On the 10th of August, while returning from Coimbatore, my Civic developed a coolant leak. The entire saga can be read here: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/modifi...ml#post4250389
. After this, I realized that time was running out for the Civic as a reliable daily driver. The car had seen 1,80,000 kms and a very small percentage of that was easy on the car!
Coincidentally, on the same day, Skoda India held a technical briefing about the specs of the new vRS. So, when I started thinking about getting a new car, this was at the top of my mind. If not for all auto blogs, forums and auto enthusiasts talking about the vRS, I would have decided on the Elantra 2.0 Petrol A/T and been happy with my choice. It’s not a comparison but two totally different cars. Hyundai would have been reliable, I have experienced fantastic service from Trident Hyundai in Bangalore, the car is extremely comfortable, loaded to the gills with all the features you can want(including ventilated seats! My absolute favourite!) and the 2.0 Petrol is a decent enough performer on the roads. The handling too is very un-Hyundai like.
The Civic would have become a full fledged project car. As of now, we have kept the boost low, are on stock internals, in the interest of reliability. My car simply CANNOT break down on me when I’m driving to Chennai at 5 in the morning for a 10:00 am appointment at Koyambedu. And the car has never given me a problem. Coincidentally, the only two times it troubled me on the highway were on my drives with friends. Not when I was on work. So, coming back, since the interwebz was full of vRS related news, I decided to enquire at the very least. The beginnings:
My friend put me in touch with Shibin. Shibin of Head Over Wheels is a known and trusted face/name in the VAG community in Bangalore. He’s the authorized Pete’s representative in Bangalore and is famous for his VAG car mods along with the ceramic coating he does on mostly high end and luxury cars. He also has some good contacts at TAFE Access Limited, one of the two dealers in Bangalore. Pre-Sales and Sales:
Got in touch with Reji James. He is the Sales Manager for the Hosur Road TAFE Access showroom. He is a very nice person to interact with. Throughout the three weeks that I was in touch with him, I enjoyed my interaction. He was always prompt. In case he didn’t pick up my call, he always called me back. I never had to chase him for anything. Messages were replied to promptly as well. Unfortunately, I never got to meet this gentleman as he was busy on the day of the delivery and didn’t come to the St Marks Road showroom. I was very keen on getting the Race Blue and he ensured I got the colour of my choice. I supported him by ensuring that the payments from my side were made on time.
I also interacted a little bit with Mr Jose Thomas who is the head of Sales and Marketing for Tafe. He is a very polished, polite gentleman on the phone who started by apologizing for not replying to my emails. The emails were sent by me to him and a couple of other people at TAFE and Skoda India about the delivery date of my car. There were some plans to deliver my car on the 2nd of September which was unacceptable to me for multiple reasons. So, I sent a mail to him which went unanswered. Then I sent another reminder mail which also went unanswered. This point was rendered moot as he called me personally and his soft, polite approach totally calmed me down and I ended up apologizing to him in case I was a bit harsh or rude in my excitement!
He was on top of everything and when he committed to let me know something at a certain time, he did. He even called me back once I got the car and asked for my feedback regarding the delivery process and if there was anything else he could do to help me out. I thoroughly enjoyed this pre sales and sales experience at TAFE. There’s a statement I never thought I’d make, given Skoda’s reputation! Delivery on the 1st of September 2017:
The delivery process itself was smooth, albeit a bit delayed. I had requested delivery at 5:00 but when my dad and I reached their showroom at 4:45, the car wasn’t there. The car reached only by 5:15 and then they spent another 10 minutes just wiping it down getting it ready for delivery. The delivery process was handled by Mr Vaisagh, who took me through all the features of the car. He was not very energetic, but then, for someone who had driven from Hosur Road to St Mark’s Road, he was quite all right. He mentioned to me that the tyres were filled with the anti puncture fluid. I was quite angry at them on this point. What gives a dealer the right to fiddle with the car without the customer’s permission? This was definitely an unpleasant surprise.
I had to spend an hour the next morning removing all the 4 tyres and rims, cleaning them with water and then installing them again. Luckily, labour was free for me, but for a regular buyer of the vRS, this would be a major pain. I also feel this Slime was causing my tyres to behave weirdly.
Anyway, the delivery process was done! All I had to do was sign a couple of papers and soon the owner’s manual, 2 keys and a box of chocolates were presented to me by a senior looking gentleman at the showroom. A couple of obligatory pictures, a small song and my dad and I were on our way!
We got into the middle of very heavy traffic! The drive back home was uneventful. I was very thankful to be driving an A/T. The first few kms were a bit nerve wracking, but I soon got familiar with the car. Size-wise, it isn’t that much bigger than my Civic, if at all. The stereo system sounds good. My music was streamed via Bluetooth from my phone and it sounded quite decent. Not Audiophile quality, but still quite pleasing. We stopped at an IOC Petrol pump to tank up. This IOC pump has always been a good pump and I always feel the quality of fuel here is very good. I filled normal unleaded petrol and left/ The tank was nearly empty and it drank 52 litres!
Reached home after a quick stop to buy some sweets. Later that evening, went to the usual temple which my father favours and got the pooja done. Drove back home and that was it for the day. Final odo reading was around 40kms or so. When I took delivery of the car, it was 19 kms.
The next day, I went to office, removed the junk from my tyres and wheels and went on a long drive in the afternoon. At the end of 24 hours of ownership, my car had already covered 340 kms. Out of which 230 kms was one journey which involved some city driving as well, so the average speed was quite low.
At this point, I would like to note down my initial impressions. Exterior Design:
Let’s get this out of the way immediately. The older pre-facelift looks better. There can be simply no discussion on that matter. The vRS bumper does make things better on the cosmetic front, but I really wish Skoda hadn’t messed up a classic, clean design. The 17” rims are very nice, but every time I look at it, I cant help but think it was designed by the same guy who designed the Hyundai Fluidic Verna’s rims! In any case, it does look good with this car. The brake calipers are red on my blue car which in my opinion looks weird. I wish Skoda could have matched the body colour to the caliper colour. They could have also added a new feature in their list – “Body coloured Brake Calipers”. The rear spoiler looks really good. It is not subtle, but it is not flashy or “ricer” in any way. The dual exhaust tips look good as well.
Overall, it is a very good looking car which could have looked a lot better with the pre-facelift headlamps. And in Race Blue! Oh boy! It looks absolutely stunning in the flesh! Pictures don’t do justice to the lovely looks of this car! I can try to do justice, but you have to see it in the flesh to really appreciate it. I’ve always loved the Race Blue of Skoda ever since my friend Praveen Balan got a 1.8 TSI about 3 years back. When I decided to buy the vRS, I spoke to my dad and asked him his opinion on the colour. His answer was “I want Red, but I know you will buy Blue. So, why waste time pretending you have a choice?”
The black sunroof also looks very nice and the contrast enhances the visual appeal of the car. An entirely black roof would have looked even better though! The rear of the car is very handsome and the facelifted one is a marginal improvement on what was a very good looking behind. Some people complain that the Rapid, the Octavia and the Superb all look similar, but then I don’t think that’s a problem!
While driving back home, the number of people staring at the car was unnerving!! Lots and lots of people staring at signals, while on the move, etc. I initially thought it was because it was a flashy new car with the ribbon on the hood. However, even 3-4 days later, I am still noticing people staring at the car while driving around Bangalore. This car sure does attract attention!
To conclude, this car is a stunner.
Below are some pictures of a heavily bug spattered car. Interior Design and Comfort:
The standard Octavia’s interior has been modified a bit. The changes? Mainly the front seats, the steering, the Alcantara fabric (I refuse to call it leather), the VRS branding and black interiors everywhere.
It still comes with electronic seats for the front and Memory settings for the driver’s seat. As I got into the car, I really liked the black interior. It can get a bit too dreary for some people , but the big 8” colour touch screen livens things up quite a bit! The Black seats with red stitching and the vRS logo look damn good and as it turns out, are really comfortable as well.
I’m a large person and the side bolster (specifically the right side) can sometimes put some pressure on my right thigh causing some discomfort. But, I was in the car for 5+ hours on Saturday and frankly, it wasn’t too bad. I just adjusted myself and it was fine. The lumbar support is great too! The rear seats also have the same colour combination as the front seats and like all modern European cars come with ISOFIX slots on each side of the rear bench. I haven’t sat at the rear at all, so I cant comment on their comfort, etc etc.
Another talking point about the seats are the fact that they use Alcantara. Basically, marketing hype! I don’t understand the fuss over Alcantara. Couldn’t they just give high quality fabric seats (like the Polo GTI)? Alcantara doesn’t look very nice. Especially when you rub your fingers/hands on it, it looks a lighter shade and somehow doesn’t go well with the rest of the black seats. I always believe that leather is not the right material for car seats, but somehow car manufacturers have made it sound like it’s something great! Anyway, rant over. The Alcantara along with the side bolsters do mean that I am very secure in my seat. I haven’t yet tried any hard cornering like on a track, but I’m confident that these seats will support me very well if I were to try such antics.
The steering wheel is a delight to hold. The vRS logo at the bottom looks very nice and feels nice when my finger runs over it while driving.
The 8” touch screen is very nice to use. One of the very best touch screens in a car that I’ve experienced. However, do note that I haven’t experienced too many OEM units. I have a Pioneer Double DIN touchscreen in my Civic and while it’s fine, this Skoda Amundsen Unit is basically like a tablet. It isn’t as smooth as an iPad, but it’s very smooth. It also has something called “Proximity Sensor Based Infotainment System”. What this means is that as my finger approaches the screen, the buttons change slightly to make my touch and my command count. So, the Play, Next and Previous buttons for example, enlarge a little bit making it easier for me to hit them while driving. At the end of the day, I still feel that physical buttons are extremely easy to use and very intuitive while driving, but this touch screen gives me minimal options and is quite easy to use. The sound quality from the speakers is quite decent. Not earth shattering, but very crisp and clear. An audiophile will definitely upgrade the system.
The steering wheel controls work well. The buttons on the right side cycle through a range of data including average fuel consumption, instantaneous fuel consumption, avg speed, current speed, distance travelled, range, audio information, telephone, etc etc. I wont get into too many details on this.
When the sun sets and you are still driving, the ambient lighting looks very nice. It is not essential, it is definitely a gimmick, but I’m glad to have it. It can be set to one of 10 different colours and with my car being Blue, I set the interior LED strip to blue as well and it looks smashing. The dials are very easy to read and quite nice. Overall, this is a great cabin to be in. Comfortable, very well laid out and everything feels like it’s high quality.
However, I’m shifting from a Civic to this. The Civic’s interior is just a class apart. It may not have a fancy on board computer or LED Ambient lighting, but that Digital Speedo and Central Tacho along with the lovely Purple lighting all over just feel special. I am not saying that as a biased owner, but very objectively. The Octavia’s interior is very nice but it doesn’t feel special. The flat bottom steering wheel with the vRS logo helps alleviate the feeling, but it still leaves me a bit underwhelmed. Driving Experience:
If you’ve read this till now, you will be eagerly waiting to read this! Engine:
The engine is very silent. I haven’t driven it enough to pass judgements like “It’s a bit noisy when cold, blah blah blah,”. But I barely hear the engine when it’s idling and driving around at city speeds. Of course, when you find an open road and floor the throttle, the engine just sings! You cant hear the turbo. Or if I am supposed to, I may not have isolated the sound of the turbo from the other engine related sounds. There is absolutely no doubt that this engine is a gem. It has torque everywhere. Any gear, any rpm, the car moves. If you want to move faster, the DSG obliges by shifting down one, sometimes two or three gears to give you what you want.
In a straight line, this car is a rocket. Floor it in 2nd gear and you get wheel spin on a wet road with the stock 225/45-17 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 2 tyres. Above 3000 rpm, the car pulls harder than ever. I did not get a chance to go above 3000 rpm more than half a dozen times, but it was absolutely fantastic! The power delivery is very linear. There is a consistent pushback in my seat that I can feel. But there’s no violence, there’s no drama (apart from the ESC light flickering on when the tyres lose traction). I ended up hitting illegal speeds without even knowing and immediately backed off! On a main road in Bangalore, with the speed limit of 50, I crossed 75 before I realized and backed down!
Overtaking on the highway is a breeze. The DSG does it’s thing, the engine does it’s thing and BOOM! I am 2-3 car lengths ahead of the car/truck that I was overtaking. This car makes it very very very easy to drive! You could argue that it all feels a bit disconnected! The Gearbox:
The gearbox is a workhorse. This uses the 6-speed DQ250 which has a maximum torque rating of 350 NM. And what is this 2.0 Turbo Petrol Engine rated at? 350 NM! In any case, I am not too worried because this DQ250 is a wet clutch gearbox which is supposed to handle the heat better. This was the clincher in my decision making process. If Skoda had offered the vRS with the 7-speed, I would not have touched it with a barge pole. The gearbox works very smoothly and nicely. I don’t have much to say about it because I don’t know much! Enough and more has been written about the VAG DSGs. Sound Insulation:
I just don’t realize the speeds I am doing because the sound isolation is amazing. Again, my frame of reference is my Civic. A 12 year old Japanese design . The Civic is very planted at high speeds but there is enough wind noise to keep you aware of the speeds you are doing. In the modern European cars, there is nothing. Just a mild whoosh! It is this that caused me to cross the speed limit without realizing! At highway speeds, this sound isolation is absolutely brilliant. Cruising at 100 kmph on the highway, I can have a clear conversation with a person on the phone without any disturbance and the other person doesn’t even know that I’m travelling on a highway at 100kph!
The suspension and steering also keep you in total control of the car. There is absolutely no lightness in the steering that typically happens at high speeds. Because of this, you simply dont realise the speeds you are doing! Brakes:
Below are some pictures of the brakes. They seem to be bigger than the 1.8 TSI brakes.
The brakes are phenomenal! The feel of the brakes are amazing and they stop very well. No drama, no fuss, just rapid deceleration. I feel the bite of the 4-piston Wilwood Calipers on my Civic is better but the feel of the brakes on the Octavia is leagues better. MY Civic’s brakes need to be bled properly. We know there are some air pockets in the brake lines causing the pedal feel to be a bit wonky. The Octavia’s brakes are sharp and inspire a lot of confidence in me. Steering:
The steering is quite light while driving around the city, but it weighs up well at higher speeds. Changing lanes at 100-120 is very easy and at no time does the car feel skittish or nervous. The steering is obviously not as precise a Hydraulic Power Steering, but for an EPS, I am very impressed and happy. It also feels quite precise.