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Driven: Snappy Skoda RS245 to drive Octavia sales

Auto gain: Skoda’s new Octavia RS245 flagship gets a dual-clutch transmission option to go with its 180kW turbo petrol engine in the facelifted range.

More power and auto option set to keep Skoda Octavia RS range on the up

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Skoda logo7 Dec 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

SKODA Australia expects its facelifted Octavia RS245 flagship to account for half of all Octavia RS performance variant sales in Australia where RS sales are among the highest in the world as a percentage of volume.

And contrary to the experience of medium car rivals, Skoda also expects the Octavia wagon to continue to outsell the sedan version in this market where more than 70 per cent of Octavia buyers favour the load lugger over the booted variant, even though it costs $1500 more.

Skoda this week launched its expanded performance Octavia line-up in Australia, topped by the new 180kW RS245 that replaces the limited-edition 169kW RS230.

This time, the RS245 gains a six-speed dual-clutch transmission as an alternative to the six-speed manual, broadening its appeal.

Liftback RS245 prices start with the manual at $43,390 plus on-road costs – $1900 more than the outgoing manual RS230 – rising to $45,890 for the new dual-clutch automatic.

The manual RS245 wagon costs $44,890 – $1700 higher than before – while the auto version commands $47,390.

One step down the range, the “standard” petrol-powered Octavia RS is $38,890 for the manual and $41,390 for auto in liftback form, and an extra $1500 in each case for the wagon. The slow-selling RS diesel auto is $42,490 in liftback and $43,490 in wagon.

Speaking at the national media launch of the facelifted Octavia RS range on the New South Wales central coast this week, Skoda Australia product planning manager Kieran Merrigan said he expected Skoda to sell more RS245s than the manual-only RS230 it replaces.

He said he also expected Octavia wagon sales to remain high.

“Our highest selling model in previous-generation Octavia RS was a wagon with Tech Pack, Comfort Pack and a sunroof, with everything ticked, so we don’t expect anything less,” Mr Merrigan said.

“Interestingly, the market is very much sedan driven, but we’ve always had a high mix of wagon take-up – 70 per cent-plus across the range. If you just look at wagon sales in all segments, Octavia does very well. It’s something we’re famous for now, to have a wagon, and if you don’t need one that sits a bit higher, then maybe you look at Skoda.

“With RS245, it’s just for that person who is willing to pay a bit extra for a bit more kit.”

Mr Merrigan confirmed a 50/50 sales split between Octavia RS and Octavia RS245 model grades, adding that there was a clear preference for auto over manual.

However, the take-up of manual Octavia RS is higher than the normal 10 per cent reported by rival manufacturers of medium-sized cars where both transmissions are available.

“With RS it has been anywhere between 75 to 80 per cent DSG (auto), but with RS245 we’d probably expect a slightly higher skew towards manual with enthusiasts, but it will be similar,” Mr Merrigan said, while adding that it was important for Skoda to capitalise on this niche market.

“I think it’s Skoda – we want to offer something a little bit different, we definitely don’t want to lose having a practical vehicle out there for an enthusiast who likes to shift their own gears.

“For us it’s a bit of a no-brainer.”

The demographic of the Octavia RS buyer is described as male, middle aged and anywhere from 30s to mid-40s.

Although the Subaru Levorg was cited as the closest rival to the wagon, Skoda confirms that Holden Commodore Sportwagon buyers have also started coming into Skoda showrooms, with the conquest rate for the Czech car-maker at times hitting 90 per cent-plus.

“We have to have a high conquest rate, because as a growing brand we don’t have a massive carparc of owners at the moment,” Mr Merrigan added.

“We have a high conquest rate, but we’re also quite proud of our loyalty rates, and there is not a huge competitive set, I guess.”

Signified by a new quad-headlight treatment with LED headlights as standard, replacing Xenons, and a revised tail-light cluster, both versions of the facelifted Octavia RS now include as standard a ‘black pack’ formerly optional on the entry model and standard on the limited-edition RS230.

This includes a blacked-out grille surround and mirror caps. However, the Octavia RS can be distinguished by its standard 18-inch alloy wheels and silver exhaust pipes against the RS245’s 19s and black pipes.

A new 9.2-inch touchscreen and 64GB hard drive replace the 8.0-inch unit and 10GB drive, while the sat-nav gets a 10-year map update plan.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity continue as standard, but live traffic updates are still not available.

Nine airbags, active cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors also continue as standard, while the RS245 adds Alcantara and leather trim on electrically adjustable front seats, and auto-fold door mirrors.

A $2800 Luxury Package for RS includes that leather/Alcantara trim on electrically adjustable front seats and electric-fold door mirrors, along with heated front and rear seats, blind-spot monitor and lane-keep assistance.

For $1500, RS245 buyers can get a Luxury Package with the heater seats, blind-spot monitor and lane-keep assist.

A $2300 Tech Package comprises keyless auto-entry with push-button start, automatic reverse-park assistance, 10-speaker audio system, rain-sensing wipers and three-mode adaptive suspension.

Despite an 80 per cent-plus take-up of both options packages, plus the $1500 liftback sunroof or $1700 wagon panoramic sunroof, as well as the $500 wagon electric tailgate, Mr Merrigan argued that “it’s important to have a (lower) entry price” rather than offer a higher price with such items as standard.

While the standard sports suspension and adaptive chassis are shared between RS and RS245, the latter adds an electrically operated mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) and ups kerb weight by 25kg to 1371kg.

Both share a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Octavia RS’s power moves from 162kW to 169kW – the same as the previous RS230 – between 4700rpm and 6200rpm, while torque is unchanged at 350Nm between 1500rpm and 4600rpm.

The auto RS dashes to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, while the wagon does it in 7.0s.

The power for the RS245 moves up 11kW to 180kW, achieved from 5000rpm until 6700rpm, while torque tops out at 370Nm between 1600rpm and 4300rpm.

The manual and auto RS245s can both skate from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 6.6 second – one tenth better than the RS230. The wagon is a tenth slower.

The diesel RS, dubbed Octavia RS135, is slower at 7.9s (liftback) and 8.0s (wagon). However, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres it is also thriftier than petrol RS (6.5L/100km) and RS245 (6.7L/100km).

Skoda includes a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and three-year/45,00km service package at a $1300 up-front cost.

2017 Skoda Octavia RS245 pricing*
Sedan$43,390
Sedan (a)$45,890
Wagon$44,890
Wagon (a)$47,390
*Excludes on-road costs

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