A Sporting Grand Tour with the Skoda Octavia Combi RS 184 HP 2.0 CRTDI DSG6 4X4.

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Skoda was literally very much in the picture in the Tour de France. When we had the occasion to make our own trip through the French “Hexagone” behind the stylish three spoked wheel of this sporting Skoda, you can understand we were looking forward to a delightful motoring experience,

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Needless to say that on the road to the French Midi we took the Skoda through its paces on an iconic “col” of the Tour de France, the Grand Ballon d’Alsace… here we drive over the finish line at the top!

enjoying the engineering excellence and the fine sporting tradition of the brand, thanks to the dynamic PR team of Skoda Import Belgium. Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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This time we enjoyed the fine thoroughbred qualities of the Octavia in combination with the 135 kW, 2 liter Diesel engine, and we were not only impressed again by its excellent agility and road qualities, but also by the formidable pulling power of this state of the art Diesel unit.

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Performance was top notch with superb accelerations at any speed, in every gear. This is amply witnessed by the 0 to 100 km sprint time, with boils down to a mere 8 seconds. Top speed is not less than 228 kmh. The unit runs very smooth with a rather sporting throb, displaying the good qualities we have come to appreciate from this well engineered unit, which is honed to perfection to please in everyday use.

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In “our” Octavia it was coupled to the 6 speed DSG auto box, which is ideally matched to this engine. This gearbox is a true delight. Gearchanges are lightning fast and smooth, with the gearchange programmes ideally suited to your driving moods. In the normal D mode, it will use the excellent torque of the engine to the full, keeping low revs wherever and whenever possible. Not that it lets the engine labor unduly hard when more power is called for. Swiftly the box changes down, giving the driver this reassuring responsiveness which one needs in present day traffic conditions.

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Pull the gearlever back and you change instantly in “S” mode. Now this Skoda shows its sporting pedigree. Engine revs are kept above 2000 rpm virtually all the time, and the slightest blip on the throttle will translate in a power surge proper to a high performance car. Torque is not less than 380 Nm between 1750 and 3250 rpm, so you understand what we mean.

Note that there is also a Launch-Control function provided, and as the box is electronically controlled, individual driving modes are possible, i.e. Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. More about the “Eco” function further.  In the “Individual” mode, you can set the sensitivity of the steering, the amount of lock of the limited slip differential, how the engine accelerates with ACC engaged, even the sound of the engine can be chosen…

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The Octavia in posh surroundings, here in Geneva…

Driving in the mountainous Alsace and through Switzerland on secondary roads, through its scenic wine region towards Geneva, via Neuchatel and Lausanne, we appreciated also the dual gearchange commands. The paddles on the steering wheel are handy on larger curves when both hands can be kept on the wheel, but when negotiating alpine hairpin roads, it is more handy to shift the gearlever fore and aft in true rally driver style, as a lot of steering work has to be done with hands not always within reach of the paddles…

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Needless to say true drivers’ delight sets in, with the well curved seats holding you firmly into place, whilst you enjoy the excellent brakes and the superb handling and road holding. This Skoda RS combi is very swift and agile, and a true sporting machine, which makes you the better driver you always wanted to be.

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We also appreciated on our Gran Turismo trip the driver assistance systems like for instance the Lane Assist. On rain drenched “Autoroute” stretches near Chambéry it certainly came in handy when passing heavy trucks in a mist of rain and spraying water. It makes that long distance driving ever more restful along with the ACC of course, which is another priceless asset when it comes to effortless and safe Gran Turismo driving.

Of course this Skoda remains utterly practical, sturdy, well engineered and built, and last but not least economical.

Miracles just don’t happen, but the average consumption taking into account the car’s weight, the fact that it has permanent 4 x 4 drive and an automatic, is nothing short of admirable. Average consumption around the 6 liter mark per 100 km is easily achievable. The manufacturer quotes 4,8 liters on the standard ECE test as combined consumption, with CO2 emissions being 126 g/km.

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A word is proper here about the “Eco” mode, where the gearbox will cleverly choose the optimum combination of engine torque and power. The box will not only do that, but will also let the car coast whenever you lift the throttle, also at Autobahn cruising speeds. All this is done wonderfully smooth, with not the slightest transmission jerks noticeable when one pushes the throttle down again, and the transmission engages. Quite an impressive engineering feat!

Now don’t think when you are driving downhill in the Eco mode and you lift the throttle, that the Octavia will just coast and you have only the brakes to slow you down. No, the transmission notices the downhill gravity force on the car, and indeed, will stop coasting and engage the proper gear nevertheless and use the engine braking power, to maintain the speed you chose. How clever!

One can even follow its “Eco” driving performance on the central navigation screen, when choosing the “car” mode. When driven with restraint and anticipation, it is quite easy to obtain consumption figures in the region of 5,5 liters and less, even when driving briskly.

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The four wheel drive is a class of its own. The power division between front and rear wheels is totally automatically steered, through an electronic multi plate clutch. In normal driving circumstances, only the front wheels are driven. Under more difficult conditions, it takes only a few milliseconds to engage the rear wheels also…

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The available luggage and passenger room for a car of this platform size is truly massive, and the Skoda engineers are true masters in the art when it comes to make good use of space. This combi not only seats five passengers easily, it has also a standard luggage space of not less than 610 liters with the back seat still in the upright position. With the rear seat folded down, it grows to an almost incredible 1740 liters, with carrying capacity of not less than 566 kg.

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Needless to say this proved very useful on our Gran Turismo trip. Not only did we have enough space for all our luggage, we also managed to carry along an antique table and even then had extra room for those two dozen wine bottles we bought at a Swiss vineyard…

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Remains the excellent workmanship, quality of the used materials and the styling of the car. We said it many times, we like the Skoda instrument styling, with its preference for big, round, classic looking dials and clear, good lettering. Just continue this tradition, we would say. We were again charmed by the finish of the dashboard, the accent lines, the position of all handles and levers. At night, all controls are illuminated, also in the steering wheel. Noblesse oblige!

Our car came also with the large panorama roof, with added that extra touch of holiday driving pleasure.

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Conclusion

This Skoda RS Combi proved to be a most ideal touring car, built for fast, high performance Gran Turismo motoring, as engine, drivetrain and chassis prove to be most outstanding. It thereby is well built to last, roomy and stylishly elegant, as we explained also in our previous test. So you can understand that we were rather sad to part with this Skoda…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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