Sharper Claws for Big Bear - Skoda Kodiaq vRS First Drive
Skoda’s biggest vehicle, Kodiaq, gets a gee-up in the form of the vRS model, the fastest runner of the line-up to date. Coming in at just four grand more than the Sportline variant, this new range topper has a whole lot going for it.
Kodiaq has helped lift local Skoda sales from 1300 in 2017 to almost 1600 last year, and an estimated 1800 this year. The team believes Skoda will break through 2000 sales by the end of next year. While the vRS Kodiaq supply is limited, with only 120 available this year, the various vRS models account for one in four sales here.
What’s helping Skoda along is the fact that most of its models sell relatively well here. But naturally Kodiaq, the incoming Kamiq and Karoq are expected to do the biggest numbers. Kodiaq is popular here with seven seats, and Kiwi families really seem to like that. With five seats in use, there’s almost 600L of luggage space, so it’s eminently practical.
So where does the new vRS fit in? While it’s not going to be a huge seller because of limited supply, it does offer a whole lot of vehicle for the money, even at $71,990. Still, it’s cheaper than the VW Tiguan Allspace R-Line BiTDI at $76,990. However, we note there’s a promotional price for this, just under $70k before ORCs. No love lost between VW Group competitors then.
Skoda likes to do things a bit left field so the vRS sounds different to the Allspace with the same engine, and it comes loaded to the gills with gear, one of the few options being a panoramic sunroof ($2500). All the rest is part of the deal, and that’s right down to heated seats front and rear, even a heated steering wheel.
The vRS is obviously a sporty number too, so it gets uprated handling, brakes and visuals. It’s clearly the head of the pack thanks to its 20-inch Xtreme wheels, black detailing, and sporty bumpers. It has a rear diffuser, big trapezoidal exhausts and a red reflective strip across the power operated tailgate.
Inside, there’s a Virtual Cockpit instrument set-up with five different layouts, and as many drive modes which alter things like engine and transmission reactivity, suspension stiffness (adaptive damping), steering heft, you name it. There’s even a Dynamic Sound Booster which changes the engine noise depending on the drive mode you’ve selected. We’ve never heard a turbodiesel sound like a petrol V8 before, but swear to you this does in the raciest mode. Sports seats are the other giveaway, powered, heated, and finished in Alcantara. Perhaps the only downside to the impressive spec fit-out is that it weighs the Kodiaq down, being just over two tonnes ready to rock and roll. Still, most family types seem to want seven seats and they do add mass. Five seaters can tow 2000kg braked, while the standard seven seater has a braked maximum of 1750kg.
The roads we plied were familiar, and test anything. We found Sport drive mode superb. This is so good, so sorted, that we left it in that all day. Tried the others, like the default Normal, and the cosseting Comfort but Sport is something else. Body roll, pitching and the like are largely banished, and yet the ride remains resilient, at least on the roads we checked out, all of them rural and a bit technical. It’s just sooo quiet on the go too. Steering is sharp at 2.1 turns lock-to-lock, and only when grip limits are explored does mild understeer eventuate.
The twin-turbo 2.0L diesel is amongst the best modern oilers out there, especially when it’s hooked up to a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It’s quick without even trying. In Normal mode it just grunts away with purpose in the 2000-3000rpm area, but in Sport mode it likes to play one thousand revs higher. Skoda reckons it accelerates to open road speeds in 7sec flat and they’re right on the money; on the day it produced a best of 6.9sec, using launch control where it rockets away with 3000rpm showing. An overtake takes 2sec less; just pull the shift lever back to S mode and you’re gone. The twin turbo unit uses a small turbo initially to spool up quickly at low revs, and then a bigger turbo for the muscular stuff of overtaking. It uses about 10.5L/100km when pushed, 6.0L/100km or so with active cruise set at 100. Uprated brakes do nicely too, a best stop from 100 of 34m dead impressive given the size and weight of this machine.
The vRS is a welcome addition to what’s already a popular vehicle. The V is said to stand for ‘victory’ and with this model we reckon Skoda’s about bang on. Get in and check it out if you’re in the market for a comfy, competent, quiet and quick family weapon.