces, with the brakes feeling strong with each and every application.
Rear leg room is impressive, as is head room. The boot in the hatch can contain a mammoth 560-litres of cargo, while the wagon packs 580-litres.
The race track is where the RS was really given a chance to flex its muscles. The first thing which became obvious was the miniscule difference between the turbocharged petrol version of the RS and the new turbocharged diesel version.
Peg them both around the track at full tilt and you receive an equally pleasing experience. The DSG gearbox in the RS TDI works quite well with the car to extract its full potential. Before the rain started, it was hard to believe how much grip was on offer. The car held its line and only pushed wide when getting over enthusiastic.
Wakefield’s recent resurfacing has fixed up some of the undulations at the last corner before the straight, allowing for consistent braking. With a bit of rain, it wasn’t hard to cop understeer after the second corner and the eighth corner. (Wakefield Park Raceway Track Map)
With the petrol Octavia RS counting for around 20 percent of Skoda’s sales, Skoda was keen to announce the addition of a DSG gearbox for all RSs ordered from today, with delivery beginning in February, 2009.
Although Skoda launched the diesel version of the RS, they had several turbocharged petrol models on offer for track driving and it was interesting to see how they compared when tested side by side.
The RS TDI runs out of puff a lot earlier than the petrol version. The DSG helps keep the engine in the diesel’s torque band though, meaning that as it runs out of breath, the next gear is selected a whole eight milleseconds later to keep things moving along.
Around 40kg separates the two models, with the diesel being the lightest. It’s hard to notice a difference on the track though. The Michelin Pilot tyres give the hatch version of the RS more grip – this is also helped by the lower centre of gravity and weight distribution.
Electronic Stability Control helps control the direction of a vehicle in the event of sudden movement which causes it to lose control. In some cars the system is quite aggressive and intrusive and often doesn’t suit track driving. The ESC program on the RS is superb. Even if you threw the RS around to deliberately lose control, it would react in a civil manner without any intrusive traits.
Priced from $37,490 for the six-speed manual petrol RS, the DSG gearbox can be added for $2300. The RS TDI begins at $39,490, with the DSG also available for $2300. Wagon versions of both cost an additional $2000.
It was disappointing to see a lack of Xenon headlights as standard equipment (they are optional), along with no steering wheel buttons.
Volkswagen’s renowned RNS510 system is now also available throughout the Skoda range, bringing with it the latest in technology and versatility. The 30GB hard disk drive segregates 10GB for navigation data and allows the rest of the 20GB to be used for media, such as music and video.
RNS510 accepts SD cards, CD, DVD and MP3, with each form of media able to be stored on the hard disk.
The Skoda Octavia RS really is one of the biggest performance bargains on the market. It can be used as a family car on weekdays and windy road trekker on weekends. Test drive it, it’ll have you hooked!