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2018 Skoda Octavia RS track review

By David Morley, 17 Jul 2018 Best Value Performance Cars

Family wagon finds its purpose on the road, not at a racetrack

2018 Skoda Octavia RS track review

Given the road-car bias of this thing, Skoda (or, at least, Volkswagen) has done an impressive job of engineering a decent performance wagon into the bargain here.

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2018

True, the Octavia RS was more or less handed its own backside by some of the other stuff here, but as a car to get to and from a racetrack rather than to drive on it exclusively, the RS would take a bit of beating in this company.

So where’d they get it right? Well, from the moment you sit inside the Octavia, you’re amazed at how lush anybody can make a car at this price point. Seriously, that diamond-quilted upholstery is beyond just nice and, in line with anything else to fall off the VAG shelf, there’s a general air of being nicely put together.

Throw in power seats and you’ve got yourself a real comfy wagon that is anything but slow in the real world. In fact, the booted Octavia RS steers truly and rides better than you might have been expecting.

So where’d it go wrong for the RS? Well, those same beautifully quilted, electric chairs lack a bit of side support when you’re having a big go on the track. And there’s more that stamps the Octavia as a non-track car. (Although, if we’re honest, that’s not really a surprise.)

That starts with the lack of power-down through not having a serious front diff in the thing. You can see the result of that in the lap times and corner speeds where the RS was off the pace of the rest of the pack. Throw a decent limited-slip diff at it and it’d almost have to improve, but then the rather tasty $42K price tag might go down the gurgler at the same time.

Wagon wonders: 5 brilliant alternatives to an SUV

Another part of that puzzle is the lack of a proper over-ride for the transmission, which seems a bit headstrong. Thing is, we know that the VAG DSG can be sharper than a New York stand-up when it needs to be, so who knows why this one doesn’t want to play ball to the same extent. As it is, you can prod the tranny all you like and it’ll still change gears (up or down) when it damn well feels like it.

There’s one other factor playing against the Octavia RS as a track tool, and that’s the damn stability-control program. It seems really clumsy with both traction and stability control intervening early and without a whisker of finesse.

You’re left with the impression that the mapping is pretty two-dimensional and slip or yaw in any amount equals intervention. Instantly. Maybe if you could turn the program off, we’d all get along, but unless there’s a switch I missed, that isn’t possible. Hell, even for road duties, the RS’s ESP is over the top.

Getting your money's worth on Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Skoda Octavia RS BFYB 2018 Results - 13th place

0-100km/h: 6.84sec (12th)
0-400m: 14.82sec @ 159.18km/h (12th)

Lap Time: 1:43.40sec (14th)

Price: $42,890

Bang Index: 83.1

Bucks Index: 117.1

BFYB Index: 98.4

Judges' Comments

Warren Luff - 11th
“Not one of the cars you’d expect to be a standout performer in track performance, but it really does deliver some surprising results. Probably its biggest downfall is a lack of a diff through some of the tighter sections because you’re really struggling with wheel spin on corner exit, which hurts the lap time. But it’s a good, fun car and it’s got really good driver input and feel. You’d just love it to have a proper LSD, it would improve the driving experience.”

David Morley - 10th
“Simply clever? Yeah, in so many ways”

Dylan Campbell - 8th
“An honest, sensible all-round performer that lives to please”

Scott Newman - 11th
“Love it as a car but on-limit handling ain’t its thing”

Louis Cordony - 11th
“Great package, although it’s a bit allergic to the ten-tenths stuff”

2018 Skoda Octavia RS

BODY: 5-door, 5-seat wagon
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5mm x 92.8mm
POWER: 180kW @ 6700rpm
TORQUE: 370Nm @ 1600rpm
WEIGHT: 1467kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 123kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 272mm solid discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Pirelli P Zero 225/35 R19 (f/r) 
PRICE: $42,890

Bang For Your Bucks 2018

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