Tushar BurmanJul 20, 2019 23:31:52 IST
It’s been almost two years since I first drove the Skoda Kodiaq, a luxury, three-row SUV that impressed us with its thoughtful features and impressive ride quality. But that was in Kovalam, in controlled conditions, on quaint village roads and for the usual 24-hour turnaround. There were only so many things to be impressed by within the short time we spent with it. What didn’t impress us was the price – the Kodiaq launched at Rs 36 lakhs ex-showroom, making it pricey for the time.
Since then, they’ve dropped prices slightly, introducing the new Laurin & Klement top-end variant at the old price. Still, the new L&K works out to about Rs 44.65 lac on-road, Navi Mumbai. Back when it launched, it went against the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and VW Tiguan. Today, there are a lot of feature-packed options that are cheaper, and at these prices, you’ve dipped a toe into entry-level small SUVs from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. It’s a push product, not pull, we think. But spend some awful hours driving in the Mumbai monsoon (or even as a passenger) and you’ll begin to appreciate the subtle refinements that you didn’t know you needed.
Let’s get this out of the way: you basically get a TFT virtual instrument cluster, some chrome, and a 360-degree camera on the Laurin & Klement variant, apart from the eponymous badging. The car remains the same as the lower variant otherwise. But considering that the car came fairly loaded as is, that’s not a bad thing. We’ve still got the 148 bhp/340 Nm 2.0-litre diesel motor, the nice 7-speed DSG gearbox and the very decent ride quality. The Kodiaq also has full-time AWD, which is nice to have, and just works. That said, this is not an SUV you want to be clambering over rocks in (though you probably could, in a pinch).
You will immediately appreciate the Kodiaq when traversing our (lack of) road infrastructure, thanks to its supple ride quality and a quiet cabin. There’s enough judder in the suspension and engine noise creeping inside to know that you’re in a VW-group diesel, but really, that only affects crabby road-testers that do this daily for surprisingly little money. Most people will appreciate the comfort and general luxe feel. I remember that during our press drive, my colleagues Rohin and Kartik both fell sound asleep in the back towards the end of the day’s driving.
For those of you who will have a chauffeur drive the Kodiaq, the silky-smooth 7-speed DSG transmission will likely be entirely invisible – you just don’t feel it, and it would take a particularly boorish driver to upset it enough to be noticed.
Driving modes are available, including sport. Even when using that mode, combined with the ‘S’ mode of the transmission, the Kodiaq isn’t exactly sharp. You could ask your chauffeur to do a mad dash to the airport though, with little discomfort to you in the back. As a driver, the feeling is of adequate power to get around, overtake, and cruise at high speed. But it’s not quick. This suited me fine on a traffic-free run to Pune, where we were able to hold involved conversations without shouting above road noise or fighting through lanes using momentum.
The next day, despite being back in monsoon-torn Mumbai, the SUV made my three-hour commute almost bearable. The driver seat is comfortable, power-adjusted and with memory settings, but the steering wheel needs the usual manual tilt and tug to get it where you want it.
A word about the infotainment system: Skoda seems to have got it right with the unit they supply in the L&K. It has a crisp colour LCD, Android Auto worked about as well as I’ve experienced, and the virtual display for the driver was easy to navigate and change. It’s a very no-nonsense affair.
I wondered if the rest of the tech worked as well, and was pleasantly surprised at how simple the automatic parking was to operate. You press a button and follow the instructions on your screen – chiefly, when to put it in drive, and when to switch to reverse. The Kodiaq will do all the turning, accelerating and braking required to fit you nicely into that parallel parking slot. Impressive!
The Kodiaq is a large-ish vehicle, and lest we forget, we must mention the third row of seats. They’re serviceable, but more impressive when folded down, liberating a monstrous cargo area. Fold the second row too and you’ve got a luxe camper with an almost entirely flat space.
There are even blankets and pillows provided! Skoda has provided many little touches that set it apart; umbrellas in the front doors, door protectors that pop out from within the door to ensure you don’t damage your paint on a wall or another car, etc. There’s a little utility light in the back that doubles as a torch, ambient lighting that’s all the rage in the luxury segment, and of course, a nice panoramic sunroof for good days, or bad parenting (don’t let your kids stick out the top, please!)
The general consensus amongst those in the Kodiaq tax bracket is that there are other choices for Rs 44 lakh. Our experience with the Kodiaq tells us that unless the outright volume is your deciding factor, the L&K does make sense. You get a sorted, luxury SUV feel, there are no glaringly obvious omissions to feel short-changed by, and the package of engine, transmission, suspension and 4x4 work well together. The Kodiaq is yet to get it’s due.
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