March 17, 2020 | Issue 6
ŠKODA's World Record Holder under the spotlight
For our latest Volkswagen Group Icon, we are focusing on a model set to celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. During that quarter of a century, it’s racked up some notable achievements. They include motorsport milestones and a world production car land speed record.
So, without further ado we give you the ŠKODA Octavia, or more specifically for this feature, the vRS edition. Let’s find out what makes this turbocharged record holder such an icon.
The modern-day ŠKODA Octavia was launched in 1996, but to fully understand its origins we must first go back more than 60 years.
In 1959, the first-ever ŠKODA Octavia rolled off the production line in Mlada Boleslav, in the former state of Czechoslovakia. Produced by AZNP during the Cold War, the two-door car was named Octavia as it was the eighth car produced by the then nationalised ŠKODA.
Within the next year two new variants, the Octavia Super and Octavia Touring Sport, were introduced. With a top speed of 80mph, the latter model went on to secure a hat trick of victories from 1961-1963 at the Monte Carlo Rally in the category for unmodified road cars.
It laid the foundations for a motorsports heritage that includes representation in the European Touring Car Championship, FIA 2-litre World Rally Cup and the World Rally Championship. By 1971, the last original Octavia had rolled off the production line. Over 20 years passed before Volkswagen Group purchased the Czech manufacturer and with it the opportunity to resurrect the legendary Octavia name. The first-generation Octavia was released in November 1996 both in saloon and estate styles. In the UK, it soon proved a success, with sales putting it alongside established favourites such as the Vauxhall Vectra and Ford Mondeo. During this first-generation, came perhaps the biggest boost to the range – the ŠKODA Octavia vRS, launched in 2001.
With chunkier bumpers, a rear spoiler, chrome exhausts and unique alloy wheels, the performance model was powered by the same 1.8-litre turbocharged engine found in a Volkswagen Golf GTI. It offered 178hp and a 0-62 mph (1-100 km/h) time of less than eight seconds.
With such power and performance, it soon gained popularity including with the UK police, who used it as both a liveried vehicle and an unmarked interceptor.
From 2001 to 2011, the ŠKODA Octavia vRS went from chasing criminals to chasing records. In a world record attempt to mark its ten-year anniversary, a specially modified ŠKODA Octavia vRS hatch became the world’s fastest 2.0-litre turbocharged production car.
Driven by motoring journalist Richard Meaden, the car registered 227.070 mph (365 km/h) on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, eclipsing the previous record of 216 mph (348 km/h), set back in 1998.
The record-breaking exploits of the vRS were followed seven years later by another world record, this time involving the vRS 245 version. The car teamed up with Austrian Olympic Archer Laurence Baldauf and martial arts coach Markus Haas to set a new world best of 57.5m for the farthest distance for an arrow fired and caught in a moving car.
In between these two spectacularly different world records, the third edition vRS was premiered at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed. With a top speed of 154 mph (248 km/h), the Octavia vRS with petrol engine and manual gearbox was acclaimed to be the fastest production Octavia ever.
In 2015, ŠKODA took it up another notch by launching the more powerful 155mph (250 km/h) Octavia vRS 230 at the Geneva Motor Show.
Which brings us to now. Well to be more specific, when the fourth generation vRS debuts at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2020. The headline news this time around is that the Octavia vRS will be a PHEV for the first time ever.
The new PHEV version promises to offer the most potent version yet of the drivetrain already seen in the Volkswagen Golf GTE. The plug-in hybrid version will also match the petrol in terms of outright power. Good to drive and better for the environment, it promises to be a winning combination.
It’s the latest evolution in a brand, that thanks to years of consistent improvements, refinements, and innovations, has firmly cemented its place in the Icon Hall of Fame. It’s a place well-deserved and, judged on the promise offered by latest models, is likely to remain long into the automotive future.
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