New Skoda Octavia vRS 245 2017 review
The wick has been turned up on the hottest Skoda with the new Skoda Octavia vRS now offering 242bhp. Is it any good?
That the most potent Skoda Octavia ever is also the most exciting to drive, won’t come as a surprise. But the sheer competence and range of ability of this new vRS 245 is highly impressive all the same. At almost £30,000, it’s a lot of money for a Skoda, true, but then it’s also an awful lot of car.
You are looking at the most potent Skoda road car ever to wear a vRS badge. You are also looking at one of the most complete cars Skoda has yet produced, full stop.
So while the new Octavia vRS 245 may appear somewhat expensive for a Skoda (the DSG auto is an extra £1,135 on top of our manual test car) it is nevertheless a deceptively impressive car. It benefits from a wide range of dynamic capabilities, plus the usual level of quality and practicality that all Octavias come with nowadays.
The engine for the 245 is a development of the ubiquitous VW Group’s four cylinder TSI turbo that powers everything from the VW Golf to a SEAT Leon. In this instance it develops 242bhp (245 PS, hence the badging) plus a fulsome 370Nm between 1,600-4,300rpm. Which is enough to fire the new Octavia 245 from 0-62mph in 6.6sec and on to a top speed of 155mph.
Arguably the more important news regarding the 245 is the fitment of a new electronic differential, which has been lifted straight from the Golf GTI, albeit with bespoke tuning of the software to make it respond/behave exactly as Skoda’s engineers want it to. And on the road – or better still on the track – it works an absolute treat.
With the vRS button selected, which makes the dampers stiffer, the steering meatier, the throttle response keener and even the new exhaust system fruitier to listen to, the 245 feels like a proper driver’s car. Yet at the same time you can dial the system back to Comfort and, at the press of a button, it becomes much more relaxed, and much more comfortable to drive.
Various styling tweaks distinguish the 245 over its lesser brethren within the Octavia range, including the 230 vRS. There are flashes of black trim at the front, rear and on the sides, while the wheels are sexy looking 19-inch items, wearing reasonably fat Pirelli P-Zero rubber. In the flesh, the 245 vRS looks purposefully tasteful – in a politely menacing kind of way.
Inside there’s a new infotainment system, which takes pride of place within the dashboard. The VW Group’s excellent touchscreen console works well, and Apple CarPlay comes as standard. The electric front seats are as comfortable as they are supportive, but thankfully Skoda has done without full blown bucket seats. Space in the rear seats and boot are about as good as it gets in this class.
On the move the 245 feels surprisingly refined to begin with. It rides smoothly, the steering is light but accurate – even rather delicate in its response. And for a while you begin to wonder whether it’s actually as sporting as the raw numbers suggest. To begin with, in fact, it feels much like a regular Octavia.
But the moment you press the vRS button, the 245 transforms into an altogether more serious machine. The transition isn't black and white, but the further you go, the more obvious the differences become. The ride gets tauter but not offensively so, the throttle response becomes notably sharper, and the gear changes (with the DSG option fitted) happen faster and harder. At the same time the exhaust note becomes a lot crisper and the steering feels meatier and more precise.
We’re not talking BMW M3 levels of involvement here, nothing like, but the excitement factor most definitely goes up a notch once the magic button has been pressed. It’s engaging enough to satisfy all but the most committed petrolheads, in fact.
And the new differential really does work very well indeed on a track. The harder you push the 245, the sweeter it feels, and that’s mostly because the e-diff always does its best work when there’s some throttle involved, all but eradicating understeer so long as you keep your right foot locked in.
Faults? Not many to be honest. On some surfaces of our Italian test route the ride did seem a touch firm, even with the dampers set to Comfort, and those 19-inch alloy wheels look horribly easy to kerb. But other than that, the vRS 245 performs as good as looks. It’s fast, practical, well built, roomy, reasonably well priced and – with the right buttons pressed – pretty damn entertaining to drive. Simply clever? You bet…