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Future models - Skoda - Octavia - Scout

Driven: Skoda Octavia Scout here in March

Forward scout: Skoda's new Octavia Scout will rival Subaru's Outback in the Australian market when it arrives in March.

Skoda’s bigger Octavia Scout gets more power, economy, safety, convenience

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Skoda logo15 Oct 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PORTUGAL

AFTER a hiatus of nearly a year and a half, Skoda’s Octavia Scout will return to Australia in March in a three-variant attack designed to give the Subaru Outback a scare.

Based on the third-generation mid-sized Octavia launched in late 2013, the Scout follows its predecessor in offering all-wheel drive, extra ground clearance and a more rugged soft-roader look.

Pricing and specs remain unknowns for now, but expect the base 110TDI manual – like the preceding 103TDI but with a more powerful 110kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel – to slip in well below $40,000.

For the first time, a petrol-powered Scout is heading Down Under in the guise of a 132kW 1.8-litre TSI/six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission unit, while the entry-level diesel will be joined by a new high-torque iteration cribbed from the Octavia RS TDI – the 135TDI DSG.

Compared with the regular wagon, the Scout’s ground clearance is 31mm higher at 171mm, and scores the optional rough road package with extra underbody protection and 17-inch alloys wearing 220/50 R17 tyres.

Different bumper treatments feature black plastic moulding and a silver off-road attachment at both ends, unique front fog light housings, black plastic door and wheel arch mouldings, aluminium-like door mirror cappings, rear-bumper reflectors and – where fitted – silver roof rails.

Scout badges adorn the grille, doorsills, steering wheel and gear knob, the dash is available in black or black/brown combination trim, while seats are sheathed in brown fabric or brown/black Alcantara/leather.

Like the RS versions, the Scout uses Volkswagen’s latest Haldex V all-wheel drive system, which – along with being 1.4kg lighter than the previous version – distributes torque to whichever wheel needs it most.

As with all AWD Octavias, the Scout is fitted with the MQB modular transverse platform matrix’s four-link multi-link independent rear suspension rather than the torsion-beam back end found in the front-wheel drive models producing 110kW of power and under.

The newcomer has greater off-road ability thanks to better approach angle (16.7 degrees) and departure angle (13.8 degree) and an electronic differential lock.

While the regular Octavia’s 110TDI is DSG-only, the Scout’s 110TDI 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection twin-cam four-cylinder turbo-diesel is six-speed manual-only, producing its 110kW of power between 3500rpm and 4000rpm and 340Nm of torque from 1750rpm to 3000rpm.

In Euro-6 guise available in Europe, the 110TDI can hit 100km/h from standstill in 9.1 seconds on the way to a 207km/h top speed or, alternatively, average a combined 5.1 litres per 100km and 129 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

This same engine in 135TDI tune ups the power and torque ante to 135kW (between 3500-4000rpm) and 380Nm (between 1750-3250rpm), making this variant 12km/h faster and 1.3 seconds quicker to 100km/h, while returning the same combined fuel consumption figure (though the CO2 rating jumps 5g/km).

Lastly, the new-to-Scout 1.8-litre direct-injection twin-cam four-cylinder 132TSI petrol unit delivers 132kW between 4500-6200rpm and 280Nm from 1350-4500rpm, for a 216km/h V-max, 7.8s 0-100km/h time, 6.9L/100km and 158g/km of CO2.

All three engines include idle-stop technology.

Other than that, the Scout is pure Octavia, meaning it shares its MQB architecture with the Mk7 Golf and Mk3 Audi A3, that in turn brings streamlined engineering solutions as well as a circa-100kg weight drop compared with the previous model.

Dimensionally, the 2015 Scout is closer to the medium-sized Hyundai i40 wagon, thanks to a 108mm wheelbase stretch compared with the old car.

Steering is via an electro-mechanical rack and pinion set-up, supporting a set of MacPherson struts.

Nine airbags are standard, while a Scout buyers can now specify autonomous emergency braking, lane-change warning, autonomous braking, fatigue recognition technology, adaptive cruise control, auto-on/off lights, automatic parking, keyless entry and start, and a rear camera as part of touchscreen central display.

Launched in 2007, some 53,600 previous-gen Scouts have been built, representing about eight per cent of Octavia wagon production.

So they’re the facts. How does the new Scout drive?To find out, we hit the road in two higher-end versions – the 132TSI petrol and 135TDI diesel – from Lisbon up to Porto in Portugal and back. That’s a circa-600km round trip once the various side roads are taken into account.

If this was a design contest against the Subaru, the Skoda would score the first goal on style alone.

The added height and Outback-style cladding are well integrated into the already ruggedly handsome Octavia’s lines. Far from seeming like last-minute add-ons, they work in giving the Scout a quasi-crossover appearance … and an upmarket one at that.

Similar classy themes carry on inside, thanks to a cabin layout that too comes together in a functional yet appealing manner.

Our cars were overflowing with all the extras – sat-nav, massive twin sunroof, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and leather/Alcantara trim – so the Scout’s $50K premium ambience will more than likely be equalled by the actual price once it is announced for Australia. We will have to wait and see how the base cars stack up.

There is no denying the sheer rightness of the important stuff such as the comfortable and inviting driving position, logical and intuitive control layout, supportive front seats, spacious rear seat area, bags of storage options and humungous cargo capacity. The luggage floor alone is deeper than Madonna’s botox injections.

As with the closely related Golf, Octavia’s cabin interface has a depth of quality that will win people over even before they push the start button.

Only some cheapo lower-console plastic trim – of the coarse variety – and a fair bit of wind noise from one of the exterior mirrors, grated. We are not too keen on the brown-on-black dash materials either. What is this … the 1981 Sussan’s catalogue?How highly you rate the Scout on the go might depend on how high your expectations are.

Compared with a regular latest-generation Octavia, the newcomer feels the same in a straight line, thanks to a sturdy and surefooted chassis that is rock solid at speed.

Whether powered by the petrol-sipping 132TSI – smooth and zingy all the way up to the red line, with refinement to match – or 135TDI turbo-diesel – a muted yet muscular grand tourer with exceptionally strong mid-range pull – the Scout feels like it was born to cruise effortlessly along the open blacktop all day long. It just reels in the kilometres with fatigue-free ease.

The latter was underlined by constant and at times driving rain on one of the days, which did nothing to upset the Skoda’s determined progress – even at speeds well north of the 120km/h posted limit.

Furthermore, through fast sweeping bends, the Scout’s AWD-assisted handling and roadholding proved absolutely safe and secure, backed up by an agility that soon had us forgetting about the 4.7m length and 1560kg-plus heft of the Czech crossover.

However, when we finally hit tighter mountain roads, the steering’s lightness proved to be a tad underwhelming. We would like more weight and feel from the helm, please Skoda.

Having said that, our co-driver found the rack and pinion set-up perfectly judged for this type of car, so this might be down to personal taste.

There is also some degree of body roll evident – a corollary of the raised suspension – that means the Skoda leans a bit more than you might desire through corners. Not bad or unruly, just unexpected, especially if you are familiar with the regular Octavia’s flatter roadholding attitude.

Conversely, the suspension on the standard 17-inch set-up does not soak up the bumps as comfortably as the car’s jacked-up height suggests. Not harsh just firm in places.

We are also waiting to see if the Scout continues the regular Octavia’s propensity to transmit road noise into the cabin on our droney bitumen. That’s one of the latter’s biggest faults.

But these are all minor things in the grand scheme of things, for the latest Skoda crossover walks the fine line between wagon and SUV with all four wheels planted firmly in the former dynamically while offering the visual and higher-ride virtues of the latter. It is a great all-rounder.

As a quality family car with real practicality and light off-road capability, the Scout takes Subaru’s Outback template and smothers it with an appealing dollop of Volkswagen premiumnness, but at an (projected) affordable price.

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