Bonneville Skoda Octavia vRS: First drive review
We all thought Skoda was having a belated April fools joke when in June last year it announced it was going to celebrate 10 years of its performance vRS badge, entering a one-off Octavia in the Bonneville Speed Week last August.
Well, they weren't and the finished car, driven by journalist Richard Meaden, officially became the world's fastest 2.0-litre supercharged production car, when the 600bhp racer hit a magic 227.080 mph on Utah's legendary Bonneville Salt Flats.
Anyway, after some static displays, the fastest Skoda in the world was getting its first shakedown in the UK since returning from the US, at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground and we were invited to have a go.
After suiting up and waiting for the previous lucky journalist to complete his runs, the first challenge was actually getting in the car as there's the climbing frame of a roll cage to get over and that's before we even get to the snug Kirkley racing seat.
With the five-point harness holding us in tight, Ricky Elder, Skoda's Senior Race Technician goes through the safety features and the rather complicated starting procedure.
Then, Ricky starts the car and refits the window safety net and the car is ours to do the first familiarisation runs.
The heavily modified 2.0-litre TSI engine barks in an unsilenced way as I blip the throttle and the noise vibrates around the roll cage and stripped-out cabin.
Before we set off down the runway, we take a look at what remains of the Octavia vRS's interior. Skoda recently loaned us a diesel Octavia estate vRS for Autoblog to try, but this is very different to the road car. We're sitting a lot lower and further back for starters.
Richard Meaden must be much shorter than us, as the racing pedal box is so much closer to the seat that we have to bend our legs uncomfortably to depress the pedals.
The only giveaway that we're in an Octavia is what remains of the standard dashboard.
On the passenger side, lots of wiring is hanging untidily where the glovebox used to be, the stereo and climate controls are long gone too, to be replaced by what looks like a metal plate with two prominently placed guages monitoring the turbo.
The standard instruments are still there and the speedo still works. However, they are obscured by a digital display mounted on the steering column also showing the speed and maximum revs.
Other interesting interior features of this special Skoda include the fire extinguisher system on the floor where the passenger seat used to be, the extended gearlever and the massive quick release steering wheel.
The lightened flywheel and racing clutch are hard to master and it takes us a couple of attempts to get the correct amount of revs needed to get the Octavia cleanly off the line. Embarrassingly, we stalled it three times. Our solution was 3,000 revs and carefully side-stepping the clutch. giving a clean and wheelspin-free take off.
There's very little drama and despite the christmas tree of dashboard warning lights due to the modified wiring, the revs rise with plenty of big power and torque steer. This unnervingly sends the car sideways as we hit 7,000 revs and change gear. Even going to just 60mph on the first run, we're pushed back into the driver's seat.
There have been some changes to the car since it got back from the US, one of which we're very grateful for as we come to the BRAKE! board at the end of the runway, namely the front brakes. Refitted to the front, the car is also running on the standard 17-inch vRS alloys and tyres. Unservoed and without ABS, they're definitely powerful enough considering the performance, but need plenty of effort to get the bite to stop the car even from sensible speeds.
After learning the car at speeds of up to 120mph, we were then given the chance to see how fast we could go. The grip and acceleration of this Skoda just amazes us and the first run sees us ace 142mph, the second 151mph and finally 154mph. What's more impressive was that the fastest final run was completed with a slightly notchy gearchange and overheating standard Octavia vRS six-speed transmission.
Our runs were over all too quickly and we feel if we'd had longer, we might have gone even faster. We can only imagine the sights, smells and sounds when this car cracked 220mph last year. There's no doubt this Octavia is an adrenaline junkie's dream, it was an unforgettable drive. Skoda, please build us a road-going version.