If the number of heads that turned as we pottered around the streets of Mumbai is anything to go by, one thing’s clear. The Octavia RS has a massive following. We weren’t expecting the Skoda to gather eyeballs. But there were thumbs-ups and waves, and teens in questionable haircuts mouthing ‘vRS’. This legacy isn’t built on just looking the part -- the RS has always dished out a handling experience that gave the rarely-cared-for Indian enthusiast a reason to live and dream again.
This time though, Skoda has gone one step further -- the cosmetic tweaks, suspension upgrades and special interiors are topped off with power. Serious power! With 230PS under the hood, bespoke suspension bolted on and 17-inch wheels packed into the wells, the RS is promising to be the sports car you could realistically dream of. But, is it worth dreaming about? And if dreams came true, would you be able to live with it on an everyday basis? We find out.
Familiar, Not The Same
The RS is a fantastic example of a ‘sleeper’ car. It’s not overly racy in its demeanour, but wears enough to let the informed know about the heat it’s packing under the hood. It’s got oodles of character; the different bumpers, the larger 17-inch wheels and our favourite - the bootlid spoiler give it a distinct flavour.
It’s low slung, and Skoda says the ride height has been dropped by 14mm. Nonetheless, getting in and out is an easy affair. Once in, you’re enveloped by a sea of black. The cabin doesn’t scream about its sporty ambitions, but there are “RS” badges on the steering, seats and gear knob - to set it apart from its everyday cousin. It also gets carbon-fibre lookalike trims on the door pads and the centre console. Sadly, they don’t look as upmarket as the rest of the car and also feels plasticky and tacky to touch. Other goodies, including the multi-information display, the two-zone climate control and the 9.2-inch touchscreen, are shared with the Octavia. It doesn’t get the Canton audio system the L&K variant gets and features a no-name 8-speaker setup instead. Why, Skoda?
Buckle Up For Braap!
The driver’s seat will give you the first inkling of the RS being more than just a ‘take me to work’ plush sedan. The one-piece seat back, the bigger bolsters on the side and the Alcantara upholstery make for a sporty perch. It’s a bit more forgiving to bigger frames too, and you’d feel right at home in no time. Both front seats get electric adjust, and the driver gets three memory settings as well.
Then there’s the fantastic flat-bottom steering wheel that’s dressed in dimpled leather. It’s a chunky unit, with well defined contours at not just ten and two, but also eight and four o-clock positions. Even if you have sweaty palms, you wouldn’t have issues with gripping the wheel.
Grip you will have to. Because, instead of the 180 PS 1.8 litre turbo-petrol there is now a 230PS 2.0-litre turbo-petrol motor under the hood. This propels the RS in a way that needs to be experienced to be believed. What’s more, the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox comes bundled with launch control from the factory and that makes spec-sheet numbers count even in the real world. The process is simple - hold down the ASR button till the MID says you’re in ESC Sport, slot the gearbox into Sport, left foot hard on the brake, right on the gas. Build the revs, and off you go! On standard petrol, it took just 6.7 seconds to crack the ton. That’s a tenth of a second quicker than what Skoda claims it’ll do. Also, bear in mind Skoda recommends 95 RON for the car.
Just like the process of getting the claimed 0-100 time, getting the best out of the RS elsewhere is just as simple. No drive modes to fiddle around with, no million modes for the transmission and no zillion ways of setting up the steering. Want to go fast? Put the transmission in Sport and bury the pedal. You’d immediately feel the throttle getting snappier, the engine getting louder and the exhaust getting naughtier. The DSG now swaps cogs at the redline, and the exhaust lets out a hearty fart to mark the moment. Drive hard, and it even treats you to some pops and crackles. There’s plenty of braap to go along with the stututu too. Yum!
But, here’s the kicker. The Czech horses have a bit of a drinking problem. Under test conditions, we managed to eke out 14.22kmpl on the highway and 10.02kmpl inside the city. But, we’re certain you won’t be a saint behind the wheel (and we don’t blame you) - so expect single digit figures in mixed conditions. Don’t expect it to be kind to your wallet unless you’re super prudent with the throttle.
Say you do that, and the RS changes into a delightful car to commute in. Believe it! It’s calm, isn’t jumpy and the exhaust lets out nothing but a small purr. Inside the city, the motor isn’t even yawning. The transmission upshifts early, usually under 2000rpm. When you’re taking it slow, it isn’t all that different from the 1.8 TSi except for the fact that you hear a bit more of the engine. And, if anything, it’s better at ambling about slowly. All of the 350Nm is available from as low as 1500rpm, all the way up to 4500rpm - that makes the RS happily chug along without a fuss.
When you are pottering around in the city, the Auto Start Stop will try and save some fuel too. There’s a small snag, though. On a couple of occasions, the system cut the power off before the car came to a dead halt. It can get slightly unnerving, especially if you’re stuck in a choc-a-bloc traffic. Thankfully, the smallest input brings the car back to life, and more importantly, you can always choose to switch the system off altogether.
Simply, the RS truly is one of the few cars that makes you want to get into the driver’s seat, irrespective of the day or the mood. Yes, the ride is stiff, yet not uncomfortable. It still has that ounce of suppleness it needs to tackle bumps and potholes for everyday driving. Yes, you’d notice the car rocking side to side when you dig through the nasty potholes, but not to extent of causing unease. Take it out for a highway cruise, and the ride settles as the speeds climb. Even at questionable speeds, it remains rock steady. It has a GT-car nature to it. Drinking habits aside, it'd make for a fantastic road-tripper.
The Silent Heroes
First - the transmission. The DQ250 gearbox is sheer genius. It’s almost telepathic in the way it goes through the gears, whether in Drive or in Sport. There was never an instance where the RS was in a gear the driver wouldn’t have chosen. It also picks up minor modulations in the throttle brilliantly. For instance, you don’t have to go heavy on the throttle to slip into that gap in traffic. A gentle dab does it just fine. If you want to build speed, but not too quickly - it does that too. We had a BMW 330i on test along with the RS and did a few back to back runs for the heck of it. Surprise, surprise - the DSG felt quicker and sharper.
Of course, it will be caught off-guard when you’re really whacking it on a track or quick switchbacks. In Drive, it’d try and sneak in an upshift, and in Sport - it’d hold the gear to the redline and usually resist a downshift too. There are times when you’d want to short shift up, kill that power or drop one gear extra to power out of that corner. In these cases, you’d have to take charge using the flappy paddles. It takes a blink before obeying your command - and there’s a slim chance you’d actually pick on that lag.
That brings us to the second bit that completes the RS’ persona - the brakes. You can treat them like trash, and they seem ready for some more abuse. The bite is sharp, but the ferocity can easily be controlled. It responds to gentle taps with grace and as you press harder on the pedal the fangs come out and you know exactly how much speed the car’s shedding. There’s never that hesitance or second guessing involved like we’ve seen in quite a few modern-day cars. Even when you stomp hard at high speeds, there’s no drama. Just a lot of G forces trying to rip your intestines out.
Don’t write the RS off as a straight-line hero. Show it some twisties and it’s happy to munch them. The composure through fast corners is confidence-inspiring. And a lot of that is down to the way the chassis is set up. It sits lower, the springs are stiffer and the rear track is wider by 30mm, so it feels tighter when you dunk it in hard into a fast corner. Hustling it is a joy - it rolls a bit, and digs in for a solid line through the corners. It’s happy to change direction too. The bigger engine also adds a bit of a weight in the nose, but the suspension setup lets it turn with a lot of eagerness. The RS turns like a lithe hound chasing a ball that’s bounced off a wall. Not cat-like, but definitely athletic. The rear suspension setup is just a touch softer compared to the front and instead of making the going nervy or too serious, this just makes the RS playful.
It’s got some tech to keep things clean, like EDL (electronic differential lock) in Volkswagen speak, that mimics a limited slip differential. To give you a tighter line, it will brake the inner wheel. Of course, it doesn’t eliminate understeer altogether, but it does clean up the line and make the RS feel properly poised.
Rounding things off is the steering. Team ZigWheels has mixed opinions on the weight of the steering (a couple including yours truly reckon it’s a tad heavy), but none have doubts on its precision. It’s feels a bit numb as you’re picking corners. That said, we never had to correct our steering input.
Chink In The Armour?
One. Thankfully something that can be fixed quite easily. The Hankook rubber the RS comes with deserves to be exchanged the moment you drive out of the dealership. It’s noisy, and gets overwhelmed by the sheer amount of torque it has to put down to the road. Even when you’re tackling the twisties, you feel the need for some more grip from the tyres. Not to mention, they squeal and protest the second you try and attack a corner the way you should in an RS. So, yes. Switch to a better, grippier set as soon as you can.
Oh yeah, passengers?
Ah, yes. You can choose three of your folks to tag along with you, with all of their luggage. In terms of space, it’s no different than the standard car. This means there’s 590 litres of boot space too, that can be expanded up to a whopping 1580 litres should you need it. But, be a bit careful and tip-toe over speed breakers. You don’t wanna scrape the underbelly.
We really wish we didn’t have to. The RS is likeable and has a proper personality. It’s not a soulless machine with four wheels and an engine. It feels alive, and when you’re driving it, makes you feel alive too. It’s focussed when you want to have fun, laidback when you want to chill, spacious enough for the family, and is loaded with tech. There’s not much wrong with the Octavia RS, really. Then there’s the fact that the RS is practically a Lego set in terms of what you can add to it if you want to jump up the power scale. If you loosen your purse strings, the motor has enough mod potential to shame sports cars.
Priced at Rs 25.48 lakh, it’s dearer by Rs 3.5 lakh compared to the top-spec 1.8 TSi, and Rs 1.5 lakh over the top-spec diesel. It’s well worth the extra cash in our books. If you are on the fence about buying an Octavia, it’s got to be this one. Actually, if you look at all that it can do, with the soul and conviction that it does, for a driving enthusiast in India this is all the car you need.
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