Skoda Octavia RS245

More brawn, less brains Ė but still pragmatic

by LOUIS CORDONY

ENGINE 1984cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 180kW @ 6700rpm / TORQUE 370Nm @ 1600rpm / WEIGHT 1380kg (wagon) / 0-100KM/H 6.7sec / PRICE $43,390 HE PREVIOUS Octavia RS230 never needed more grunt. That front-driven axle struggled as it was to handle what its turbo 2.0-litre inlinefour was pumping.

However, here comes the new RS245, with another 15 horsies under the lid, or 11kW, thanks to software fiddling. Torqueís climbed too, by 20Nm, for 180kW and 370Nm in total.

That puts its figures line-ball with the VW Golf GTI Performance.

Thatís no coincidence. Now that Volkswagenís cult hero has scored upgraded hardware, the hottest Octavia gets the same whizz-bang locking diff and new seven-speed DSG transmission as hand-me-downs.

The grunt comes as part of a 2018 update for the whole range, which includes a facelift, more interior fruit, and adaptive dampers reaching the options list (in a $1500 tech pack).

Skodaís also introduced the RS245 full-time in both transmissions and T body styles. We tested the new hero at a Ďsecretí location on the New South Wales Central Coast (you probably first saw it on Google Earth in about 2005).

The private circuit, thatís confusingly littered with speed signs, offered tight hairpins, rising straights, and extremely technical sections, where you can farm the RS245 for all its got.

Even as a polished daily driver, thereís plenty of hooligan in the RS245ís veins, but it canít convert enthusiasm into pure talent on track.

Besides a wider rear track and new adaptive dampers, the carís supple composure remains. Itís comfortable, yet controlled, and feels that way up to about eight tenths.

The carís fairly neutral into the corner, but starts to push under power.

Itíll easily spin the inside front, too, provided traction control hasnít shut down the party. Yes, even with a diff.

Pro driver Steve Owen, who was on hand at the carís launch, suggests rotating the Octavia into the corner.

This helps square it early and quell wheelspin. But the RS245 just isnít as keen to change direction as its hatch-bodied cousins. Its 2680mm wheelbase is about 49mm longer than a Golfís, and itís a bit tubbier, too.

The seats are cool as ever, and come with Alcantara cushions that replace the old scratch-prone leather jobbies.

Theyíre electrically adjustable, but you roll out of them more on track than the bolsters should allow.

There are still some great tools in the Octavia RS245ís arsenal. That steering is accurate as a laser aligner and the added rear track helps free the rear end under brakes.

The engineís powerband has been stretched by 500rpm over the RS230, and 200rpm beyond the Golf GTI Performance, meaning the Skoda wrings everything from a higher 6700rpm redline with a meaty, hardcharging soundtrack.

Itís a great match for a DSG gearbox, however, the seven-speed lacked a perfect ratio between second and third for tight, low-speed corners. The DSGís $2500 price hike is also a hefty charge in this value-focused segment.

Itís nice the six-speed manualís still the price entry point, but the dual-clutch is quoted as quicker to 100km/h.

Weíd pick the more agile sedan if you insist on going ten-tenths on a regular basis, along with better pads, discs, and fluid. But overall the RS245 remains great value, even with a $1700 price hike.

With that sting comes a new (and brilliant) 9.2-inch touchscreen thatís infinitely better than the old smaller unit. While auto folding black mirrors are thrown in. The wagon body (for an extra $1500) remains an IKEAdevouring warrior, while both cars on the stretched MQB platform feel compact, yet genuinely roomy. The only markdown is dull throttle tip-in during stop-start driving.

The RS230 fell over at Bang For Your Bucks last year, and the RS245 hasnít fully corrected its shortcomings. Yes, it pulls harder up high in the rev range, but the gruntís worsened traction issues. And the optional dampers havenít injected much needed stiffness into to the mix.

We suspect the story might be different away from red-mist environments, because the RS230 was a much better car up a twisty road, at about eight tenths, as it was on a racetrack, beyond said eight tenths. And the RS245ís new adaptive dampers suggest it might even have improved its urban manners in the urban jungle. We say suggest because, bafflingly, we didnít really get to drive it on the road at the launch.

And we will save final judgement on the RS245 until then. M

STAR RATING 3.5

Like Grunty powertrain; wagon practicality; polished ride Dislike Scrappy traction; lack of grip