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Exclusive: Skoda Kodiaq RS 2019 track review

By Daniel Gardner, 26 Aug 2019 Car Reviews

We beat Australia to the punch and take the box-fresh Skoda Kodiaq RS for a first blast around Phillip Island

skoda kodiaq rs

The scenario you see playing out here may never have happened at all. Until just a few weeks ago, Volkswagen Group – the parent company that owns Czech brand Skoda – had deemed Australia too hot and dusty for certain high-performance engines. And that included the mighty dual-turbo diesel that powers Skoda’s new Kodiak RS.

It’s not that the company couldn’t make the latest member of the seven-seater family work in an extreme climate, but the measures required simply didn’t make economic sense. It was the same for the Audi S3 and the current Volkswagen Golf R, both of which arrive in Australia with detuned engines, compared with their European counterparts.

Far simpler than modifying air ducts, detuning the engine and chucking in a larger capacity radiator was a review of Australia’s climate in the eyes of VW Group, and that’s exactly what Skoda Australia campaigned for … and won.

Instead, Australia is now regarded as ‘moderately hot’ and the fruit of that hard work is exactly the same Kodiaq RS that’s sold in Europe. It’s now available to Australians including every one of its 176 kilowatts and the full 500Nm of torque, not a muzzled version.

Read next: Hotter VW Group cars on the way

And it’s exactly that full-fat, unfettered Kodiaq that we got our hands on weeks ahead of the official local press launch, and before anyone else in Australia had driven it.

In more pedestrian 132TSI or 140TDI incarnations, one of the first qualities you notice about the Kodiaq large SUV is how beautifully lively and rewarding its chassis is to throw through a few corners.Shortly after, you might find yourself yearning for a bit more power.

That’s where the new RS blasts in. It takes the same excellent platform courtesy of Volkswagen’s prevalent MQB blank canvas and adds a little Skoda RS magic. Off the mark, the Kodiaq RS is brilliantly rapid.

Mazda CX-8 Asaki vs Skoda Kodiaq Sportline 140TDI

As soon as the throttle is stabbed to the wide open position, a tiny turbo accelerates up to maximum boost like a Jack Russel across a putting green. That’s enough to get the first of the dual clutches in the automatic transmission slipping hard and sending the initial wave of torque to all four wheels with dutiful urgency.

Shortly after, the second turbo – fuelled by the exhalations of the little guy – begins a larger boost assault, ramming more air into the now faster-spinning engine (we’re now talking Saint Bernard bounding along a windy beach, if you needed another visual analogy).

The onset of full boost wicks the torque and power up to their peak outputs and the four Pirelli P Zeros slap all that go down to the blacktop with the competency you would expect.

Officially, the Kodiaq RS gets from a standstill to 100km/h in 7.0 seconds, but thanks to its ability to jump off the line like someone has stamped on its tail, it feels significantly faster. Okay, we’re done with the dog references now.

Extracting that much energy and drama from just 2.0 litres of four-cylinder donk would be tarnished if it was accompanied by a diesel clatter and muted report, but it isn’t. Some noise is piped into the cabin via the sound system, but a microphone strapped to the back of the RS confirmed for us that a huge dollop of its deep note is very real. Top marks here too.

There’s a little more roll than expected through corners but no more than the standard Sportline Kodiaq and, like the other variants, the RS has the same lovely feedback through the steering that is more akin to a previous hot-hatch era than family lugging SUV.

It’s 20-inch wheels (of the same design as the Octavia RS) wear low profile rubber that resists deformation on faster corners and there is an even greater sense of confidence in its manners.

Despite the enthusiastic driving style, the excellent Alcantara appointed seats keep you pinned with a decidedly un-SUV like driving position and complement the understated interior that manages to be noteworthy and desirable without being ostentatious.

Read next: 3 large SUVs offering value, comfort and style

We will wait for a full on-road assessment before making a final judgement on its ride and handling but the early signs are good – especially given what its 132TSI and 140TDI siblings have already proven away from the track.

Park the new RS next to a fully optioned Sportline and there is a similar visual appeal. At the pointy end of the spectrum, the Kodiaq is doubtless a good looking machine, but this RS newcomer is finally keeping the promises that its handsome exterior makes.

For years, the Octavia RS has been Skoda’s performance-with-practicality bargain of the century (that Australians seem to ignore). But with RS genes now woven into its popular large SUV, it appears there is little else in its class that can touch the Kodiaq RS for all-round ability.

Ultimately, its success comes down to price in Australia's competitive market and with pragmatic buyers. At $65,990 you could argue the Kodiaq RS is pricey, but like its long list of attributes, there's not a lot to compete with it on cost either.