Skoda Octavia RS 230 2015 Review
Skoda Octavia RS 230 DSG
Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland
Muscled up with more power, the Skoda Octavia RS 230 is not only the fastest Octavia the Czech car company has ever built, it's also the most engaging. That's because it grips and goes with a new level of controlled aggression via a clever new front diff lock. Arriving in 2016 in limited numbers, a word to the wise: Put in your order now!
Rounding a tight left-hand corner high in the Austrian alps in the Octavia RS 230 at full noise, peripheral vision absorbing the verdant greenery flashing past, I ponder what life would have been like before cars.
Horses would have been popular. Small-brained beasts perhaps, but they have big hearts and personality too – a bit like this car. The front-drive Czech car is lively and has a carefree attitude at the limit, almost a tad loose, but it sure keeps things interesting.
Passing a bovine at warp speed, engine pumping hard, I hear the unmistakable sound of cow-bells pre-empting the Skoda's gravelly bark as another gear engages. This is fun!
Propped up in the ribbed leather RS sports pews, the seating position lends itself to enthusiastic driving as much as cruising, and a new digital lap timer gives a clue to the car's purpose.
Racing between paddocks, the Skoda is nicely dialled in – an appetising blend of suspension, engine, gearbox and brakes. It's a tolerant and indeed tenacious companion and perhaps not as sharp as some of the hot fours in the Volkswagen Group stable, it isn't hard to extract maximum performance – particularly on freshly-laid stretches of asphalt snaking their way through the alps.
Coercing the car into a corner, it reveals a touch of initial body roll, more than its second cousin the VW Golf GTI Performance, but there's plenty of grip from the Pirelli P Zero tyres wrapped around the funky-looking 19-inch alloy wheels.
Quick changes of direction don't fluster the RS 230 and the front communicates clearly when it's nearing the grip limit. There's not a lot of feel to the steering but it's direct and has good weighting. The flat bottom wheel feels primo – black leather with red stitching – and even with overt steering corrections or indelicate dollops of throttle the car tracks earnestly through corners.
As I get on the gas a little early out of a tight corner, my heart skips a beat as I expect traction loss, understeer and potentially a trajectory boo-boo.
But the Skoda takes it in its stride, with just a hint of front-end push.
The key to the way this champion Czech hustles through corners is the inclusion of an electro-mechanical differential lock. It helps the front wheels maintain regularity under cornering acceleration, and can apportion up to 100 per cent torque to the outside wheel to provide optimum acceleration while turning. Basically, it results in more progressive mid-corner acceleration.
Or as my brother would say, it 'cuts sick' through corners.
And the brakes? One of the more compelling elements of the chassis. The strong anchors improve deceleration and the way the car settles under hard brakes is key to this car's pace, point to point. There's loads of feel from the brake pedal and this allows the driver optimum control while decelerating.
Punching hard out of a tight uphill left-hander, the front-end of the 169kW Skoda feels good. Belting out slightly more power than the 162kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-banger found in the regular Octavia RS, it snorts and barks noisily between shifts via modified exhausts/silencers, adding to the drama.
And as the road straightens up it charges ahead with forcefulness I didn't expect.
Skoda says this six-speed DSG-equipped Octavia RS 230 liftback accelerates from 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds, and 7.0 seconds for slightly heavier wagon. But the six-speed manual version which will be exclusive to Australia is even quicker at 6.7 seconds.
"Big deal, my BA Falcon is quicker than that to 100km/h!" some might say. And maybe the Falcon is on a downhill slope with gale-force tailwinds, but this car is more than a one-trick pony. Roll-on acceleration is what really makes this bum-dragger feel quick.
The direct-injected EA888 four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine borrowed from the Golf GTI-P is a lusty unit, pumping out 169kW at 4700 to 6200rpm and although torque is still 350Nm it hits across a wider spectrum – 1500rpm to 4600rpm. Flexibility, power, response? Yes thanks!
The flat torque curve is easy to tap and provides huge propulsion even at higher speeds. Later on that day, blatting up the German autobahn, I pin the throttle from 100km/h and the car's strong, linear power delivery propels the car to 150, 160, then 170km/h with vehemence.
Top speed for the wagon is stated as 245km/h and I can attest to that. This car can hustle! It gently pushes you into your seat as the tachometer needle makes its journey towards redline in the first three gears. And even at 200km/h-plus speeds the Skoda feels composed and predictable on the highway.
Approaching Switzerland, I remember to bring things down a notch. No autobahns here, and plenty of speed cameras!
There aren't too many negatives to talk about in this review. The Skoda Octavia RS 230's ride is a little firm, tyres slapping loudly over freeway joins, the interior isn't quite as pretty as Volkswagens based on the same platform and this model will be limited in number. And the fact that it's manual only will put some buyers off.
Skoda also doesn't know when we're getting it, saying only "sometime in 2016" but the company is confident both wagon and sedan models will be offered here.
How much? Somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 is a safe bet. It will be highly specified too, with all the trimmings.
Rated on pure performance, the Skoda Octavia is easily a four-star car, but this hero car is practical too. The interior is spacious and very well equipped.
And although I reckon the front seats could be a bit sportier, considering the lateral g-forces the car can induce, it feels suitably special compared to garden-variety Octavias.
There's heaps of boot space in both sedan and wagon models, it's got safety systems that bleep and beep whenever danger nears, has peculiar (and sometimes useful) driving aids and extensive smartphone integration through the infotainment screen via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
Listening to Dr Karl on Triple J via a global radio app while arrowing through Lichtenstein is pretty cool, I gotta say.
It may not have an exotic shape or dihedral doors, but it's one of the most involving cars you'll find for the money and has a level of practicality that's hard to beat. From Oberammergau to Officeworks, you can fill this thing with snowboards or filing cabinets and still have fun.
Perhaps it was the ultra-smooth roads, the jetlag, or maybe that I went to a new barber the week prior and the poor quality cut saw me adopt a foolhardy attitude. Whatever the case, this Czech car is tops. An epic adventure, some great roads, and a very worthy performance car, the Skoda Octavia RS 230 made a two day sprint through Europe very memorable indeed.
Review at carsales.com.au