At first, it feels familiar from behind the wheel. Similar in many ways to the Octavia 1.8 TSI sold in India, this sportier RS has a similar chassis and suspension and a slightly larger version of the same engine. It’s taking to this traffic-free Czech country road in much the same way, power delivery is similar and that wonderfully innate sense of balance is there in spades too. Still, this car feels a bit more hyperactive, a bit more fidgety and a bit more alive, and it should, because its state of tune and set-up are decidedly sportier.
So, what does it get that’s different? For starters, there’s much more power under the hood, courtesy of an engine that has a larger turbo and around 200cc more of displacement. The horsepower figure stands at 217bhp — not a whole lot, but enough to deliver a healthy dose of acceleration. And as Skoda tells us, this third-gen RS is also the fastest ever, with a claimed top speed of 248kph. 0-100kph is stronger too — it does it in as little as 6.8 seconds, according to Skoda. Then there’s the suspension on the RS, lowered by a further 15mm over the standard car in Europe (the Octavia in India is raised by 15mm), and it gets an electronic XDS differential lock on the driven front wheels. This reduces the risk of understeering in fast corners.
Skoda also isn’t shy to tell you that this is an RS — it looks distinctive. The nose has a black grille, bigger air inlets, a deeper air dam and integrated LED daytime lights. The look is completed by the addition of the RS badge, both at the front and rear. You can opt for 17-, 18- or even 19-inch bi-colour wheels, and the black diffuser at the rear helps give it that sporty look. Sporty is also the theme on the inside. The cabin is predominantly black, with a few contrasting textures working well, and you can get either red or grey contrast stitching. The cabin also comes with a leather-covered wheel, gear lever, handbrake handle and there are half-dozen vRS logos festooned all over.
But what about performance? As mentioned earlier, at ‘walking speeds’, this RS feels very similar to the regular Octavia TSI we have in India. Of course, in comparison, there’s almost no roll and grip levels are much higher, but for the most part, the cars feel similar to drive at low and medium speeds. There’s still a bit of turbo lag up until 2000rpm and the DSG can be jerky as well.
Things start to feel very different, however, as soon as you start to extract more and more power from the engine. Now, instead of a good surge, the Octavia really starts shooting down the road with loads of energy, the additional horsepower raising its head here. The shove in your lower back stays all the way to 6500rpm, after which, the quick ’box ensures you stay in the powerband when you shift up. It’s quicker overall, there’s much more punch and it clearly feels more serious now. And on the right road, the faster you go, the better and more confidence-inspiring it feels. The car is beautifully balanced at turn-in and seems to rotate really nicely around its centre. And as the cornering forces build, it gives you confidence to push harder, which, of course, goads you into driving quicker. So, if you drive it hard, it’s plenty fun.
Problem is, it is likely to be way more expensive than the Octavia 1.8 TSI — around Rs 10 lakh more — if Skoda decides to bring it here. Yes, the new RS will serve up around 40bhp more, better handling and sportier looks. But will that be enough to make it interesting for Indians?