The Skoda Kodiaq RS is a car of contradictions.
It’s a seven-seat SUV with a Nurburgring lap record.
A performance car powered by a frugal diesel engine, with a lap timer in the dashboard and umbrellas hidden in the doors.
The speakers use a microphone to amplify mum or dad’s voices for kids in the third row, then play a throbbing V8-like soundtrack when you floor the throttle.
Dubbed “the Swiss Army knife of cars” when it won News Corp Australia’s car of the year title in 2017, the Kodiaq is an eminently practical family wagon praised for many thoughtful touches.
The convenience light in the boot is a detachable torch. There are rubbish bins in the door pockets, flip-out plastic guards to stop you damaging door edges, a foot-activated power tailgate and clever assortment of hooks and cargo nets to make grocery-getting a breeze.
This new performance version adds further appeal for petrolhead parents. Aesthetic changes include reworked bumpers, 20-inch wheels, red paint for the brakes and black badges on the tailgate.
Further changes take place inside, where a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel with shift paddles joins deep-bolstered performance seats, dark headlining and carbon-effect trim.
It’s stuffed full of kit including a digital dashboard (with RS-specific sports displays), 9.2-inch infotainment screen with sat nav and smartphone mirroring, a 10-speaker Canton stereo, three-zone climate control and more.
A five-star safety rating and full suite of driver aids come as standard.
The bad – if not surprising – news is this is the most expensive model in the Skoda range. While a standard Kodiaq costs $47,990 drive-away and the mid-grade Sportline with all-wheel-drive is $52,490 drive-away, the range-topping Kodiaq RS starts at $71,990 drive-away.
Metallic paint adds $770, a panoramic glass sunroof costs $1900 and five years of maintenance is $1700.
Like most marques, Skoda backs its cars with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
A powerful new engine helps justify the big-dollar price tag.
A digital dash lends tech appeal to the family wagon. A digital dash lends tech appeal to the family wagon. The standard model’s 132kW/320Nm outputs are outgunned by the new 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel’s 176kW/500Nm maximums.
As a result, the 0-100km/h dash drops from 8.2 to 7.0 seconds, while fuel use slips from 7.6L/100km in the standard car to 6.2L/100km in the diesel.
Skoda Australia wanted to introduce the twin-turbo motor earlier, but couldn’t do it until the company reclassified Australia’s climate as “moderately hot”.
Those two words are a neat summary of an engine declared off-limits to warmer climes.
Punchy without being truly exhilarating, the Kodiaq’s diesel delivers moderately impressive performance. Overtaking is effortless and motorway on-ramps are a chance to tap a deep well of torque.
There’s a touch of lag compared with petrol alternatives, and it isn’t particularly sonorous. But the diesel’s percussive clatter can be shouted down by bass-rich sound effects pumped through the speakers, and the combination of all-wheel-drive and a slick dual-clutch auto gets grunt to the ground with minimal fuss.
As for its handling, firmer suspension helps keep the Kodiaq’s near-1900 kilo weight in check at the expense of some ride comfort. It feels acceptably sporty for a big car but doesn’t bend the laws of physics in the manner of the best high-performance SUVs.
Skoda says it’s “the best of the beasts” and the fastest seven-seater to lap Germany’s Nurburgring circuit. Granted, not many people movers have attempted to post a time around the green hell.
And a 9m29.84s time around the circuit isn’t earth-shattering when the best hatchbacks complete lap in less than eight minutes.
But a VW Golf GTI would have to complete two laps to take six people for a tour of the ‘ring, something the Kodiaq RS could manage in a little more than half as much time.
Skoda’s sharpened Swiss Army knife is an expensive answer to a question few folks are asking. But it is almost perfect for fast families.
Price: From $71,990 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 176kW/500Nm
Warranty/Service: 5yrs/unlimited km, $1700 for 5 yrs
Safety: 9 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane keeping assistance and more
Space: 520 litres
Spare: Inflation kit
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