First Drive: Skoda Octavia Combi RS, Skoda Kodiaq RS
On the surface, the term ‘RS’, the internationally recognised abbreviation for ‘Rally Sport’, might conjure images of purebred, track-ready sports cars that are available for everyday use. With the designation commonly applied to the most hardcore of road cars of the likes of Porsche, Renault and Audi, one would have expected our destination for this exclusive preview of the latest ‘RS’ badged Octavia Combi and Kodiaq to be a slightly more a synonymous but ordinary location like Sepang. Hence, we were pleasantly surprised to have our assumptions proven wrong, and excited to know that our drive would take us to the scenic eastern coast of Malaysia – Kuantan.
Being known as one of the more understated choices amongst a wide range of performance-oriented yet practical cars available on the market, I can truly understand why Skoda Singapore had chosen this as our port-of-call. Almost Swiss Army Knife-like in their go-fast ability but yet commodious and comfortable enough for a family of 5, the RS range of Skodas were proof that there’s fun to be had by all.
Jumping into the Kodiaq RS for one of the first legs of our drives into Kuantan, its high-riding driving position was certainly noticeable when compared to the other 2 cars – the Octavia RS and Octavia Combi RS – that were available on test at this pre-launch showing of Skoda’s RS range.
Housing the very familiar 2.0-litre EA888 block, shared amongst Skoda’s RS cars and the same one that’s found in the Golf GTI, the Kodiaq felt more than brisk off the line. What sets the Kodiaq apart from the others though, is that it puts its 245 bhp down through all 4 wheels. The result of this is a slightly more graceful serving of its 370 Nm of torque and a more planted feel through the sweeping bends that the royal states of Johor and Pahang had to offer.
From within the cabin, its exhaust note sounds meaty – almost like a deep baritone. Most noticeable once the Kodiaq RS was flicked into Sport mode of its Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system, we were left wondering how much of its soundtrack was actually owed to its Soundgenerator. Put into ‘Comfort’ mode though, and the Kodiaq RS settles into a nice cruise, paying no heed to rough patches of tarmac which we encountered on our trek up towards the capital of Pahang.
On the outside, the Kodiaq RS sure lets you know that it means business too. Not forgetting some go faster bits such as revised front and rear bumpers which house menacingly large air intakes, coupled with its RS grille and 20-inch ‘Sagitarius’ aero-styled rims, the Kodiaq RS has meaningful on-road presence, both through the Malaysian B-roads and down the NS highway commuter route.
Despite having a bit more roll through the corners than its more lowly sprung cousins, the Kodiaq RS is able to more than make up for this through its comfortable ride. Being the only MQB A2-platformed VW group car (meaning it shares a base with the likes of the Audi Q3 and Volkswagen Tiguan) designed to cater to 7, the Kodiaq RS makes for the ideal family car that dad or mum will never tire from piloting.
After a restful evening at our overnight stop in Kuantan, it was time to hit the roads again – this time it was our turn to have a go in the Octavia Combi RS. As always, there’s a certain factor about fast wagons that make a sizeable proportion of motoring enthusiasts go weak in their knees. It could be the paradoxical combination of its load lugging and go-fast abilities that appeals strongly to the blue-collared working class heroes within all of us.
Just like how we were all enthralled when the queen of the ring Sabine Schmitz managed to lap the Nürburgring in under 10 mins, we were equally eager to experience how the Octavia Combi RS would perform on the Malaysian B-roads en route to Singapore.
Unlike the Kodiaq RS which we drove on the first leg of the trip, the Combi RS sits lower and feels sportier and more planted to the ground. Despite possessing the same EA888 drivetrain as the Kodiaq, it is in its manner of delivery that is the stand out. Sending all of its 245 bhp through its front wheels, the Combi takes off with greater immediacy, and feels noticeably more direct in the way it puts its power down on the tarmac.
Its RS-specific shocks not only lower the car by 15 mm, giving it a more aggresive stance, but also enables it to corner with minimal body roll. Its steering is direct and as you’d expect, dives in and shoots off to any corner you may so point it at.
Whilst the Octavia Combi RS offered a high level of customisation of its ride characteristics through the ‘Custom’ option of its DCC, we found ourselves conveniently toggling the standard ‘Sport’ mode every time an opportunity to clip those apexes came around.
Compared to the liftback Octavia RS (and here is what makes it an excellent sports saloon) which the kind team from Skoda Singapore brought along for this exclusive RS-drive, the Combi shows no indication of its extra mass. Even if you were to dive into the spec sheet, they are equal in dimensions and only differ by approximately 50 kg – a negligible figure, if you asked me.
For the same, excellent drive feel but with now added practicality – the choice of body style amongst the two options within the Octavia RS range is pretty obvious.
As the saying ‘different strokes for different folks’ goes, both the Octavia Combi and Kodiaq RS cater to distinct groups of drivers – one who prefers a high-riding and imposing view of the road, with a muscular feel, whilst the other takes to the low riding, and nimble wagon which zips around effortlessly. However one thing that unites both the SUV and estate is that they both offer spades of practicality that imposes no limit on their everyday usability – something that any family man (or woman) will appreciate.
Credits: Text by Joel Foo; Photos by Skoda Singapore and Joel Foo