Skoda Octavia vRS Estate 5d - Wishin' on a 4X4

  • We spend day with Skoda testing the firm's latest 4X4 systems and come away impressed
  • Gets us wondering what our Octavia vRS long-termer would be like with four-wheel drive
  • Have to remember that increased grip on acceleration doesn't help when braking

Janis Joplin once sang, "Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz". I’m sure she ended up with one – if not the PR department ended up missing out on a triumph – but all it proves is that it isn't deities that get you what you wish for in the automotive world, but the manufacturers themselves.

Which is why I’m going to start singing about 4x4 Skodas; specifically fast ones. You see I love my Octavia vRS long termer. In fact I’m not alone in thinking it’s the best all-rounder on our fleet, but there’s always room for improvement. And currently if you want your Octavia vRS-flavoured like we did, then it’s front-wheel drive only – whether it be diesel like our car or the 220bhp petrol model.

Octavia 4X4 through water

After a day in Vienna driving (admittedly more cooking) versions, of our Octavia wagon I can’t help but feeling the firm is missing a trick here. Our day at the Driving Camp facility saw us tackle a skid-pan, an ice hill and wet-weather slalom in both two and four-wheel drive examples from the Skoda range.

And while all managed to complete the tasks in front of them, even the front-wheel drive examples managed to scrabble from A to B (save for the one driven by an over-zealous hack with lead-right foot), it was the four-wheel drive models that truly impressed.

The Haldex-based system of the Octavia 4x4 meant that most of the time you’d barely even register it was wet underfoot (or under tyre) and could drive completely normally. Only when accelerating hard, and feeling the power being sent to the rear axle would you really notice anything different.

Of course Skoda’s engineers were quick to point out that better acceleration grip doesn’t equal better braking – something the public are often too quick to forget when the weather turns nasty. It was also keen to stress that its system doesn’t allow for greater overall speed; it’s there primarily as a larger safety net should grip levels suddenly run out.

Octavia 4X4 acceleration

From that point of view it works perfectly, and certainly if you want a surefooted Octavia, or ‘reliable car for all conditions’ in Skoda speak, then the 4x4 models clearly should be first pick.

Which is why I’m feeling so aggrieved the firm isn’t, yet, offering a 4x4 vRS model. Now I’m not saying the car we have is anything but surefooted, certainly since changing from winter rubber to summer wheels grip levels have improved and the car feels much tighter on the limit. In fact, there are few cars on our current fleet, save for the SEAT Leon Cupra 280, that are as much fun to drive – despite the Yellow Peril boasting an economical diesel engine.

Octavia vRS on road

But I can’t help imagining the same car with that Haldex four-wheel drive system underneath that striking body. Sure the overall economy would go down – and we’d like it to be a little higher already – due to the extra weight, but what an epic machine it would turn it into.

You’d end up with a car that now had a surplus of grip to match already impressive power and poise, meaning for an unfamiliar back-road blast there’d be few cars quite as confidence inspiring or as quick. Certainly there can’t be many that would touch it for economy while doing so. 

Which only leaves one question; Lord (Skoda) won’t you build me an Octavia vRS 4x4? Please?

I’ll even try and sing in tune…

 

Mileage: 5,239 miles        Economy: 44.4mpg