Tuesday 27 September 2016

Cars: Picture of power: RS adds punch to practical

Octavia RS230 worth extra €620

Published 15/11/2015 | 02:30

Catching dynamics: Octavia
Catching dynamics: Octavia

Maybe I am being a bit 'smart' but I suggested using this picture of the new Skoda Octavia RS230 for a number of reasons. It is different to most car pics in that it doesn't show the two-thirds front view. And I think it catches some of this Octavia's dynamics.

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I also thought - and maybe I'm wrong -the atmospheric nature conveys something of the turmoil in the broader Volkswagen group to which Skoda belongs.

There is no point in me reviewing a Skoda without referring to that, though I can't emphasise enough that this wonderful 2-litre petrol engine has, as I write, not been involved in any way.

Another reason I chose it was to draw your eyes to something that is obvious visually but maybe difficult to convey in words: this is a big car.

Just because it has low profile tyres and 19ins alloys and all sorts of gizmos inside, and under the bonnet doesn't mean it has lost any of its real-world practicality.

There is an enormous boot and loads of cabin room. It may be sporty and smart but it was comfortable.

For all that it does cost nearly €36,000 so you would need to be getting a family car and performance motor all in one.

This particular RS is called the '230' for a simple reason. It develops 230bhp. That is 10bhp more than the existing RS.

And that raises a fascinating question: would you pay €620 more for the extra 10 horses?

The 220bhp version is fleet of foot, no doubt, but this adds technology such as an electronically controlled front differential lock which, essentially, handles all that power and gives you better traction and cornering.

You also get 19ins alloys (wonderful), black glossy mirrors, a lap timer (yes, for a fun day at Mondello), specially generated exhaust noise (loved it) etc.

If I had that sort of money and I wanted the latest and best I think I'd go the whole hog. This just looked so well and I got a real buzz from it. I know that sounds strange from one so normally parsimonious but there you are.

And that exhaust sound, low and guttural, was a joy. I don't care if it was 'false'. It felt part of the deal. The best part was how it sounded as the engine pulled to get up the revs.

Inside, I liked the way they have the (black leather) seats inset with RS insignia. And my electrically adjustable seat seemed to fit me particularly well; sometimes seats don't suit regardless of the permutations one can electronically conjure.

Obviously this was quick, mighty quick. But one has to be so careful because the motorway limit can be easily breached. Straight-line speed is a given, obviously. Yet, as I have so often pointed out, the fun in a car like this more often than not stems from how it handles the energy from twists and turns, braking and acceleration.

And you can't beat a good old hilly, twisty drive for that. Maybe the dampers are too sportily set for some because if you hit a heavy rut you can really feel it through the chassis and steering. But I love that sort of feel to a car especially when it doesn't knock it out of its stride. And especially when it was capable, thanks to the engineering mentioned earlier, of such precise steering on hug-tight corners and longer bends.

This time of the year leafy, slippery roads are not great for that sort of driving; one has to be careful. But there wasn't the merest hint of a skit or shift and I thought that was impressive.

Regardless of buying this or the 220bhp I think the fuel consumption figures are aspirational. The fuel gauge shifted anti-clockwise fairly lively. But what do you expect from a 2-litre petrol that has to be driven? And a gearbox I couldn't help shifting up and down to my heart's content.

Sometimes one gets a vibe from a car. I just enjoyed this. I like the concept and the execution. It can take a fair bit to lift one's heart some wintry, cold days and the RS230 did that on occasion. It was all about enjoying the sense of motion. And that's something not even a picture can convey.

Facts & figures

Skoda Octavia RS saloon, 2.0 TSI 230bhp petrol, 142g/km, €390 road tax, 6spd, claimed 6.2l/100km (45.6mpg), 0-100kmh 6.7secs, top speed 250kmh.

Price: €35,995. Delivery/related charges extra.

Equipment includes new sports seats with RS logo inlays, 19ins alloys, black-design twin exhausts and front grille, specially tuned tailpipe sound, leather interior, colour maxi dot display with a lap timer, 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel with controls for phone, radio, Intelligent park distance assistant (front/rear). DSG models get paddle shifters behind steering wheel.

My side of the road

Lord, we give our tyres and wheels an awful battering, especially the way we just plump them up on a kerb to 'park'.

That can do enormous damage to both tyre and wheel. Even worse, it can wreck steering and wheel alignments. Shouldn't be surprised really because so many drivers treat their tyres and wheels like dirt. And then complain about replacement costs.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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