NO manufacturer can claim its UK lineup is complete without at least one – if not more – SUVs to choose from. Nor can it claim to be taking things seriously unless one of the aforementioned SUVs happens to be a performance version. And so it is with Skoda and its Kodiaq, the seven-seater 4x4 having now acquired VRS status, which means, like most of its ilk, it’ll rarely if ever venture off road. That doesn’t mean to say the Kodiaq VRS doesn’t have its part to play, however.

The Kodiaq VRS sits on VW’s medium-to-large MQB platform and adds the usual VRS features to the existing mid-sized SUV: front and rear splitters and spoilers, and deeper, more sculpted bumpers; blacked-out upper and lower grilles, encompassing the forward-facing radar; LED lighting all round; high-cut arches, neat tucks and folds and gently rising waistline; full-depth tailgate; noticeably huge twin-exhaust embellishments; and red brake calipers. It sits on 20” alloys with road-orientated 235/45 Pirelli Scorpions, and has MacPherson front suspension and multi-link at the rear. While still having the outward stance of an SUV, the outer countenance is considerably more tarmac aggressive.

This road-racer attitude carries over into the cabin. Soft-textured black surfaces and faux-carbon-fibre inlays sit side-by-side with grey alcantara with red stitching inserts, colours and materials that continue in the VRS-embroidered racing-style front seats, sports steering wheel and more conventional rear bench and additional folding accommodation. The virtual cockpit means the driver has full digital access to the red, black and white multi-functional driver display complimented by the 9.2” multi-readout, multifunction and multi-app central touchscreen. 

There’s even a CD player hidden away in the glovebox – something of a rarity these days – along with a pair of Skoda’s signature umbrellas located within in each of the front doors. Space and stowage is in abundance, with ample door pockets, cubbies and central armrest. Depending on whether it’s seven, five or two occupants the car is carrying, cargo space varies between 270 litres, 650 litres or 2,065 litres, along with an additional 2,000 kg towing maximum, courtesy of the folding tow bar.

While the more conventional Kodiaq is available with a selection of petrol or diesel engines, it’s twin-turbo, 2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel only for the VRS. Stumping up 237 hp and 369 lb ft of torque, the VRS hits 0–62mph in exactly seven seconds and proceeds to a 136 mph top speed via the 7-speed DSG automatic transmission. And if auto doesn’t suit, sequential is on offer via the chubby leather-clad shift or the stubby, wheel-mounted paddles. There are also the usual Skoda mode options of Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Snow and Individual, all of which have a noticeable effect on the car’s performance. 

Consumption, though, is interesting. A full 60-litre tank should provide around 400 or so miles at what Skoda claims will be an average consumption of 35.3 mpg. However, the VRS on test returned a steady 36.8 average, rising to 39.7 on a longer motorway run. Still not staggering by diesel standards; most VW-based engines will better their factory figures, consumption improving once again after the 10,000-mile mark has been surpassed.

Apart from the full-surround radar, camera system and traction control, how much difference the seemingly endless list of driver aids actually makes is, to my mind, still open to debate, though they’ll give the average driver a greater sense of well-being and, in most instances, flatter ability. The VRS’s downside is that the sporting-orientated suspension and larger-diameter wheels and tyres do tend to transfer road imperfection back into the cabin. On all but the smoothest surfaces, tyre roar is a constant companion, although the upmarket sound system tends to dial it out, especially if AC/DC is involved and the variable ‘Dynamic Sound Booster’. Otherwise, the engine-management-controlled, variably noisy exhaust system can become an irritable drone. 

The upside is that the Kodiaq VRS is a rapid – or should I say very rapid – cross-country cargo carrier. Engage ‘Sport’ and select the paddle shift and let the VRS come into its own. Let’s face it, if you aren’t going to exploit the car’s performance, you might as well have bought the less raucous, VRS lookalike Sportline version and saved a few quid. But with everything opened up, once you’ve attuned yourself to pre-empt the body roll, the hint of understeer and fractional throttle lag, the VRS more than comes into its own around the less-travelled A and B roads.

Progress is brisk, as sharp as any SUV will ever be and – more importantly – enjoyable. The harder you push the VRS, the better it gets, all the while the 4x4 system ensuring sure-footed stability. And should you choose to venture off road, the 4x4 and hill-descent settings ensure drive is more evenly distributed. But most owners won’t be buying the Kodiaq VRS with anything other than a gravel track or dry field in mind. Instead, it’s more the current SUV lifestyle buyer who’ll be attracted to this more extreme Skoda, most of whom will probably never come close to discovering what the VRS is really capable of. 

Price-wise, with all the toys fitted, the Kodiaq VRS comes in at a very un-Skoda-like £48,250. And even if you lay off the accessory brochure, it’ll still cost you a healthy £42,870. 

If the thought appeals, and you’re able to take advantage of one of Skoda’s frequent leasing or personal hire special offers, then go ahead; you’ll have lots of fun behind the wheel. But if it’s purely the aesthetics that appeal, I’d suggest taking a look at the Sportline.