Way back in 1955 two global superpowers namely the USA and Russia (USSR as it was back then) began a competitive fight to rule space. It started out with The US declaring that they were ‘soon’ to launch a satellite into space but the statement was received as a gauntlet and had the Soviet Union responding with a quick ‘one-two’ by sending ‘Sputnik 1’ (1957) off into orbit followed by the first man in space Yuri Gagarin in 1961. With a 2-0 count, the US was down but by no means out, they bounced back strongly and arguably trumped (pardon the pun) their cold war foes with Neil Armstrong putting his ‘small step’ on the surface of the moon (or on a dusty Hollywood studio floor – for all you conspiracy theorists out there).
Anyway, regardless of your beliefs on this matter, what the Space Race actually started was a giant leap towards our new technological age (it gave a boost for Math and Science learning, Satellites, GPS, Communication, computing – the list goes on – advancements now available to the public because of the developments made during this period). and maybe the acknowledgment that ‘mankind’ have an obsession with Space and going fast – and so that brings me on to Skoda’s all new Octavia RS.
The Octavia as we know it ‘launched’ in 1996 (it does share its name with a model produced between 1951-71 but we won’t talk about that) and has become the Czech car company’s most popular vehicle.
This year sees the Octavia receiving the ‘All new’ treatment and while Skoda has taken this to heart, they have still kept with their winning formula. Sharp pencils have created its ‘crystalline’ edges, so the new Octavia strikes dramatic shadows from virtually every angle. Up front, the LED double headlamps are both attractively different and smart – the AFS (Adaptive Frontlight System) adjusts the intensity of the light based on the driving/weather conditions. Deep skirt lines and roof hugging rails draw you gaze along its profile while crystal shape on the tailgate, cats eye reflectors, and C-shape LED lamps add extra dimensions to the rear.
While we are discussing the rear, open the electrically controlled tailgate and the Octavia offers you an impressive ‘seats up’ luggage capacity of 610L (1,740 seats down), remote folding seats, a removable flashlight, Velcro cargo fasteners and a 12v power socket. Continue on inside and you are greeted with back and front seat headroom of nearly a metre each, and oodles of leg room – yet all this ‘space’ fits neatly into a wagon that is only 4.68m long! The technology department have worked their magic and installed a raft of user (driver) friendly aids – adaptive cruise, radar and proximity sensors all round, Skoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ features, storage compartments dotted everywhere you look (and some places you don’t) and their impressive infotainment suite – the latter of which comes to you via a HD display screen you’d be proud to have to hang on your wall at home.
But I’m not here to talk about the ‘regular’ Octavia per se (however impressive it may be). I had the keys to the all new VRS or RS for short – it has all of the above but with some additional tasty treats too. First of all the engine. Under the unique lines of the bonnet is a 2L TSI turbo that has been tuned to deliver 169kW and 350 newtons. The exterior styling boasts gloss black grille, roof rails and door mirrors, VRS badging and 18” Gemini alloys. The interior comes with RS-badged bucket sports seats (that you’ll be pleased about), a 3 spoke multi-function sports leather steering wheel with paddles and a 6 speed DSG transmission that never skips a beat.
Oh and did I mention that the RS also has launch control? A quick exploration of the ‘menu’ has you turning off traction and engaging the ‘thrusters’. Once the Brake and accelerator are applied together, you are ready to release the hounds and what you receive is wheel spinning squeals and a seat pressing 0-100kph time of circa 7 seconds.
If stamping down hard on the accelerator is your thing, (of course it is), then you’ll be happy to know that the RS won’t disappoint. Off the line or on the move, it’s a car that produces plenty of power underfoot. I did find that it took a brief moment to respond to my demand for more speed (even turbos have limitations) but once engaged the Octavia rockets off down the street at a heart racing rate. However, it’s when breaking free of the city’s atmosphere that the RS begins to really thrive. It handles exceptionally well (I was going to say for an estate), but the fact is, it handles well full stop. It doesn’t feel like a station wagon of old, mainly because it isn’t one. This is modern thinking, technology and lightweight (yet strong) materials working in unison. The result is a sedan/sports car like wagon that is rapid and well planted on the straights, with grippy front wheels and a solid chassis that loves to pull you round the bends at near ‘uncomfortable’ speeds.
I really enjoyed the Octavia RS. It has oodles of space and plenty of power. It negotiates the asphalt well and stretches the realms of technology well into vehicles with a far greater RRP. I’m not saying the RS is quick enough to take you into orbit but with its large loading bay and powerful front end drive, it certainly is an ideal vehicle to have in a Space/Race.
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