Skoda Octavia RS

Skoda Octavia RS - First Steer

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2009 Skoda Octavia RS - First Steer

Skoda’s fastest Octavia and a racetrack – the test track used by Top Gear Australia in fact – was the setting for the Australian introduction, just weeks after its European launch, of the Octavia RS.

- by Paul Maric

It wasn’t all about racing around a track though, with the first portion of the launch beginning at Sydney airport, looping through inland B-roads and then terminating at the track. This was the perfect chance to test the Octavia RS the way most other drivers would.

While the drive-train remains unchanged between the ‘old’ Octavia RS and the ‘new’ Octavia RS (aside from the addition of a six-speed DSG to the petrol model), the masses of change are located on the outer and inner shell in the way of cosmetics.

Two engines are available in the Octavia RS, a 2.0-litre, 125kW diesel and 2.0-litre, 147kW petrol. The diesel’s 350Nm of torque does a good job of moving the Octavia RS’s 1495kg mass, regardless of the six-speed manual or six-speed DSG chosen. While the 280Nm of torque on offer from the turbocharged petrol returns back-shoving torque both in six-speed manual and six-speed DSG.

The revised front end receives the Octavia’s new headlight treatment, while the RS additionally receives daytime LED running lights to complete the front redesign.

A set of slick 18-inch alloy wheels are now also standard fit, ensuring the Octavia RS stands out from the crowd.

Inside the RS’s cabin, the changes mimic those of the regular Octavia. A derivative of Volkswagen’s RNS510 system is used, in addition with a revision of the backlight colours from green to blue.

One of the best changes has to be the beefed up steering wheel. Additional girth means it’s much better to grab hold of during cornering and sits better in the hand.

Rear leg and head room are reasonable. I didn’t find the rear all that comfortable though as the seats were rather firm and there was next to no side bolster on the inner edge.

Front passenger comfort on the other hand was impressive, likewise with the side bolster. During hard cornering, there was enough bolster to keep body movement in check, while not being too overpowering.

Steering weight and feel is much like the Octavia during regular driving and parking, making the Octavia RS a wolf in sheep’s clothing – so to speak.

Boot room in the hatch and wagon is 560 and 580 litres respectively. Boot entry and egress is a bit strange though, with the bottom lip sitting around 15cm from the boot floor. It would make getting heavy objects out of the car a bit cumbersome.

How does it fare on the track though? Although we were using the Top Gear Australia test track, luckily the car shared no comparison with the TV show itself.

While most drivers certainly wouldn’t reach the limits we were driving to during the launch, it gave a good indication of just where were the limits of the car.

Naturally, being front-wheel-drive the Octavia RS had a tendency to understeer considerable during hard cornering, luckily though that was the car’s only bugbear.

Hard acceleration off the line in both the diesel and petrol variants induced a little bit of wheel spin, but it settled relatively quickly.

Body roll was civil, but with the lack of a limited-slip differential hard turns on sweeping bends sent the stability control into a frenzy as it attempted to reduce wheel spin. Switching stability control off lead to a barrage of tyre smoke though, which didn’t really help times around the circuit.

The end of the straight had us reaching speeds of around 180km/h before slamming down the anchors for a chicane. Much to my surprise, each car we tested pulled up remarkably well after the hard brake, despite the same set of cars being used throughout the entire day non-stop.

The final test of the car’s ability was the ‘bus stop’ as it’s affectionately known around the test track. It’s a lane change style manoeuvre that tests the vehicle’s ability to suddenly change directions.

While the petrol RS handled the bus stop well, the diesel seemed to get tied up with understeer on the exit, this is possibly due to the different shift point of the gearbox on exit of the manoeuvre.

The petrol Octavia RS was the obvious leader in relation to the track, surprisingly though the diesel wasn’t far behind. Despite running out of breath a bit early under hard acceleration, the diesel still managed to clock some 170km/h down the straight, only showing remorse at some points where understeer reared its ugly head.

The 0-100km/h dash takes 7.3-seconds in the RS Liftback petrol, while the diesel takes an additional 1.1-seconds at 8.4-seconds. Both engines offer frugal driving with combined fuel consumption figures of 7.7-litres per 100km and 5.9L/100km respectively for the petrol and diesel.

Pricing for the new Octavia RS starts at $37,990 for the six-speed manual Liftback, tapping out at $39,990 for the six-speed manual wagon with the six-speed DSG costing an additional $2300.

Skoda’s latest Octavia RS is more a pleasant change than an overhaul.

The design revisions give the car a new edge that it previously didn’t have. They are in addition to an already capable chassis and drivetrain, making it one of the best value bang-for-your-buck cars around.