ŠKODA Scouting the Way
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Wednesday, 24 September 2008 - Daily Liberal
ŠKODA has sent a new model to Australia from the Czech Republic.
Designated the Octavia Scout 4x4, it’s based on the regular Octavia station wagon, but has four-wheel-drive and increased ground clearance.
Ground clearance has been raised by 20mm, to 180mm, over the standard wagon.
Protective cladding around the wheel arches allow the Scout to squeeze through narrow bush tracks.
At the front and rear there are under-bumper changes that also reduce the chances of body damage. That combined with larger diameter wheels and tyres improves its visual appearance and gives the Scout a tough, no-nonsense air to its stance.
Initially, all Scouts in Australia are turbo-diesel models with a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine is a comparatively old unit that produces 103kW and 320 Newton metres.
ŠKODA in Australia admits the lack of automatic transmission may hamper sales and is looking forward to the time when a DSG unit is developed for the car.
That automatic may be teamed with a new-generation turbo-diesel engine.
Interior space is good, a feature of all the ŠKODAs we have tested to date as the Czechs like to have room to move in their cars. Likewise, the luggage is sizeable at 580 litres, and is easy to load.
ŠKODA selected Mount Buller in the Snowy Mountains to launch the vehicle to the Australian motoring press and was fortunate to coincide with some snowy conditions and icy roads.
These were ideal to test the traction, and all who drove commented on the safe feeling of the wagon. Similarly, some muddy dirt roads were traversed with little effort.
Octavia Scout 4x4 rides well and is stable on bends and in 110 to 120k/h cruising. Noise, vibration and harshness are well controlled and this is an excellent long-distance cruising machine.
On-road handling is better than average for a vehicle in this class but is partly achieved by having relatively low ground clearance.
The setting of 180mm is a good compromise between the 150 or so millimetres of a conventional wagon, and the typical 200mm of a dedicated 4WD.
Standard safety equipment includes ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and six airbags. The ESP uses a similar system to the one on some upmarket German cars to keep the brake discs dry during wet weather.
It does this by gently applying the brakes from time to time, not to the extent that you feel them, just enough to wipe off the water.
Selling for $39,990, the Scout comes well equipped, with 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows and door mirrors (with heating on the latter), climate-controlled air conditioning, heated front seats, a trip computer, automatic wipers, and an eight-speaker, six-CD audio system that can handle MP3 inputs.
ŠKODA Octavia Scout 4x4 isn’t being sold as an off-road 4WD but as a vehicle that can provide extra traction on slippery surfaces. Those exploring harsh forest trails, going to the ski fields, or launching and retrieving a boat on slippery ramps will be prime customers for this tough new ŠKODA.