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First drive: Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.

First drive: Skoda Vision E concept
Getting a taste for Skoda's bright EV future as we drive the Vision E concept car.


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Skoda Vision E concept

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Skoda wants to build five fully electric vehicles (EVs) between now and 2025, with the first of them arriving in showrooms in 2020. Sounds like a big ask, doesn't it, given the company doesn't really have any electric models of which to speak? Well, fear not - because the Vision E concept car, previewed in Shanghai earlier this year and due to make its European debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, is the basis for that first showroom EV... and we've already had a drive of it to get a taste of Skoda's electrified future.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Skoda Vision E concept
Engine: twin electric motors, mounted front and rear, lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: four-wheel drive, reduction gearbox
Body style: five-door SUV crossover
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (free annual VED)
Range: 312 miles target
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: circa 6.0 seconds
Power: 306hp (combined)

What's this?

The Skoda Vision E concept car. Following its Shanghai bow earlier this year and before a forthcoming show appearance at Frankfurt, Skoda has allowed us a drive in this near-priceless, one-off concept car. But why? Well, cast your minds back to previous Skoda concepts and you'll realise they eventually went into production, largely unchanged from what we had seen previously at glitzy motor show events. Thus, Vision C begat the Superb, while the Vision S evolved into the Kodiaq, so what we're looking at here is '85 per cent' similar to what we will see from the first of Skoda's five EVs, all arriving from 2020-2025.

It's a noble aim and should see Skoda becoming one of the EV market leaders, certainly within the Volkswagen Group, but as the company isn't even rocking any plug-in hybrids at the moment, perhaps going straight to full EVs is going to be a stretch too far. Or perhaps not. Based on the MEB platform (a modular chassis optimised for EVs, that will be used in the wider Volkswagen Group in much the same way the MQB has been employed for transverse, front- and four-wheel-drive combustion-engined machines since 2012), the Vision E has a couple of motors driving both its axles, with figures being bandied about that include a 312-mile range, 0-62mph in around six seconds dead and a peak output of 306hp.

Like all Skodas, it should also be thoroughly capacious within, despite its coupe-like exterior, as the front bulkhead of MEB is mounted a long way forward of where it would be on a conventional petrol or diesel machine. OK, so a lot of the underpinnings of the Vision E are being kept obscured (we don't know torque, we don't know battery capacity size or recharge times, we don't know final boot space or seating configurations), but we can ascertain quite a few things about the eventual production car by having a close look round the Vision E, before taking it for a brief, low-speed drive.

Things such as its handsome styling. Strip it of the Skoda badges on the exterior and paint it in anything but the identifying metallic green of the concept, and we still reckon most people would quickly tell you it hailed from the Czech Republic. It has all the brand's hallmark signifiers, like creases on its flanks, sharp light clusters and a certain elegant proportionality that means it's a coupe SUV we actually like the look of, rather than one where we merely tolerate its aesthetic (cough cough, BMW and Mercedes...). Yep, even without dazzling strips of LEDs on its flanks, this should be another Skoda 'looker'.

The interior is harder to determine, because it's here where concept cars are more outlandish than ever and the Vision E has a cabin bedecked with crystalline structures backlit by the soft, suffusing glow of white LEDs, while there are no fewer than 12 screens of various shapes and sizes dotted about the cabin. However, look through all the show-stopping items at the basic underlying structure and it's clear to see that Skoda is readying an all-new console shape for market, complete with a two-tier effect and plenty of infotainment displays. The car company says that the Vision E is capable of Level 3 autonomous driving (basically, the ability for the EV to look after itself on most roads, only asking the driver to intervene in really tricky situations) and that it should be the first of a range of super-connected, Cloud-communicating vehicles from the brand, and the concept's striking use of large, pin-sharp visual displays only reinforces that tech-heavy message. We're not sure the overhead-panoramic windscreen or quartet of individual bucket seats will make the cut, though, but they only add to the drama of the Vision E's passenger compartment.

How does it drive?

Couching this in the terms that we only got to drive the Vision E within a deserted conference hall on the outskirts of Prague, in the company of a burly-looking minder called Stanislav who made sure we didn't exceed much more than walking pace, you'll understand if we refrain from talking about steering feel, levels of front-end grip and what the body control is like - truth is, no one yet knows what the production version of the Vision E will be like from behind the wheel.

Instead, this is a chance to sample how smoothly Skoda is going to integrate electric drivetrains into its fleet. But before we do that, some interesting little nuggets from the presentations surrounding the 'test drive' of the Vision E: firstly, Skoda's EV boss Dr Guido Haak reckons the Tesla Model X, possibly the most obvious rival in terms of concept, is 'vanilla' and that Skoda could easily match its output/performance claims if it wanted to, but that doing so for a democratised price is a different matter; secondly, all of Skoda's five EVs coming by 2025 will be either four-wheel drive, as with the Vision E, or, intriguingly, rear-wheel drive, resurrecting a drivetrain layout that hasn't been seen in the company since the Skoda Rapid of the 1980s (yes, THAT Skoda Rapid); and thirdly, connected to that, a 'halo' sports model for the marque could well be part of this EV family. Dr Haak, again, says that EVs are inherently exciting to drive, due to their instant torque delivery, and that Skoda will look to capitalise on that by deliberately making its electrified cars engaging to steer.

Big decisions and developments all, which makes the Vision E all the more important. And, off the back of this truncated experience behind its octagonal wheel, it's going to be as deeply impressive as we'd expect of Skoda's products. To drive, it feels every bit as smooth and refined as any fully engineered EV already out on the public market, the Vision E picking up speed both serenely and smartly. While ultimate velocity might have been limited, a few exploratory prods of the throttle revealed enough poke to suggest the 306hp figure is not a pipe dream. The steering is a bit slow and the turning circle gigantic, but both of those are more a direct corollary of the Vision E's massive showpiece alloys at all corners, a feature unlikely to make the showrooms. Otherwise, drivetrain refinement is high and the Vision E feels, simultaneously, like it is a close relative of the Kodiaq SUV and also as easy to use as any other EV, such as a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3. All very, very good news indeed.


If you look at our individual section ratings below, you'll see that we've gone for middling marks for Comfort and Driving Dynamics, but that's only because we've understandably only driven the Skoda Vision E around a Czech warehouse at little more than walking pace; we can't accurately tell you how the production version will drive from this brief sally forth in a cotton-wool-wrapped concept car.

However, what is blindingly obvious is that a bloody good EV is on the way from Skoda. Tone down a few of the Vision E's visual excesses and party pieces, and underneath it all is a highly attractive, accommodating coupe-SUV that'll be capable of doing some serious real-world mileage in zero-emissions silence. OK, getting the price of the Vision E right will be key - it needs to be quite a lot cheaper than a Tesla Model X, for instance - and as Skoda won't tell us the capacity of those li-ion batteries, in order to get that 300-mile range, then we're unsure as to how long it will take to recharge a Vision E once its juice has all been used.

But, even so, what we have here is a brave new dawn for Skoda, one in which it could become the EV leader for the wider Volkswagen Group. And how much of a coup for Mlada Boleslav would that be, given the UK climate on combustion engines and 2040 and all that nonsense? Huge, we reckon. We're therefore eagerly waiting, with bated breath, for this one to morph into a production reality.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 31 Aug 2017    - Skoda road tests
- Skoda news
- Vision E concept images

2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.

2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.2017 Skoda Vision E concept. Image by Matt Vosper.


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