► Skoda Kodiaq vRS: another hot SUV
► First new vRS since second-gen Fabia
► But the £43k price is a sticking point
For 20 years or so Skoda vRS has meant Octavia vRS – with souped up hatch and estate versions powered by petrol or diesel in two- and all-wheel drive formats. There was a brief flirtation with the Fabia, but otherwise it’s been a one horse affair.
This image-driven era we now reside in means customers are easy pickings for performance sub-brands who can sell you the Insta-ready lifestyle dream – you only have to look at badges like AMG and Cupra splintering off from their respective marques for evidence of that.
It’s perhaps not a surprise that Skoda has chosen now to launch its first new vRS model since the second generation Fabia – and that the car it has picked is an outdoorsy-family-express, the seven seat Kodiaq.
Another hot SUV?
Yes – they’re the new hot hatches - practical, comfortable and bonkers fast, with either a Max Power-era bodykit or subtle business-like looks. The Kodiaq vRS is the latter.
To that end you get vRS-specific bumpers that look more aggressive than the SportLine car, plus loads of gloss black trim including the grille, mirrors and window surrounds.
Slightly more lairy are the big bore exhaust pipes and 20-inch ‘Xtreme’ allloy wheels (you’ll recognise these as vRS wheels, like a pixelated Alfa Romeo telephone dial) and red brake calipers attached to larger discs. One whole inch larger.
What other performance upgrades does the Skoda Kodiaq vRS get?
Let’s start with the engine, and unlike Porsche, Skoda has opted for diesel power in its largest, fastest SUV - namely VW’s 2.0-litre biturbo diesel.
It’s certainly potent enough but lacking in excitement when we’ve driven it in things like the Tiguan and Passat (not naturally thrilling cars, granted) because of its softly spoken nature and the fact it’s never quite as muscular as you expect it to be. Like Andrew Garfield’s Spiderman.
Not so in the Kodiaq, where Skoda has fitted a Dynamic Sound Boost system to enhance the aural character of the exhaust note, and it’s largely successful, adding bassy warble to an otherwise flat 2.0-litre TDI soundtrack. Mercifully it can be silenced if you grow tired of it, on the motorway for example.
Floor the Kodiaq vRS and you don’t get that bring-me-the-horizon sensation of a more senior super SUV, like an Audi SQ7, but the Skoda gets along at a decent lick. Seven seaters (your only option in the UK) take marginally longer to breach 62mph, clocking in at seven seconds. That’s very reasonable and quite neat, considering it’s one second per seat, which seems like it should be a benchmark measurement.
What’s it like to drive?
A pair of turbos means fast responses and a predictable linearity to the power delivery. The Kodiaq does its best work in the middle of the rev range and makes overtaking on single carriageway roads suitably easy.
That is once you’ve convinced the standard fit seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox to kick down, because boy does it enjoy hanging onto big gears. On the one hand this is good because it allows you to ride that wave of torque for smooth progress, but sometimes it feels like it lacks incisiveness. In manual mode it’s much sharper but will shift up rather than letting the engine redline.
Three other handling aids fitted as standard include a Progressive Steering setup, which adds weight at higher speeds, a grippy all-wheel drive system, and finally Skoda’s Dynamic Chassis Control.
While this gives you the choice of wafty smooth to hunkered down damping, mechanically it’s no different to the Kodiaq SportLine model and this means the vRS doesn’t feel as far enough away from the standard car as that badge would suggest.
Do you get loads more kit?
Some – as well as the all-wheel drive, DCC and auto ‘box we’ve mentioned above (options on other Kodiaqs) you also get Alcantara sports seats and a cabin full of with red contrast stitching.
Tech wise expect front parking sensors, LED front and rear lights and Skoda’s new Virtual Cockpit system, which is a bit like the VW version but more interesting to look at.
Plus you get a rifle sight rev counter like Audi S and RS models, except you can activate it without having to bring the car to a complete stop, which Ingolstadt deemed necessary for some reason.
Skoda Kodiaq vRS: verdict
There’s a bit of a problem with the price of the Kodiaq vRS, in that it’s not a million miles off a Porsche Macan. Granted that has five seats only and will be pretty basic in comparison. But still.
Partly that’s down to the fact that you can’t get an entry-level special like you can with the Octavia vRS, complete with two-wheel drive, a manual gearbox, no options and a temptingly low price tag.
The Kodiaq vRS arrives with all of the kit you could think of adding and the price reflects that – the trouble is, the chassis isn’t that different to the (admittedly less powerful) SportLine model, which is a clear £5,000 cheaper.
It does at least offer all you could realistically want in a performance seven-seat SUV for pretty much half the money an Audi SQ7 would cost. In that company it doesn’t seem like a bad deal at all.
Read our other Skoda reviews here