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Driven: Skoda Kodiaq vRS. Image by Skoda UK.

Driven: Skoda Kodiaq vRS
Does the return of a diesel-only vRS Skoda make sense when itís getting on for 50 grand? Time to find outÖ

 



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Skoda Kodiaq vRS

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: all the usual Kodiaq strengths plus rapid performance and talented chassis

Not so good: you have to square the robust price of it in your head to make any sense of the vRS whatsoever; very fake engine noise will annoy some

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Kodiaq vRS
Price: Kodiaq range from £26,140; vRS from £44,065, car as tested £46,630
Engine: 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door seven-seat performance SUV
CO2 emissions: 167g/km (VED Band 151-170: £530 in year one, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.3mpg
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Power: 240hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,750-2,500rpm
Boot space: 230 litres (all seven seats up), 630 litres (five seats up, rear two folded away), 1,950 litres (all five seats in rows two and three folded down)

Our view:

This Skoda Kodiaq vRS is a car about which your considerations of it will entirely hinge upon what you make of its pricing. That might seem like an obvious observation to open with, as surely all vehicles - being big-ticket purchases in the grand scheme of life - have to offer the right value-for-money balance, no matter what level of the market they're operating at. However, there are some machines which are, um, more boldly marked-up than others, and then it becomes the be-all and end-all to whether they're a success or not, no matter how nicely they might drive.

Therefore, if you're looking with horror at the fact you'll need the best part of 47 grand for an optioned-up Kodiaq vRS, when the Czech SUV's range begins at £26,140 (admittedly, for a boggo SE-spec five-seat Kodiaq), then nothing we're about to say is likely to convince you that the vRS is worth the outlay; 'for crying out loud', we hear you, er, cry, 'it's fully 78.4 per cent more pricey than the entry-level version'. However, it's not just a 190hp TDI variant with the wick turned up. And that's why we think it's brilliant, albeit not the Skodiaq you should be heading to first and foremost.

For a start, everything that's good about the Kodiaq's chiselled exterior looks and high-quality, vast interior holds true in the vRS, only it is enhanced with gloss-black detailing on the outside - for the radiator grille, the door mirrors, the roof rails and the window surrounds - as well as a truly lovely set of 20-inch Xtreme alloy wheels and a pair of trapezoidal exhaust pipes. Inside, the kit list is abundant, including the use of the first digital cluster in a Kodiaq; it's an adaptation of the same display you'd find in a Cupra Ateca (see 'The Rivals', below), rather than an Audi Virtual Cockpit or Volkswagen Active Info Display, but it's still excellent to look at and use. There are also luscious part-Alcantara vRS-branded seats, with contrast diamond-pattern stitching, although - as it's the pricey flagship - it's a shame that things like the Canton sound system (£405), heated front and rear seats (£205) and Lane Assist plus Blind-Spot Detection (£910) are cost options to inflate its meaty ticket further.

Nevertheless, it looks magnificent inside and out. And then there are further bits of equipment, which you can't see, which are added at the factory. The 2.0-litre single-turbo TDI, with 190hp, is removed and replaced with a twin-turbo diesel which generates 240hp and a whopping 500Nm, the most twist that you'll have encountered in any Skoda product so far. Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive and switchable dampers are part of the standard tech, as well as Progressive Steering and 340mm front, 310mm rear brake discs gripped by red callipers. And then there's the Dynamic Sound Booster, too.

Now, this last one is going to further alienate some people, who are against sound synthesis in modern performance cars in any form at all. And we've said before that it's sounds that shouldn't be there at all in decent petrol engines (hint hint, Peugeot 308 GTi) which grate the most with us. Turbodiesels, though... they've never sounded good, right? So why not augment them with something a little fruitier, when you can? It works superbly for the Audi SQ7. And it works almost as well for this Skodiaq vRS, if you can get over the fact that (when you're standing outside it and someone else is manoeuvring it for you) what sounds like a V8 petrol supercar's voice is coming out of the exhaust pipes of a four-cylinder diesel 4x4. Yes, the artificial tune is so thoroughly done that the Skoda plays its alluring song outside the car, as well as when you're inside it and 'on it' in Sport mode. We have no doubt many people will hate this feature. We have to say we loved it, as Skoda appears to have judged the noise pretty well.

And those chassis mods really do work at making the vRS feel sporty. When we said it's not just a 190 TDI with the wick turned up, we really meant it, because one thing the regular Skodiaqs are not is sporty to drive, even when you're caning them. The vRS, though, positively revels in a bit of abuse; its chassis and steering feel sharper and more alert - which is probably a lot to do with the wider contact patches at all corners, courtesy of the 20s. Start working the big Czech hard and its turbocharged engine will happily rev out to that peak point of power at 4,000rpm, while the thump of the torque ensures it always feels decently quick. Not thunderously fast, of course, as it's still only 240hp powering 1,850kg of seven-seat SUV, but it has more than enough poke to seriously surprise some of the more ignorant road users (aka 'tailgaters') out there.

The Czech firm's decision to plump for diesel power for the vRS is also no obstacle to choosing the hottest Kodiaq, because Skoda set precedent way back in 2003 with the Fabia vRS, so - if anything - the use of a black-pump mill is something of a nice nod to the company's heritage. Sure, more recent vRS products like the Octavia Mk3 tend to have petrol motors, although a diesel vRS alternative has long been an option in the Octavia range, and there's a little part of you which wonders whether the Skodiaq's lofty price tag would have been easier to justify if it had the 272hp TSI underpinnings of the ultimate Superb Sportline installed in its chassis, but we think the biturbo TDI is a better fit for what is, when all's said and done, still a family wagon. That it can go around the Nordschleife in a smidge less than nine-and-a-half minutes, making it the fastest (ahem, only) seven-seat SUV to lap the Green Hell, and yet go on to return a real-world 39.5mpg across 415 mixed-roads miles of driving (including a best figure of 46mpg on a long motorway run) speaks of a brilliant dichotomy of character that few cars of any price can boast.

It rides nicely. It's quiet on a cruise. There's little to report in the way of wind noise and tyre roar. In truth, it can do the 'boring' side of SUV life as well as it can go charging along a B-road in a surprising display of handling prowess. So sure, the Skoda Kodiaq vRS is not cheap. And there are more sensible, affordable choices in the SUV's line-up that will suit families better than the 240hp model. But the fact that Skoda feels so supremely confident enough to make something like this in the first place warms the cockles of our heart. And, therefore, to find that Skoda has executed the vRS to such a high standard is only a most welcome revelation. Yep, the Kodiaq vRS is a bit bonkers, both in principle and character, but - like so many Skodas of the modern era - it's really rather excellent, too.

Alternatives:

Cupra Ateca: Skoda's Spanish relation goes with petrol power - and more of it, at 300hp - for its take on the fast-SUV formula. Cupra is only a five-seater but it's cheaper, and arguably more involving to drive.

Porsche Macan: you can get in a four-pot Macan for £46,000. OK, so it'll have next to no kit, five seats and a Golf GTI engine, but... it's still a Porsche.

Volkswagen Tiguan Bi-TDI: the Czech outfit's parent company doesn't market its Tiguan with the vRS's engine as an overt performance model, but it's a quick machine, if a little more discreet than the hot Skodiaq.


Matt Robinson - 3 Jul 2019









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2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.

2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS UK test. Image by Skoda UK.








 

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