Skoda cars at NATRAX: Driving the Slavia & Kodiaq at top speeds

I also experienced the dry handling circuit in the Skoda Kushaq & took the Kodiaq on the off-road course too.

BHPian suhaas307 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.


When a 50-year-old legacy with crash testing, dating back to 1972, coincides with Global NCAP crash-test safety results of various cars sold in the Indian market, the stars (5 of them to be precise) aligned for Skoda, thus creating the perfect storm for the Czech-origin car maker to showcase their armoury.

Tortured puns aside, Skoda wasted no time in celebrating its landmark 50th anniversary and 5 years of selling 5-star GNCAP-rated cars by assembling a bunch of journalists from all over the country at NATRAX, where an attempt was made to demonstrate the “safety” of their star-studded line-up of cars. Skoda managed to achieve this through the choreographed flogging of the Slavia, Kushaq and Kodiaq around this impressive facility where we, the journalists, got a taste of what these cars feel like close to their respective limits.

Touted to be Asia’s largest testing and certification facility and spread across approximately 3,000 acres of land, NATRAX (National Automotive Test Tracks) was arguably the ideal venue for the shenanigans Skoda had planned for us.

While NATRAX boasts of a wide array of testing tracks, our experiences were sadly limited to the high-speed track in the Slavia and Kodiaq, the handling track in the Slavia and Kushaq and the off-road course in the Kodiaq.

The show began with a quick drivers’ briefing which included general guidelines to keep the rubber side down and not exceed track as well as personal limits under any circumstance, as well as a general warning to everyone urging them to keep their eyes peeled for wildlife that often strays onto the track. With the briefing done and dusted, we were whisked away to the 11.3 km long, 4-lane high-speed track, complete with varying levels of banking.

Slavia 1.5 TSI DSG on the High Speed Track

Having driven the Slavia extensively on previous occasions, the drivers’ seat was a familiar place for me. However, what wasn’t familiar at all was the business-end of the speedometer. I eased onto the track with the gearbox in ‘S’ and was guided into the 3rd lane before being told to keep my right foot pinned to the floor.

The free revving 1.5 TSI mated to the slick 7-speed DSG pushed the Slavia into triple-digits effortlessly. This drivetrain has once again proven to be more competent than figures seem to suggest. The punch you get from this motor feels closer to what you get from the larger 2.0 TSI! As the needle hovered around the 150 km/h mark, the first banking loomed large in the Slavia’s windscreen and suddenly, I found myself fighting every instinct to ease off the throttle and keep the right foot pinned to the floor. The Slavia continued to accelerate around the banking as the digital speedo now displayed 190 km/h and started to creep up to 200 km/h and beyond. In the interest of full disclosure, it must be said that the Slavia appeared to struggle after 190 km/h. Breaching 200 km/h felt a bit laborious.

High speed stability was certainly impressive despite severe crosswinds playing spoil sport. That said, the steering felt a touch too light at these speeds and the crosswinds helped amplify the sheer lifelessness of the steering. It can feel quite unnerving to be piloting a car at 200 km/h whilst holding onto a critical component that feels completely disconnected from it. Skoda needs to urgently address the light and numb steering by perhaps re-calibrating it to offer some kind of feedback, even at the risk of making it feel artificial.

Eventually, the Slavia managed a respectable 203 km/h (speedo-indicated) before throwing in the towel:

After negotiating the first banking at speeds my brain couldn’t initially comprehend, I was asked to pull over into the lay-by and jump into the Kodiaq.

Kodiaq 2.0 TSI DSG on the High Speed Track

The Kodiaq’s driver seat has also become a familiar place as I recently had the pleasure of sampling moderator Vid6639’s Kodiaq 2.0 TDI on the open road, on our way back from Pune to Bengaluru. However, this Kodiaq being the 2.0 TSI was a different animal as it carved a bear-shaped hole in the 3rd lane while effortlessly breaching the 200 km/h barrier and going on to tickle 220 km/h on the speedometer before it heroically tapped out.

The 2.0 TSI engine may lack the torque of the erstwhile TDI variant, but it more than makes up for it by delivering the punch needed to make light work of highways and open roads.

Despite the sheer size and weight of the Kodiaq, the 2.0 TSI has the grunt to muscle the car well beyond the 200 km/h barrier.

However, the numb steering feel seems to be a problem that plagues the Kodiaq as well. Being a substantially larger car than the Slavia and sitting significantly higher, the ‘floaty’ feeling at 200 km/h was amplified and genuinely unnerving. The crosswinds didn't help either. Again, this is down to the poorly calibrated steering that remains the only fly in an otherwise impressive ointment.

Despite the obvious lack of feedback from the steering, the Kodiaq’s general high-speed demeanour is more than acceptable, and the burly SUV feels as sure-footed as it gets for its class. This was observed keenly whilst shedding serious speed and pulling out of the 3rd lane and into the lay-by where we were greeted by the team only to be escorted to the handling track.

Continue reading suhaas307's NATRAX experience for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

Redlining the Indian Automotive Scene