Duality, in which two opposite ideas or feelings exist at the same time. In the metaphysical world, it’s a concept that delves into the belief of two kinds of reality, the physical and the spiritual. The field of philosophy has its own take on dualism, believing the mind and body are separate from each other.
In the Skoda engineering department in the Czech city of Mladá Boleslav, the Octavia RS245 wagon is the automotive embodiment of dualism – a comfortable family station wagon with the ability to transform into a performance car.
Reviewers past and present have praised previous incarnations of Skoda’s ‘warm’ wagon, and rightly so. With its blend of space and sportiness, the Octavia RS in station wagon guise ticked an awful lot of boxes. Space for the whole family? Yep. Practical and comfortable interior appointments? You bet. A supple and comfortable daily driver in the stop/start environment of most urban enclaves? Too right. The ability to transform into a bone fide performance car when the desire kicks in? Absolutely.
Now, perhaps of the belief that too much of a good thing is never enough, the Czech brand has added even more mumbo to what was already a considerable performance package to usher in the Skoda Octavia RS245, the most powerful Skoda Octavia ever.
You can get into Skoda’s take on the ‘sleeper’ family wagon for a smidgeon over $40K, the standard RS asking for $40,390 plus on-road costs. This, though, is the alpha male of the range, and as such commands a premium. How much of a premium? Try around 10 per cent with the RS245 variant kicking off at $44,890 (plus on-roads). Note, those prices are for the manual variants. If your preference is for the engagement of paddle-shifters, or if you prefer to let the Skoda do its own thing, then you’ll be asked to lay down an additional $2500 for the DSG-equipped RS245.
Which is exactly what we have on test here, the RS245 wagon with the DSG dual-clutch gearbox that starts at $47,390 plus on-road costs. Of course, it’s difficult to roll out of the showroom without adding some ink to the options boxes. And our test car is no different, carrying the Tech Pack ($2500), Luxury Pack ($1500), and automatic boot-opening function ($500), bringing the as-tested price to $51,690 plus on-road costs. That’s just $300 cheaper than the latest tempter from Skoda’s Volkswagen Group stablemate, the Golf R Grid wagon that asks for $51,990 before on-roads, with the added benefit of all-wheel drive over the Octavia’s FWD platform.
Drawing parallels between the Octavia and Golf isn’t entirely coincidental, with the Czech brawler’s performance chops underpinned by the group’s EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine lifted from the Golf GTI Performance Edition 1. It’s good for 180kW and a lusty 370Nm of torque, enough to hustle the wagon from 0–100km/h in 6.7 seconds. While that’s 0.5sec slower than the donor car, it’s worth noting that at 1425kg, the Skoda carries a touch more pork (73kg) than its three-door, hot-hatch second cousin.
There’s a maturity to the Skoda RS245 – a maturity that only a station wagon can bring to the table. Sure, from the outside it looks pretty mean sitting on those 19-inch alloys, the styling of which you’ll either love or hate (personally, I love). The total absence of chrome highlights of any kind on the outside (other than the Skoda and Octavia RS nameplates) adds to the air of menace.
That sporty theme continues inside, with a swathe of black Alcantara nicely contrasted with seemingly endless lines of red stitching and highlights. The electrically adjustable front seats feel like the embrace of an old lover – soft, comforting, supportive. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a lovely thing in hand, and again features the RS245’s signature contrast red stitching.
There’s a decidedly upmarket feel to the RS245’s interior, and that feeling extends to the infotainment system. Central to the Skoda’s interior is the excellent 9.2-inch touchscreen that offers an array of functions and connectivity via a remarkably intuitive user experience. The only annoyance with the system involves the fiddly touchscreen volume controls, an increasing feature in modern cars. C’mon the world’s carmakers, if you want to give us one dial, make it a volume-control one. Please. Can’t cost more than a few bucks, surely?
There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for those who prefer to interact via their smartphones, while the Bluetooth connection is amongst the best this writer has experienced, with fast initial pairing and subsequent re-pairing that almost seem to defy physics. Open the door, slide inside, hit the stop/start button and before you can cast your eyes on the touchscreen, your smartphone is connected. And the Bluetooth audio is crystal clear too, according to the several people I talked to while driving.
To keep road rage at bay (in theory), the LED ambient lighting can be configured with a choice of 10 colours, although there are plenty of clever little touches that just make you smile.
From the flocked door bins to the umbrella stashed neatly in its own holster; from the dual-zone climate control and the twin rear USB ports; from the rubber mat in the boot and the split-fold rear seats (with handy ski port). And the glovebox is cooled – won't keep your ice-creams from melting, but it will keep your bottle of water nicely chilled.
Practicalities abound, with hooks, nets and tethers all playing their part in keeping your stowed goodies in place. That boot, too, is the reason for this car’s being; the reason a buyer would opt for this, the wagon, over the similarly priced and specced sedan RS245.
At 588 litres with the second row in use, the RS245 wagon will swallow a hefty 1718 litres with the second row folded flat. It’s a cavernous space, more than enough for most families' haul.
Safety is paramount in a car like this unashamedly aimed at families. To that end, there’s a reassuring five-star ANCAP rating anchored by nine airbags covering every occupant. Active safety acronyms include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and active cruise control (ACC) as standard, while the $1300 optional Luxury Pack on our tester adds lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring.
But while practicalities and creature comforts make for a compelling proposition, let’s explore the real reason a buyer would plump for this Octavia variant over a tamer – and cheaper – option. In a word…
There’s no question, the RS245 has the requisite hustle when asked of it. That tuned and fettled 2.0-litre turbo four under the bonnet is more than adequate in providing driving engagement and enjoyment. It’s certainly not as manic or raucous as one could expect from something marketed as a performance wagon, but there’s enough to ensure a level of enjoyment rarely found in a practical wagon for around the $50K mark.
We’ve previously tested the RS245 around a track to see if its sporty aspirations matched the reality, and to be honest, found it wanting. You can read the full track test review here. However, that summation is also doing the RS245 a disservice as the likelihood of an owner ever ‘tracking’ Skoda’s warm wagon is pretty slim. Instead, its pacey pretentions are best measured in the environment where the RS245 is almost certain to spend the overwhelming bulk of its time – on the road.
And the news is good, with the undeniable duality of the Skoda wagon evident in all its glory. Without activating the RS sport mode, there’s plenty of comfort on offer, with the RS245 dealing with small bumps and lumps with a gentle ease. Noise insulation is pretty good too, while the engine is little more than a soft hum inside the cabin. Sharper hits, such as potholes, do send an unnerving crack through the cabin, but speed bumps – the bane of motorists everywhere – are dealt with nicely and effectively, the RS245 settling quickly back into its stance.
The Skoda’s DSG gearbox, maligned by some, actually does a decent job around town. I certainly didn’t experience any of the lag or lurches repeatedly mentioned as a drawback. It’s quick to shuffle through the gears in the hunt for economy and changes down and up nicely when sensing the need.
The quiet and softness really is a kind of ‘stealth’ mode hiding the Octavia’s duality beneath a veneer of comfort and quiet. But leave the family at home, ditch the shopping bags from the capacious boot, flick the drive mode selector into RS mode and that veneer is stripped away as fast as the RS245 can propel you down the road.
Look, it’s no hot hatch in the vein of its VW cousins, but nor does it masquerade as one. It is, however, still a thrill-a-minute experience. There’s plenty of shove from that very tractable torque available from low down in the rev range at just 1500rpm. It won’t shove you back in your seat, but neither is it pedestrian in the way it moves along with some urgency.
The exhaust note amps up too, although you do feel a bit cheated as the best of that nice burble is piped into the cabin via speakers. There are no snarls, crackles or pops either, but again, this is a family tourer not a track-focussed hatchback.
Our track test at launch exposed some of the RS245's shortcomings, namely that when on the absolute limit the Octavia requires circumspection with throttle and brake to extract the best out of it. Failure to do so results in an understeering beast as the grip runs out.
But, and it’s a big but, this is a car that is unlikely to ever be pushed to those lofty limits on the road, and with that in mind, the Octavia RS245 presents an engaging and capable level of performance while remaining within legal limits. Throw it at some rural twisties and the family hauler is adept at slinging you from corner to corner at pace enough to ensure your senses are fully loaded.
The DSG ’box in RS mode too is a cracker, happily revving out to extract maximum power and torque from the 2-0-litre mill up front. Taking over shifting duties yourself via the steering-wheel-mounted paddle-shifters adds not only revs, but lashings of fun factor too.
The RS245 may lag behind its VW-badged slighter hotter cousins, but that’s okay. It more than makes up for it with its duality, its ability to comfortably and economically carry out double duty. Safe and comfortable family hauler by day, not-quite-snarling-but raucous-enough-anyway performance wagon for when the family is safely ensconced in front of the telly.
That fun comes at bowser cost, though, and doubly so because the RS245 demands only top-shelf 98 octane. Skoda claims a reasonably miserly 5.4L/100km for the combined cycle and 8.4L/100km around town. Our week with the car returned 10.6L/100km of predominantly around-town family duty, blowing out to mid-11s with a flick of the RS switch and a dance on the right pedal. Worth it, though.
So too is the peace of mind provided by a pretty decent warranty period of five years/unlimited kilometres and an affordable scheduled service plan – 12 months or 15,000km – that will set you back $322, $398, $598, $604, and $498 for the first five years (or 75,000km) of ownership, and the RS245 makes a compelling case for consideration.
The Skoda Octavia RS245, especially in wagon form, has long been lauded for its duality. Sure, there are shortcomings, but then what car doesn’t have a few foibles? With its practical and comfortable disposition as a family hauler, married to its ability to haul ass when asked, the Octavia RS245 wagon has cemented its reputation as the Czech manufacturer’s halo car.