► Claimed 310-mile electric range
► In UK from January 2021
► Rapid Enyaq vRS confirmed too
Beneath that verdant digital-look camouflage is one of the most important cars of next year: the all-electric Skoda Enyaq. We've already driven the Vision iV concept it'll likely take some styling cues from – but now we've got behind the wheel of a proper prototype of Skoda's first electric vehicle (EV).
‘Important new car’ may well be one of the most hackneyed and hyped phrases in motoring journalism, but in the case of this electric SUV, or what Skoda calls a BEV SUV (let’s hope that terminology doesn’t become a thing), it really is.
It's seemingly at the sweet spot of two dominant market trends: the rise of the electric car and the public's insatiable appetite for SUVs, crossovers and jacked-up soft-roaders.
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Back in those halcyon days before the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, we headed over to the Emerald Isle on a wet Wednesday – it was neither Caribbean nor blue – to drive it.
Go on then, how does the electric Skoda Enyaq drive?
Those familiar electric car hallmarks are present and correct in the Enyaq: brisk, linear acceleration, variable degrees of brake energy recuperation and relatively hushed progress.
Given it’s based on the Volkswagen Group’s new MEB modular electric architecture – developed for the new VW ID.3 at massive expense while settling Dieselgate litigation cases – its engineers might have been forgiven for going with the (Orinoco – sorry) flow played safe like rivals in offering a limited range of permutations.
Not a bit of it. As with MQB in ICE-propelled models, the Enyaq’s MEB platform can the stretched or shortened this way and that, its wheelbase similarly altered accordingly. The net result is that the Skoda is the largest iteration of MEB yet, as befits a brand known for its space.
It also feels like it could be the firm’s second generation of electric car, not its first.
That depth of engineering talent has ensured that rather than an electric model plonked into the Czech manufacturer’s range, it feels very much like another well-regarded Skoda that happens to be battery-powered.
Driveline smoothness is comparatively easy to achieve – not my words as a mutton-mittened non-engineer, but those of a team member involved in the Enyaq’s development. He went on to point out that as a prototype it lacked polish, but it nevertheless felt well-sorted to us.
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How the regen braking feels
Other EVs’ brakes can lack finesse, with an area of dead pedal travel before sudden, sharp engagement of the stoppers, too often with precious little feel. Not so here, where retardation is easy to modulate, whether doing it with the pedal or the highest level of recuperation.
Similarly, while some other fully electric cars can have a crashy ride quality – a combination of that weight low down in the chassis and damping that lacks sophistication – the Skoda Enyaq positively sails away (insert eye roll emoji…) with its compliant nature.
Conventional and adaptive dampers will be available, but even on the latter locked in Comfort mode, body control was kept in check over rougher surfaces and around twisty bends.
What’s the Enyaq range going to be like?
What's under the bonnet, you ask? In the case of most of the range, nothing. Well, no electric motors at least – it is full of ancillary gubbins, so there’s not even space for a small 'froot' or 'frunk', as with the upcoming Volvo XC40 Recharge P8.
Most Enyaqs have their motors located under the boot floor driving the rear wheels. Few buyers will neither know nor care that these are the first rear-engined Skodas since the Estelle Two saloons and Rapid coupes were pensioned-off at the start of the 1990s, but there’s a pub fact if you want it.
Three versions will be available initially:
- Enyaq 50: 146bhp, 55kWh battery (52kWh usable capacity), 211-mile range
- Enyaq 60: 177bhp, 62kWh battery (58kWh usable capacity), 242-mile range
- Enyaq 80: 201bhp, 82kWh battery (77kWh usable capacity), 310-mile range
It may well prove to be the priciest of that trio, but the 80 is likely to be the sweet spot of the range, with likely accelerative performance knocking on the door of the GTI brigade, combined with enough range to be able to go far and away (you were warned!).
Four-wheel drive versions – this is an SUV after all – follow shortly afterwards, sharing the 80’s battery pack, but with an extra motor nestled in the nose. Regardless of drive, all Enyaqs follow BEV convention with a single-speed automatic transmission.
- Enyaq 80X: 261bhp, 82kWh battery (77kWh usable capacity), 285-mile range
- Enyaq vRS: 302bhp, 82kWh battery (77kWh usable capacity), 285-mile range
Skoda’s keeping tight-lipped on exactly how quick the Enyaq is – anecdotally, the 80 feels appreciably swifter than a Leaf, but not Model 3-quick – save for 2021’s vRS: a 6.2sec for the 0-62mph sprint isn’t shabby, although sensibly the top speed’s been pegged to 111mph, to prevent needless battery sapping.
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What about charging times?
Inevitably, it will depend on which Enyaq you choose and how you’re charging it, but assuming you’ve got the space and facilities for a domestic wallbox installation, six to eight hours will be sufficient to get you from flat to full overnight.
Plan ahead to ensure your longer jaunts include faster 125kW chargers en route and you can top back up to 80% capacity in around 40 minutes – ample time for lunch, says Skoda.
A conventional three-pin plug can also be used to charge your Enyaq, but be warned this will take longer than streaming a complete box set of Miranda, although it could prove to be more entertaining.
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Can I see the Enyaq interior?
Tough, Skoda’s not revealing that until pictures of the production car are released and all barring the most essential controls on these prototypes were cloaked in gaffer tape and black fabric.
Even the event photographers were barred from shooting the disguised cabin and journalists were separated from their phones during the event. The normally friendly PR man threatened a painful and public humiliation outside the Mlada Boleslav factory gates if any covert images were snapped, and nobody thought he was joking.
Nevertheless, we did see what a finished car looked like inside, with an Audi-esque sense of quality to it, so paint a picture in your mind thus. Inevitably, much of the switchgear is familiar Skoda fare, which is no bad thing, but you don’t really notice that too much as your eyes are distracted by a bold swoop of squidgy plastic that protrudes from the centre top of the dash.
Upon it, taking pride of place, is a 13-inch landscape format multimedia touchscreen (lesser Enyaqs have a 13-inch frame holding a smaller screen) that seems a doddle to operate and controls all manner of functions for entertainment and information.
Immediately ahead of the driver is what initially looks like the kind of dilated pore you might otherwise see in more special interest spot-popping corners of YouTube, but start the Skoda and the smartphone-sized recess glows with a smattering of digitised information, such as speed and remaining range, but little else.
These can be further complemented by an augmented reality head-up display, the animation of which suggests it could well be worth specifying as an extra.
Is it like other Skodas in terms of practicality?
At 4684mm long, 1618mm high and 1877mm wide, the Enyaq’s size and shape makes it look like a half-way house between an Octavia Estate and a Kodiaq, with styling that equally somewhere between the two.
Its handsome-if-safe styling only has one contentious point: the grille. It’s blanked-off, as is the norm to give onlookers a visual pointer to its electric status, but while entry-level models are set to have a matt black infill and mid-rangers a glossy one, the flagships get a glitzy LED-lit set of vertical bars, bisected by a horizontal one that marries-up to the day-running lights (DRLs).
If you fancy something a bit more daring, an Enyaq Coupe – think along the lines of an Audi Q3 Sportback in shape - will dutifully follow in 2021.
Inside, the regular Skoda Enyaq is roomy, thanks to the batteries being located under the floor. Five six-footers shouldn’t struggle to be comfy on long journeys, while there’s 525 litres of bootspace, too. It's going to be practical and sensible stuff, as befits a Skoda.
And, if you’re a towing enthusiast, the Enyaq will be able to haul 1200kg of braked trailer – although doing so will inevitably gnaw into its electric range.
Skoda Enyaq: verdict
Skoda’s not yet given any official word on pricing, but gazing into our Bohemian crystal ball, somewhere in the £35,000-£40,000 region seems a likely starting point.
There’s also a gussied-up Founder’s Edition that’s bristling with all the toys – yes, including that grille – and special paint that will be available first. That’s likely to be nearer £45,000 as an Enyaq 80. Why Founder’s Edition? Well, 2020 is the 125th anniversary of Skoda being founded – appropriately, 1895 will be produced.
Expect order books for the rear-drive versions to open sometime in the autumn, with first deliveries pencilled in for January 2021. Four-wheel drive Enyaqs should follow-on by the spring.
Given our experiences of the nearly there prototype, it's diffcult to imagine this not being one of the most sought-after cars in 2021. Justifiably so based on this early evidence.
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