Skoda's next generation RS packs a real punch
One abiding memory of a childhood trip to London, via Holyhead, was disembarking in the middle of a freezing night from the rust-bucket ferry that was the awful 'Princess Maud', and sitting with my mother in an icy train carriage as we trundled for six hours down the spine of Britain to the capital, almost overwhelmed by the misery of it all.
Last Friday, I made the road journey, in the opposite direction, in considerably more comfort and at considerably greater speed in the third generation Octavia Combi RS (vRS in the UK).
The car has built up a cult following. This RS guise is the most powerful version yet and gets here in September. It will be followed by a hatchback.
The RS is powered by two turbocharged engine alternatives, with the volume seller here likely to be the 2-litre TDI (184bhp) diesel, with a 2-litre TSI 220bhp petrol following.
Compared with the second generation Octavia RS, the new engines are cleaner, more powerful and more economical (19pc less fuel). Start-Stop and Brake Energy Regeneration are standard.
Both engines are mated to six-speed manual transmissions or a six-speed DSG dual clutch automatic transmission, which whisked us up 'The Hill' at Goodwood in fine style.
Prices start at €32,745 for the 2-litre 184bhp TDI, €35,245 for the 2-litre TSI 220bhp petrol. Our test car, the diesel, costs €33,745 with extras.
Sports suspension is standard and is 12mm lower than the standard Octavia. The Combi is 13mm lower.
An electronic differential lock XDS is integrated into the electronic stability control (ESC) to give greater traction and reduce the tendency to understeer in fast cornering.
The RS hatchback is 88mm longer and 45mm wider, with a 102mm longer wheelbase.
Particularly attractive at the rear are two large, trapezoidal-shaped chrome exhaust tailpipes and a black diffuser, which, combined with the C-shaped rear LED lights, give the car an aggressive stance.
The new RS is better equipped with 18in alloys, sports seats, Bi-xenon headlights with LED and twin exhausts.
On a spin up the M1 and M6 en route from Goodwood to Holyhead – a distance of almost 500 miles over busy motorways and rural roads – the car behaved impeccably, displaying poise and ample power when required.
It was comfortable, well finished, with excellent seats while space is ample back and front. The only argument was over the colour . . . blue or white. White shaded it, so to speak, while, overall, on the evidence of this 'First Drive', the RS Combi is unlikely to shed any of its growing fan base.