The Skoda Vision E concept typifies the zeitgeist of today's automotive industry: it's an electric coupé-SUV.
The Vision E’s styling is bold, although Skoda designer Karl Neuman can’t say how much of the look will be carried over to the production model. Insiders say that the full look probably will make it, although experience tell us that features such as the two full-width light bars at the front and cameras instead of wingmirrors probably won't.
The former has a chance, though; “light is the new chrome,” says Neuman, and Skoda does have a track record with concepts closely matching their production counterparts; see the Vision S and the Kodiaq.
Skoda’s product management boss, Guido Haak, has his eye on Tesla. Namely, the Model 3, which, as promised by the charismatic face and head of the American company, Elon Musk, has delivered on target its headline-grabbing $35,000 entry-level price tag.
Haak is not impressed. He describes the Model 3’s price and 310-mile range as 'vanilla', and insists that Skoda’s EV will have a broad range of talents, including being fun to drive, long of range and low in price. As it's a concept, the Vision E isn't road-ready, which is par for the course, as is its Model 3-matching 310km range, 301bhp and 112mph top speed, driven through two electric motors. But over the 200-metre, 15kph-max drive, it proved itself to be a convincing, if ambitious, plan.
Amusing though the figures are, they’re for a car which was only really meant to be gawped at on a motor show stand. It's a solid foundation upon which Skoda can pin its future.
The seating position is spot on; the pedals and seat, which all sprout out of a wood-veneer-finished, immaculately spotless and smooth floor, give that typically commanding SUV height, while the steering communicates the imperfections in the road surface adequately. Although admittedly on this drive, those imperfections were mere lines in an otherwise smooth, flat warehouse floor.
The Vision E’s 19in wheels and wide tyres scuff the wheel arch linings under full lock, but this noise and sensation is communicated through the steering wheel positively. Otherwise, it’s smooth and silent.
Inside, it’s like a glimpse into Skoda’s soul. An extremely uncluttered dashboard holds three large, wide screens, and is finished in a textured trim contrasting with the fabric on the doorcards, other parts of the dash and seats, and that wood floor.
The only decorative touches are crystal-design glass trim with geometric line patterns etched in – these are of particular beauty on the infotainment system’s scrolling wheel controller, the rear-view mirror surround and the dashboard divider, and are a much-celebrated nod to the brand’s Czech heritage.
Predictably, Skoda’s promises for the eventual model all point to an alluring mix; price, driver engagement, range, assistance and design are all where they ought to be, but the execution of the Vision E production model is yet to be seen.
The typically-concept-like interior will be toned down, and a fifth seat will be added. Aside from this, Neuman says, “who knows?”. The panoramic windscreen, which stretches to behind the top of the driver’s head, is almost certain to not make production, and the crystal motifs will be toned down. But that’s a good thing; the swathes of hard, unforgiving materials like the wood on the floor and that vast windscreen, pretty though they are, make the car a bit echoey inside, which kills the EV’s reassuring silence and refinement. Something more conventional will almost certainly replace them, and it’ll be better for it.
It marks a step upmarket for Skoda too; there’s a Volvo-like crispness to the interior, while Volkswagen Group design hallmarks are all present on the outside.
That’s not a bad thing at all, either; it marks a half-step up in market segment for Skoda, with its crisp, luxurious and yet unpretentious-feeling interior, ambitious mix of qualities and price, and a whole step up in the evolution of the Volkswagen Group's EV onslaught.