2019 Skoda Kodiaq Laurin and Klement first drive review
We like Skoda's cars for many things. Their premium feel, good driving dynamics, practicality and clever packaging being some of them. If there is one car which manages to pack all these positives in one package, it has to be the Skoda Kodiaq SUV. The Kodiaq is the brand's first full-size seven-seater SUV and launched in India in 2017 with a single Style variant. But now, the lineup has been expanded to include this, the Skoda Kodiaq Laurin and Klement. This variant is priced at Rs 35.99 lakh (ex-showroom India).
A short history lesson seems pertinent here. The Skoda brand is one of the oldest car brands in continuous existence. It started out in 1895 as a bicycle-maker. The company was called Laurin and Klement then, named after its two founders Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement. It was only in 1925 when this establishment was bought over by the Skoda Works conglomerate did these cars start to sell under the Skoda name. So when you see this name on a Skoda, you know that this is the top-dog version of that car.
So what's changed?
The Skoda Kodiaq L and K gets two new colour options, Lava Blue and the Magnetic Brown you see here. We've seen this shade before on the Superb, and it is similarly understated but rich looking here. Accentuating this is chrome trim on the grille, very upmarket looking Laurin and Klement badges on the front quarter panel, silver roof-rails. The rear now gets ornamental twin exhaust tips finished in chrome.
These changes are minor but lift the look of the car to some extent. The shiny bits are never in-your-face and work well with the understated yet elegant look of the SUV. We aren't sure if these chrome bits will have the same effect in a lighter shade, but in the time we spent with the car we had quite a few second glances coming our way.
And on the inside?
This is where Skoda has put in the most amount of work with this new trim.
Step inside, and you immediately notice the Virtual Cockpit fully digital instrument cluster. We've seen this set up on many Audis before and it is similarly effective here but uses Skoda's own design scheme.
The system manages to provide you with a lot of information clearly and the high-res screen is more legible than traditional dials. Further, there are a number of formats available. There is the mainstream two dial look or a sporty single dial look which also adds a gauge to show how much power is being used. You can also see your maps directly on the screen, a big help, or choose to have a skeletal look with just your speed and range. The only major oversight of this system was its refusal to detect our phone when it was connected through Android Auto.
The other big addition is the new 360-degree camera, its incorporation here is a big help. The system uses feed from four cameras, one in the grille, one on each of the wing mirrors and one at the rear. You can choose to see each camera's feed separately or in a top-down view. We found this system great when it came to fitting this car into tight parking spots, especially in cohesion with the handsfree parking feature carried over here from the Style variant. We only wish the feed was of a higher resolution, the low-res footage meant that small obstacles weren't accurately represented.
The dash and door-pad inserts are now finished in piano-black, with the Laurin and Klement inscription on the dash, seats and infotainment home-screen. The metal scuff plates on the door sill and the pedal covers are other new touches. The seats get a new upholstery pattern.
All these bits bring the Kodiaq L and K's interior within sniffing distance of say something like that of a Q5. Sure, the Audi has more metal bits, better switchgear and use better plastics in parts, but is also significantly more expensive. The Skoda also gets those unique, thoughtful touches like the door-sill protectors, the umbrellas in the doors and the portable boot light which adds to its appeal
Is it any different to drive?
No, the Kodiaq L and K remains mechanically unchanged. It continues to be powered by the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel motor which makes 150PS(3,500-4,000rpm) and 340 Nm(1,7503,000rpm). This is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch and a front-biased AWD system.
The engine is refined and smooth and once you get past the 2,000 rpm mark, delivers power linearly. A lot of this is to do with the gearbox which works quietly in the background and makes quick, smooth shifts. But, in that rare occasion when you want to make that ambitious overtaking manoeuvre, the power deficit catches you out.
The Kodiaq L and K handles with car-like enthusiasm. The electrically assisted steering wheel is not really brimming with feel but is precise. The SUV stance and 1,826 kg kerb weight mean there is some lean around corners but the SUV holds its line confidently. High-speed stability is imperious. The AWD is continuously working in the background here, and in situations where we pushed the car through a corner quicker than we should have, it pulled us in to maintain the car's line.
Ride quality is typical of German cars. At low speeds, there is a tinge of firmness over bumps and you hear the suspension working. This fades away the faster you go and the Kodiaq handles our bumpy expressway without drama.
In light off-roading, a degree to which owners of the Kodiaq L and K will never put their car through, the SUV handled the dusty, pebbled trail noisily but effectively. The AWD system is an electronically controlled multi-plate unit which can send up to 85 per cent power to a single wheel.
What's what then?
We've always talked about how Skodas are a great approximation of owning something from a German luxury brand. The Skoda Kodiaq Laurin and Klement come closest to giving you the full experience. It's a refined, spacious car loaded to the brim with equipment. Another plus is the four year service care package that Skoda currently offers.
But its pricing also means that the Kodiaq L and K sits between cheaper alternatives like the Ford Endeavour 3.2 and the Toyota Fortuner and more expensive SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1. These are all very competent and have an image as enviable as the Skoda, making sure it will have its work cut out in trying to justify the price premium.
The Rs 1.15 lakh price difference over the Style variant feels somewhat justified given the upmarket interior features like the 360-degree camera and the virtual cockpit. But we can't help but wonder if Skoda could have given us the 180PS version of this engine from the Superb L and K, making the Skoda Kodiaq L&K a more enticing prospect.
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Team OD | 21 Jan 2019
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