Skoda Kodiaq RS 2019 Review – First Drive
Paul Horrell’s first drive Skoda Kodiaq RS 2019 Review with Specs, Practicality, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL A pleasant enough brisk crossover to drive, and has all the brilliant packaging and of the normal Kodiaq. But the ‘sports’ driving mode is silly, so switch it off.
2019 Skoda Kodiaq RS Specifications (European spec)
Price N/A Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Engine 2.0L diesel twin-turbo Power 177kW at 4000rpm Torque 500Nm at 1750-2500rpm Transmission 7-speed DCT auto Drive All-wheel drive Body 4699mm (l); 1882mm (w exc mirrors); 2087mm (w inc mirrors); 1685mm (h) Turning circle 11.6m Towing weight 1750kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1913kg Seats 7 Fuel tank 60 litres Spare No Thirst 8.0-8.3 l/100km WLTP combined
Nurburgring lap records have become so frequently broken, and so full of caveats, that it’s easy to ignore them. The Kodiaq RS is one of the culprits. It broke the lap record for a seven-seater. Or was that for a seven-seat crossover? Or was it for a seven-seat crossover with a diesel engine? Do we care? (Actually it was the ‘absolute’ seven-seat record, fact fans, at just under nine and a half minutes, though we guess a Tesla Model Y with optional third-row would blow its doors off.)
WHAT’S THE PRICE AND WHAT DO YOU GET? We’ll get to that. To set the Nurbirgring record, the familiar cuddly Kodiaq had a bit of a going-over to create the RS variant. The engine is a twin-turbo diesel job, though still a two-litre four-cylinder. Brakes are bigger than standard, wheels are now 20-inchers with 235/45 tyres. The suspension is firmer than in other versions, but drive it and you realise a lot of sharpening up is due to the switchable adaptive dampers.
Outside there’s been restyling to the bumpers. The head and tail lamps are LEDs. Look beyond that and you see a standard Kodiaq, which is a very estate-car-like crossover. It’s actually quite closely related to the VW Passat wagon, but a bit taller and with the third row of seats.
In Europe the rest of the Kodiaq range is good value but the RS comes at a steep premium. Looking at local prices, we’d imagine the RS, if/when it lands here, would be close to $75,000. We’ve reached out to Volkswagen/Skoda Australia about the Kodiaq RS but heard nothing but crickets…
WHAT’S THE CABIN LIKE? Compared with the standard gimmick-free Kodiaq decor, the RS has added most of the flash signifiers you usually see in a GTI.
There’s also lots of diamond-pattern red stitching around the cabin, and more mock carbonfibre. Rather hilariously the centre display can be set for track-telemetry-style dials including g-load and instantaneous power output. You’ll use them once and forget them.
Never mind all that, it does feel fairly expensively-made in here, and it’s heightened by sophisticated ambient lighting at night. Switchgear and ergonomics are up to the VW Group’s usual high standard.
The driver’s main dial pack is a screen not actual clocks, so you can set it to show 3d map or other info. For the RS there’s also another configuration that puts a big rev-counter in the middle. Just the thing in a diesel auto. Sorry to snipe, but the pretend sportiness of this vehicle is a bit grating. Never mind, as with the g-load readout in the main touchscreen, you can always turn it off.
The RS doesn’t lose the standard Kodiaq’s ultra-satisfying storage solutions: umbrellas in the doors a window ice scraper stored behind the fuel flap, clever adjustable cupholders in the armrest, luggage nets, a torch that recharges in its mount in the boot, the list goes on.
WHAT ARE THE FRONT SEATS LIKE? Big, bolstered front seats set the tone, with lots of red stitching, They’re upholstered in suede-like material with sections of something called ‘carbon leather’ which I suspect is actually neither. More important those seats are superbly comfortable.
WHAT ARE THE BACK SEATS LIKE? Rear room is fine too, and they get lights, cupholders, power sockets and seat-back pockets, although no separate climate control zone. Behind that is another row of seats that’ll hold teenagers. Folding arrangements are straightforward.
WHAT’S THE BOOT LIKE? Behind the third row there’s a 230 litre boot, which isn’t at all bad, and it has storage beneath for the five-seat luggage blind. Boot size rapidly grows if you fold one or two of those seats, and gets vast (almost 2000 litres) when row two is flattened too.
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE? The system uses a good-resolution screen with proximity sensors so extra buttons show up on the display when your hand moves close. That works well. For instance the map has no zoom buttons to obscure its content, until you put a finger close when + and – appear.
The system is connected, for various online apps and traffic info. It’s also got phone mirroring and wifi. Passengers in the back can connect to the system and control it using their tablet. The system uses the phone mic to pick up the driver and front passenger’s voice and amplify it through the rear speakers, so conversations are clearer. No more kids pretending they didn’t hear parental commands. The rest of the time, the driver can drown out the back-seat bickering by turning up the very satisfactory hifi.
WHAT’S THE PERFORMANCE LIKE? The bi-turbo diesel hauls it to 100km/h in seven seconds dead, says the maker. That’s not very quick by sport SUV standards, but it tells you this is a machine for brisk rather than manic driving. And it’s got enough gumption to keep things moving even when weighed down by a big gang of passengers. The torque spreads itself widely through the rev band, and turbo lag isn’t really much of a thing.
The engine’s mostly smooth and quiet too for a diesel. It harmonises well with the DSG, which has encouragingly snappy over-ride behaviour when you use the paddles.
An eco mode softens the pedal action, and also sets up the transmission to open both its clutches when you ease the pedal at speed. This lets the engine revs drop to idle, and without the drag of engine braking you’ll sail along for further before you need to use the accelerator again, thus saving fuel. Sounds odd, but this feature has been used on many VW group cars for years and you soon forget it’s happening.
A curiosity is the ‘engine’-sound synthesis, which emerges from the stereo speakers in approximate proportion to revs and engine effort. It’s a sound that bears no resemblance to the engine’s natural diesel drone. I suspect they were aiming for the note of a sporty naturally aspirated petrol. It’s bizarre, like you’ve got a car with two different engines mounted in two different places. It gets annoying after about half a minute. You can turn it off, with a bit of on-screen menu-diving.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE ROAD? Throwing 500Nm through the front tyres alone would be very messy, especially in the wet or on gravel. So the RS has AWD and uses it well. Most of the time drive is through the front ones, saving fuel, but up to 85 percent of the drive torque is sent where it’s needed if any of the tyres comes under duress. This happens before you can even sense it.
So even on difficult road the RS is a very easy car to drive at a decent clip. And the uprated springs an electronically regulated dampers keep the body from heaving about. It doesn’t exactly egg you on though, as the steering is a little soft around the edges and you don’t get a sense of feedback.
So you press the mode button into sport. On a smooth road this does sharpen its reflexes, but the ride gets jiggly and there’s no extra engagement with the car.
So you turn it back to normal mode and realise this is a very well developed brisk family hauler, with surprisingly good ride comfort and refinement. It copes not just with big bumps, but also smoothes out tiring corrugated disturbance. It feels like a solidly made and reassuring machine, resistant to the attacks of a degraded road.
WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FEATURES? In a crash, the Kodiaq protects well. It scored 92 percent for adult protection in the ANCAP test, which is pretty much as good as things get, but there was some worry about neck strain on children.
However, it misses out on some active features. There’s no speed limit recognition, and no lane support. The auto emergency braking system was tested as effective when the Kodiaq comes up behind a vehicle, but doesn’t recognise pedestrians or cyclists. Lane support and blind sport recognition are available in the Kodiaq range but not standard on the RS in Europe.