The Laura supposedly packs over 300bhp. Tarun pops the hood of his white RS in classic Fast and Furious pre-drag race fashion to show us the carbonfibre APR stage 3 kit flanking the cylinder block. Byram and I begin to inspect the pornography under the hood – the Pipercross air induction kit, turbo churning out 26 PSI of boost, an LSD somewhere down there with a stage 3 clutch, Tarun has really gone to town with the Laura. There were a pair of gutka packets too… not what you think, but to keep the rats out. And the way he was caning the car through the twisties heading up to Lavasa, I believe even the gutka added a few more horses to that mental Laura. ‘My poor old baby.’ Being the stereotypical bawa boy, Byram went to his black Mk1 Octavia RS, took the exterior microfibre cleaning cloth (you of course have another one for the interior when you are a bawa) and wiped off the three specks of dust. ‘She’s gone into hiding.’
I contemplate taking out a rag and getting to work on the brake dust of the car I’ve driven up in and then I remember we have 227bhp here. To hell with it. I go back for another drive in the grey Mk3 Octavia RS. Just like the very first RS, and the second RS (that, to be honest, wasn’t really an RS until you tuned it yourself) the new one is all the car you will ever need – a car for every drive and every season. But let’s start at the beginning shall we, with the Mk1 RS.
Once upon a time…
…turbo petrols weren’t a thing. Today you can get a boosted petrol in everything from a Baleno and Punto to almost every VW Group car and SUV but 12 years ago we were tripping on 1.3 Suzukis and Honda’s VTEC. And then came a car that literally blew us away! A manual box, hydraulic rack, body kit, big wheels, a new word in our lexicon – torque steer, and a sub-10-second 0-100kmph time. R and S, these two letters changed everything. Even though it was detuned for India and dished out 148bhp (compared to the euro-spec 177bhp) this was still the fastest thing on four wheels. And it handled. It was the first car lowered, stiffened and shod with meaty tyres, in an era where stickers passed off as sporty editions.
The Mk1 RS was essentially a Jetta with a Golf GTI engine and its combination was hard to beat. Charging up the hills in Byram’s pristine (and you better believe it’s pristine to another level!) car, I’m reminded that chassis could take a lot more abuse from the engine. And even in its detuned state, it was not only quicker than anything made in India but also bloody efficient. Byram tells me 14kmpl on a regular drive was possible and if you feather it, 20kmpl. But if you got it to a switchback and continued to go easy on it, the RS would embarrass you. The Mk1 suffers massive turbo lag, and you just can’t drive her in a higher gear if you want to go fast. Skoda geared the car such that you were crossing the three figure mark in second, and that means the longer first and second gear forces you to rev its heart out to almost 7000rpm up this Lavasa road. The RS whooshes through corners, darts out if you stay on boost and hides its age unlike any car of its time. There’s one absolute way to convert a regular guy into a petrolhead and that’s redlining through gears. Once you experience the meaty mid-range and find out that there’s more on the other side, you are never going back to being a regular guy. Byram has also lowered the car and given it a Revo stage-one upgrade, which brings it on par with the Euro-spec car, so this is the real deal.
And then they slapped on a body kit
Jump into Tarun’s car from Byram’s and my brain needs a recalibration. It does the quarter mile in 13.9 seconds. There’s a Magnaflow turbo back exhaust, a Forge Motorsports blow-off valve, Audi R8(!) coil pack, 330mm brake kit, Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres, and over Rs 13 lakh of depleted bank balance. With the Mk1 Octavia – especially the Rider-spec that was stripped off features but still had the 1-8 turbo motor – Indian tuners realised that you could tune the hell out of the Octavia without a problem; some cars run over 240 horsepower! So when the Mk2 Octavia was launched in India, more muscles were flexed.
Skoda not only called the Mk2 Octavia the Laura but when the RS version came, we got the short end of the stick. Instead of 200bhp Skoda India just stiffened the suspension on the 1.8-litre TSI Laura and so very few bothered with the so-called Laura RS, instead RS-ing their regular TSI. Tarun’s TSI is prime example. Nevertheless, 160 horsepower was a good starting point and as wild as Tarun’s car is, there’s even more to be gained. The Laura makes all the right intake and exhaust noises and whooshes louder than an experienced ho__, I’ll leave that to your imagination.
That brings us to the braaap at the redline. That fantastic Nardo grey paint (steel grey officially) on the Mk3, instantly makes it special. It plays the part of being the calm before the storm, the pleasant family sedan before you tug the left paddle and mash the right foot into the firewall. Paddle? The Mk1 had a 5-speed manual, the Mk2 a six-speed manual, but this one, sigh, no manual box. Instead, it has got the 6-speed DSG, thankfully not the problematic 7-speed that also limits torque to 250Nm, but still, a DSG box makes it more expensive to play with. The Mk3 RS does the 0-100kmph sprint in a claimed 6.8 seconds, quicker than even a skilled driver can achieve with a manual gearbox. While I miss the immersion that a manual delivers to the driving experience, I do understand why the DSG is being offered, there are hardly any cars north of 20 lakh rupees that sell with manual gearboxes.
That aside, the new RS is bloody quick for a sub Rs 25 lakh car, shaving off about 3 seconds from the first generation car, and this time, thankfully, we get the proper Euro-spec RS. 227bhp/350Nm, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, E-diff, Alcantara interiors, there is everything. The engine is from the Audi TT although the Octy makes 20Nm less than the quattro-equipped sportscar. It shares the gearbox too, which explains why the Octavia gets a DSG now. What makes the Octavia RS fantastic value is that the TT costs 2.5 times more, and you get the same powertrain with a cavernous boot.
It’s all Alcantara inside, lovely red top-stitching holds the leather together, the touchscreen infotainment screen makes the RS look more expensive than it is and once you sit in those all-consuming front buckets, there is no getting out. I keep reminding myself that it is a 25 lakh rupee car, an Octavia that has doubled its price since the Mk1 RS yet somehow is the best bang for your (performance-oriented) buck. It’s the kind of car that should convince you just by looking at the brochure. And then comes the hill climb.
You don’t drive a front-wheel drive car with the traction control on. Turn it off, it won’t bite your bum. Now once that’s done, get in and stay pinned through a set of twisties. That 2-litre TFSI unit is a peach, has a pleasing soundtrack to it and loves to rev. It braaps through gears, builds a lovely pitch as you feed in throttle, grips the tarmac with those PS4s like a possessive lover and when the bends tighten on themselves, the electronic differential challenges the front-wheel drive car’s tendency to understeer. You don’t get completely rid of it but this VW Group E-Diff is a complete game changer. By braking the inside (spinning) wheel the E-Diff simulates the effect of a limited slip differential and sends more torque to the outside wheel (with more grip) thus reducing wasteful (inside wheel) spin and delivering harder and faster corner exits. More than anything, it makes the Octavia RS a lot more confidence inspiring when you are mercilessly attacking a series of bends. The stiffer suspension set up reduces roll without feeling too firm and the steering wheel has been calibrated for enthusiastic driving too, so it weighs up well and the accuracy is there too.
227bhp in the Mk3 Octy can be harnessed to its full potential. It’s why the RS feels less hairy yet as quick, if not quicker than the 300bhp Laura. It’s fast, desirable and equipped to the gills. It may seem expensive but I will also tell you this, at this price you will not get a better go-faster car that you can drive straight out of the showroom. The Mk3 RS raises the (very high) bar set by its predecessors. It is not only a car for the serious enthusiast but is a car that commands serious respect from fellow enthusiasts. For the petrolhead, this is the only car that he will ever need.