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First drive: Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.

First drive: Skoda Octavia vRS 230
Skoda adds power, a limited-slip differential and some equipment to create the Octavia vRS 230.

   



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Skoda Octavia vRS 230

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A modest power increase, useful specification extras and a limited-slip differential create a new vRS flagship in the Octavia range. A quick test on track shows it's got real promise, adding agility and pace to the vRS's already impressive offering.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Skoda Octavia vRS 230 hatchback manual
Price: 26,350
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 142/km (Band F, 145 per year)
Combined economy: 45.6mpg
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Power: 230hp at 4,700- to 6,200rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1,500- to 4,600rpm

What's this?

Skoda's most powerful vRS production model, and the company's first ever with an electronic limiter at 155mph as a result. Power increases by a relatively modest 10hp, so the vRS 230 is not about a big boost in power; the changes are more incremental and subtle than that. That is if you ignore the standard 19-inch 'Xtreme' black alloy wheels, which are every bit as extrovert as their name suggests. The most significant change is the addition of an electronically controlled locking differential, bringing with it torque vectoring and promising an improvement in the car's dynamic ability, allowing the vRS 230 driver to use more of the available performance more of the time.

Signalling its range-topping status is an enhanced standard specification, which, along with those wheels, in a black theme, the grille, mirror caps, tailpipes and badging all getting a black finish. Helping achieve that slight increase in power is an all-new, acoustically tuned exhaust system and some ECU revisions, the vRS being equipped with Performance Mode Selection as standard, which in Sport mode activates the Performance Sound Generator.

The 10hp increase, combined with the traction enhancing ability of that differential, sees a drop of 0.1 seconds over the standard vRS's 0-62mph time, and while Skoda points out it's electronically limited to 155mph, the fact that the estate model has a quoted 154mph maximum suggests the hatch will trickle up to and tickle that limiter, rather than smash into it. Still, the performance improvements come without any penalty in economy and emissions, so it's something for nothing, or, in reality, 2,520.

How does it drive?

Fast and capable as it is, the vRS isn't a track car, which makes it all the more mystifying why Skoda chose to launch it exclusively on track. Specifically, the expansive, smooth tarmac of the Slovakia Ring. Expect some provisos, then, as a full verdict will be possible only when the vRS is driven on proper roads.

The changes aren't transformative, rather they enhance the already impressive package that the vRS offers. The new exhaust is immediately apparent, so there's a richer, more potent timbre to its accompaniment. That's welcomed rather than intrusive, it not so front of house as to ruin the vRS's always-impressive q-car, everyday usefulness. The power output increase might be modest, and the on-paper performance improvements similarly slight, but the 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine does seem to rev with greater enthusiasm. It feels more potent in its mid-range, though it'd need to be driven back-to-back with its standard relative to ascertain whether that's a placebo effect created by the bigger aural hit the freer-breathing fruitier-sounding exhaust brings.

Where the vRS 230 should bring an obvious advantage over its regular sibling is in agility. The new differential, as well as dynamic steering with a different ratio, enhances turn-in, traction and precision. The differential adds a torque vectoring effect to the drive, apportioning drive to the wheel with the best opportunity to use the available power. The effect isn't transformative, but there's greater immediacy at the steering wheel and the vRS 230's nose is keen to turn in, and more resolute mid-bend. That's true in slower, tighter corners as much as it is on big fast bends, the vRS 230 feeling keener, more composed and better able to exploit its power. It's to the benefit of traction, too, which may not have been that obvious on a smooth track, but on a rougher, more challenging surface - a UK road, for example - the electronic differential should allow the vRS 230 to put its power down with less drama than a full-bore acceleration attempt in its standard relation might bring.

The brakes, never lacking in the standard car on road, run out of ideas pretty quickly after sustained track use, while the differential is only able to work its magic if the tyres aren't ruined by overheating on the circuit. Though offered with both DSG automatic and manual transmissions (both with six ratios), the vRS 230 is shown in its best light and most enjoyable when it's got three pedals and a stick. The DSG gearbox is rather slow to react and second guesses your inputs to the frustration of progress and, ultimately, outright enjoyment - even in Sport mode, or when driven manually.

The standard 19-inch wheels are certain to have a slight negative effect on the vRS's ride quality, though that wasn't obvious on the track. Nonetheless, the vRS 230 is as rounded a performance car as its regular relation, though adds some useful improvements in agility, which should make for a more engaging and capable, rapid family car on the road. We'll find out for sure when we get it on the road, rather than just the track.

Verdict

The Octavia vRS has always blended an almost unique combination of space, pace and ability in a sensibly priced, conservatively-styled package. The vRS 230 does little to change that, with a few notable exceptions - those wheels looking a touch aftermarket to our eyes. The promise of greater dynamism on road thanks to that electronic differential and a more comprehensive standard equipment package do make it look like a compelling upgrade. Indeed, specify a standard vRS up to the vRS spec, where possible, and it's more expensive than the new flagship, and that's before you add that trick differential into the equation.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 21 Sep 2015



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2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Shane O'Donoghue.



2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230. Image by Skoda.
 






 

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