You would have had more luck babying some big, front-engined V12 bruiser off the mark in the days before launch-control software than squeezing an optimal 0-60mph time out of the diesel Octavia vRS on the day we tested it at Millbrook. With ambient temperature at just 1deg C and damp patches on the track, the tyres struggled fruitlessly for traction through both first and second gears.
The problem was twofold. First, and as has already been pointed out, the diesel Octavia vRS lacks the LSD-mimicking VAQ system available in the petrol, and therefore once one of its front Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres has slipped, it remains so. Second, and as is common to almost all modern turbo diesels, the torque output hits its 295lb ft peak early and almost out of nowhere, with the turbocharger suddenly waking up at around 1700rpm. The combination means it’s very difficult to mete drive out with much precision during full-bore runs, at least in these conditions.
What is therefore quite odd is the fact that our test car recorded a 7.2sec 0-60mph time, which tallies with Skoda’s claim of 7.4sec to 62mph. Clearly Porsche has some competition when it comes to understating performance claims, because it’s reasonable to assume that in warmer, drier conditions the TDI Octavia vRS would easily have dipped below seven seconds. By comparison, the Golf GTD is rated at 7.1sec to 62mph, and the DSG-equipped petrol Octavia vRS – the one with the VAQ system – manages 6.6sec. The diesel Skoda clearly has some bite.
But standing starts are not what the car is about. Its 7.3sec time for the haul from 30mph to 70mph in fourth – our preferred measure of how deep an engine’s lungs are – is only three tenths slower than the time recently recorded by the new 306bhp Audi S3. Which, just to dispel any confusion, is mightily impressive.
Of course, in normal circumstances, the seven-speed gearbox would kick down if you fully depressed the throttle pedal in fourth, and it would do so quickly and intuitively. The gearbox shift calibration is good in this car, as demonstrated by the fact our testers rarely if ever found themselves grasping for one of the stubby, vaguely apologetic plastic gearshift paddles on the steering wheel.
However, on occasion, you may need to knock the ’box into Sport mode. What you don’t get with this powertrain is much shape in the delivery, which is unsurprising. The TDI unit’s exertions come with a good thwack of torque, but once the turbo has spooled up, that delivery is uniform until it starts to become strained at 4000rpm. The EA888 VW engine in the petrol vRS is no paragon of excitement in this respect, but there’s more to sink your teeth into.