Skoda Laura vRS tested
I'm looking for the sweet spot in the new vRS but it just does not seem to exist. I go out onto the test track for one more attempt, go through the motions and it's still not there. I resign myself to the fact that perhaps the vRS isn't that quick. A 0-100kmph time of 8.6 seconds in the slightly damp conditions is the best this car can comes up with. But then I turn to my archives and woah, the standard Laura with the 1.8TSI engine turns out to be three tenths of a second quicker.
The new vRS is the performance variant of the Laura, at least that is what we are led to believe by a very enthusiastic Skoda spokesperson. Well I do know that the vRS is the performance version because I drove it in Prague some time ago. It was as energetic as a kid after his first cuppa coffee ever. Now the vRS has finally come to India and well I thought to myself how about donning my bad boy mask and indulging in a bit of uncouthness. Until I did the numbers which completely blew out whatever candle I had lit for it.
The vRS you get in India isn't the same car that I drove in Europe. It does not have the 2.0-litre TFSi engine that makes 200Ps of max power and 280Nm of max torque. Nor the 2.0-litre diesel (yes the vRS also has a diesel in Europe!) with 170PS and 350Nm of torque. Nor the 7-speed DSG gearbox.
What it offers is the standard turbocharged 1.8-litre TSI engine with 160PS and 250Nm. Not enough figures for one that sports very special alphabets in its nomenclature. Still, you can appreciate the performance that this car provides. Acceleration is sharp, and with the 6-speed manual transmission the combination works very nicely towards providing a sporty aura. In fact it's one of the few cars in that segment that gets to above 200kmph pretty easily. I can only wonder what the proper 2.0-litre turbo petrol of the full blown vRS would feel like.
So what you get in the Laura vRS is a pretty nice body kit with new bright work and sporty interior accents. On the outside the Laura vRS will be distinguished by the slim spoiler attached to the boot and the chunky honeycomb bumper grille. The vRS badge on the grille and the boot lid isn't very noticeable. The alloys are new with slightly lower (205/55) 16-inch Eagle NCT tyres provided by Goodyear. Horizontal LED clusters on the bumper with dynamic cornering projector HID lamps complete the external design upgrade.
Inside however the changes are more visible, especially the type of fabric along with some alacantara bits and two-tone upholstery with the big red white and green vRS logo embroidered into the backrests on all seats. Up front you get sporty hugging seats, a meatier steering wheel with the vRS logo (though no steering mounted stereo controls), the touchscreen stereo lifted off the Superb, sunroof and steel pedal covers that look like aluminium bits. However you don't get climate control or electric seats.
Mechanically this car is identical to the standard Laura in every respect save one. The suspension has been tuned to provide more stiffness and therefore slightly better dynamics. Together with lower profile tyres the ride quality is harder than the standard Laura with a firm edge to proceedings to remind you of its sporty intentions. Handling has improved with less body roll and better cornering grip (remember we already rate the Laura as one of the best front-wheel-drive cars in the dyamics department) but because of the stiff spring and damper ratings the car does get thrown around by mid-corner bumps. Honestly we prefer the standard suspension setting.
Lest we come off all unexcited let me reiterate what we've said many times before - the Laura 1.8TSI is a thoroughly brilliant car to drive. The engine is phenomenal, the dynamics are spot on, the quality is great and when you're not in the mood for a back road thrash it's comfortable and cosseting. To that recipe the vRS badge adds only a body kit and spruced up interiors, not even a fruity exhaust note. Gone are the days when the Indian car buyer could be short-changed like this. It's a shame honestly - the vRS badge enjoys a cult status in India and should have been nurtured and handled with care. And with the price tag of Rs 15.19 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) it's hard to find value in it neither can we see a fan following building for the new vRS.