Skoda has sold 5,000 cars in Australia this year so far. They’re proud of it too, and so they should be.
It is a brand that flies under the radar somewhat, but is one that motoring journalists love. It is pure, value-packed, fun. It has all the quality and innovation of Volkswagen, and perhaps even Audi, at a lower price.
I got along to the Australian launch of the new 2018 Skoda Octavia RS 245.
For an extra $4,500 over the standard vRS models, the 245 gains extra power, and more gear.
Sadly, the Luxury and Tech packs remains optional extras.
The wagon version costs an extra $1,500 for all Octavia models.
There have been performance Octavias in the past, but the 245 is a permanent fixture for those wanting extra chili on their beef.
There are a few differences between the 245 performance model, and run of the mill 169kW RS cars.
Importantly, an extra 11kW/25Nm in tuning, and an extra cog on the DSG, making the 245 a seven-speed DSG.
The DSG allows quick changes up and down, with a “blip” rev match in the downshifts. No power is lost, and the engine stays right in the sweet spot ready for a blast out of the corner.
Also unique to the 245 is the electronically controlled inter-axel mechanical wheel lock. Other RS cars use the ABS to simulate a kind of limited slip diff.
There is variable drive mode control which incudes a user-defined memory for throttle, gearbox, and steering settings.
It also controls ride, making city cruising smooth and compliant, yet allowing spirited track day firmness.
In sport mode, the sharp throttle and gear changes allow exact positioning of the car in a corner. The gear selector can be pulled back in to sport mode, or shifted to the left to enter manual.
In manual, gears are changed by using the lever, or steering wheel paddles.
We drove the regular RS to the track, and it is a peach.
So is there 245 worth the extra shekels? In a word, yes.
All Skodas have AEB, but those with Active Cruise Control gain added features. ACC adds an extra mode to AEB and operates to the top speed of 250kph in the RS245.
Other equipment includes: active lane control, 360° multi-mode camera, 9 airbags, auto lights and wipers, stability control with hill start assist, all-round parking sensors, and emergency fuel cut-off, to name a few.
The 245 also has LED adaptive headlights, and daytime running lights.
The interior gets a sporty feel with Alcantara/leather seats. Skoda says it helps stop the driver from sliding around like you would had the seats been all-leather. That’s something I had never considered.
The 9.2” touch screen is as clear as crystal with a beautifully high resolution. It is fast to respond, and has Apple CarPlay, Hooray!
There are 10 years of free sat-nav map updates too, though CarPlay allows the use of maps onscreen which will be always up to date, more or less.
The power seats, mirrors, climate control, and audio system, are linked to the key which set them. There are 3 keys, and whichever key is used to unlock the car will set the systems to that particular memory position.
That means 3 family members can tailor the 245 to their own preferences, and not have to change things if someone else has used the car. That’s genius.
While it isn’t unique, it is normally a feature only found on more expensive vehicles.
The 19” wheels are unique to the 245. I expected the ride on such big rims to be a bit choppy, but not a bit of it.
On the track, we tried both the sedan and wagon versions, and both the six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG. I liked the manual, but our racing driver, Steve Owen, preferred the DSG.
It is closer to the sequential gearbox he is used to.
Sport mode allows the driver some latitude before the nannies kick in. Just a hint of tyre squeal, and that glorious roar, make the experience joyous. I hasten to add the exhaust noise you hear in the cabin has been “enhanced”.
In the hands of the professional driver however, the situation is quite different. This is his office, and the car moves like poetry.
It feels quick and lively, and corners are dispatched with the alacrity of a cat on carpet. Steven took me for a hot lap, and it was very hot.
Unlike his day job, we left the climate control on, while the electronic nannies kept careful watch. The cabin was quiet-ish, and the mood, while exciting, was controlled and calm. And, that’s the secret.
Each and every dab of brake was like an emergency brake, yet the Skoda was in perfect control. Steve used the Skoda to cut through corners like a hot knife through butter. It was smooth and silky.
He pointed out that the beauty of the 245 was its ability to be on a track in a fit of madness and mayhem, then after driving through the gates, be as calm and quiet as you like.
You can drive to the shops with 5 on board, and have enough space for you gear in the back.
There is a sunroof too, if you want it.
The option packs include gear that is standard on the 245, but it throws in a few extras.
The $2,800 Luxury pack includes: Lane assist, side assist/blind spot monitor, and heated front and rear seats.
While the Tech pack costs $2,300 and includes: auto parking, adaptive chassis control, Advanced keyless entry, a 10 speaker Canton Audio, and Maneuver Brake Assist.
The latter operates at parking speeds only, and should help prevent ultra-low speed bumps.
The panoramic sunroof comes in at $1,700 on the wagon, with the sedan getting a slightly smaller glass roof costing $1,500.
You can live with it every day, and is hard to beat for value. I love the interior which is comfortable without being frivolous. Skoda says that 80% of Octavias sold have both the Tech and Luxury packs.
That says a lot about how customers view the inclusions.
RS 245 deserves to be on the shopping lists for anyone wanting a spirited drive, but wants space and comfort.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2018 Skoda Octavia RS 245
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol producing 180kW/370Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG auto
- Safety: Five stars
- Warranty: Five years
- Origin: Czech Republic
- Price: from $46,490