Much to the chagrin of the missus, I am a fried potato addict. I love them. In all forms. From the handful few wavy crisps at the bottom of a puffed up bag to the crisply fried French fries in that red box that comes with the burger, I love them. They make me happy you see. They bring a smile to my face when there is no reason for joy. In my life, there are only a few things that can compare to such a simple delight. The newly launched Skoda Octavia RS has to be one of those few things.
Launched at a competitive (there is nothing at this price point that will give you this kind of performance) Rs 24.62 lakh, ex-showroom, the Octavia RS is the common man’s sportscar – sport sedan, if you like. It looks like the regular car, which means you aren’t overtly flashy on the road and can maintain your low profile until you need to lose it. This also means the Octavia RS will give you all the benefits of the regular sedan, including that massive boot with the notchback opening. The only benefit that you won’t get is that of ground clearance because the RS sits 15mm lower than the regular sedan. Bummer? Not quite. The reason why the RS sits closer to the tarmac is because this helps aero efficiency and also lowers centre of gravity – both essential for a performance sedan. Under the bonnet is Volkswagen Group’s 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine. This 1968cc four-cylinder unit puts out a healthy 227bhp and 350Nm of torque and is mated to a six-speed DSG dual clutch transmission.
But none of this is new, is it? So what are we going to tell you that you don’t know already? We’re going to give you an idea of just how much fun you can have driving the Skoda Octavia RS. We can, because we have already had a bit of fun at the launch and drive of the most powerful and the fastest Skoda car to be produced and sold in this country.
With the two laps that we were allowed so that we could “experience the product” according to Skoda, there was no time for a sighting lap or any form of familiarisation. You just strap yourself in and get on with it. And that’s exactly what I did, and in the process discovered how the familiarity of shared bits between the RS and the regular car gave me so much confidence. I knew the layout and knew just as well that I wouldn’t need to come to grips with an unfamiliar car on an untried circuit. The circuit in question, being a tiny and narrow track inside the premises of Raymond factory in Thane near Mumbai.
With no room for thought, because Skoda India was already fighting a losing battle with timelines and schedules, or error, because there is no margin of error on a track this narrow, I hit the throttle. The DSG kicks into action as the car’s Hankook tyres spin for just a moment before gripping the black top and hurling us forward. The motor is punchy and the propulsion from that turbo petrol makes for a quick accelerating car. But the acceleration isn’t brutal. It pinned me to the seat and held me there but didn’t rip my arms out of their sockets. As a result it will thrill you without scaring you to death, but remember, with 227bhp on tap, all this is deceptive. Although we didn’t have the time or the opportunity to test the veracity of Skoda’s claim of 0-100kmph in 6.8 seconds, the car piles on speed rapidly.
At the first turn, a 90-degree right hander, I hit the middle pedal and the brakes bite into the rotors with a viciousness that would do a hound proud, causing just a hint of a lockup before the ABS kicks in. For a car that tips the scales with a 1,418-kilo kerb weight, the Octavia RS turns with the alacrity of a running deer. The electro-mechanical variable ratio steering is accurate and sharp but like with all steerings with electrical assist, however mild, feedback at the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel could have been better.
The suspension setup is stiffer than on the regular car but Skoda says that it has been tuned keeping in mind Indian road conditions. We therefore reckon it would be slightly softer than the setup on the European spec car. Handling is of course impressive from whatever we could judge from the two laps we got on a track that around the track that is essentially a pair of concentric circles that double back on each other and doesn’t suit such a big car at all. What did come through however was just how much potential there is for fun. It’s a hoot to drive, even on a narrow track with water pools in at least two parts of the circuit. In fact, I would think it’s so much of a hoot that it might actually give those French fries a run for its money where the question of happiness is concerned.
So should you buy it then if you’re a petrolhead? On the face of it, that would be a yes for there is absolutely nothing that you can buy for less than a quarter of a lakh rupees that will give you a stable with 200-plus horses. But if you want to find out more about Skoda’s newest, then wait till we get our hands on it again.