What is it?
Why will I buy it?
One car for both office meetings and adventure trips
Why will I avoid it?
Skoda's after-sales service still improving
What is it?
I was told that the Skoda Kodiaq Scout is the off-road focussed variant of the SUV. And with this claim, the car comes with an additional body cladding, new alloys, an all-black cabin and more interestingly, a dedicated 'Off-Road' mode for those who love to venture into the wild. Skoda has also improved the approach and departure angles of this Kodiaq Scout. But, is all this sufficient enough to make the Kodiaq more capable? We find out.
Before we get to the driving bits, let's take a look at the exterior upgrades. There are new skid plates at the front and rear and a grille surround, while the characteristic LED headlamps with illuminated 'eyelashes' of the Kodiaq are carried over. Even the square wheel arches continue to house 18-inch alloy wheels but with a new design and angular mud flaps with plastic edges. Furthermore, the Scout boasts of silver roof railings, matte silver wing mirror housings and the chrome strips around the side window, which overall boost the SUV's premium feel.
And even if it doesn't look brute or tough to take on the rough terrain, Skoda has improved the approach and departure angles at 22-degrees and 23.1-degrees respectively. Then, there's a complete underbody protection kit as well to save all the hardware. Likewise, the rear bumper with silver protective cover borders the exhaust pipes and the diffuser. The Scout continues to don crystalline elements in the Skoda-typical C-shape LED taillights. Yet, unique to this model is a Scout plaque on the front fenders. What's more, it becomes the first product in India to bear ‘Skoda’ in block lettering on the tailgate instead of the Skoda logo.
How is it on the inside?
Beige interiors from the standard Kodiaq are replaced by an all-black cabin in the Scout. The seats are now wrapped in black Alcantara leather upholstery with a Scout logo on the back rest. There's a brushed wooden decor and all the decorative elements are complemented by chrome highlights which look nice and elegant. All of this intensify the plush feeling inside while still retaining the good ergonomics and practicality from the Kodiaq. Good all-round visibility, comfortable seats, spacious cabin and the capability to seat seven continue to be one of the strong points. Now, even the LED ambient lighting inside the Scout offers ten colour options that you can set according to your mood. Otherwise, the unchanged boot space with seat flexibility continues to be one more USP of this SUV.
Feature-wise too, the Kodiaq Scout is among the top-notch ones that continue to set a benchmark in this segment. And, since the Scout is based on the range-topping variant of the Kodiaq, it comes with all the bells and whistles. These include a digital instrument cluster, a three-zone Climatronic air conditioning system, a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, ambient lighting, electrically adjustable seats, panoramic sunroof and more. The power nap package with neck-rests and blankets comes as standard with the Scout.
Then, there's also a 10-speaker Canton sound system, park assist with hands-free parking, cruise control, adaptive lights and a number of active and passive safety features; namely nine airbags, 360-degree cameras, a tyre pressure monitoring system, fatigue alert, engine immobiliser with floating code system, acoustic warning signal for overrun speed and more. Skoda does do everything to keep you safe on the road. Still, should you doubt it, Euro NCAP has given it a five out of five-star safety rating! Need we say more?
How does it drive?
We drove from Nagpur city to Pench National park a few hundred kilometres away, having a mix of city, countryside, highway and even some off-road time. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine here is the same unit from the Kodiaq that produces 147bhp and 340Nm of torque. Thanks to the strong low-end and mid-range, it’s good enough to push this behemoth ahead without feeling much of its bulk. This engine is very refined as compared to other ladder-on-frame vehicles in its segment and the NVH levels provide complete silence once the windows are up.
The motor is paired to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission that powers all wheels through a torque-on-demand AWD system. This dual-clutch unit provides smooth shifts and is very quick; although if required, one has the paddle-shifters option for manual shifting. From the various driving modes including snow, individual and off-road mode, the throttle response is subdued in the eco mode and feels most responsive in the sport mode. Even the steering response is likable as it doesn’t feel vague at the centre, is light at low speeds and weighs up adequately with increase in speed. While changing directions, the Scout isn’t very sharp but surely feels much better than the ladder-on-frame SUVs and is more car-like to handle.
Even the suspension for that matter is impressive. It might not flatten everything that comes in its path, but absorbs most undulations and doesn’t let the SUV wallow at high speeds like in most of its rivals. The noise is also supressed which altogether makes it a relaxed long-distance tourer. That said, some sharp-edged potholes and road joints, especially on flyovers might be audible, but they are still well-contained. So, there’s some side-to-side movement at low speeds but the high speed ride is flat while the brake feel and bite feel assuring with good straight-line stability.
Now, All-Wheel Drive is offered as standard on the Kodiaq, but this Scout version brings in an additional 'Off-Road' mode which can be used up to speeds of 30kmph. Select this from a button on the centre console and the smart electronics will adjust the throttle response and damper settings depending on the terrain you are taking. When activated, it also shows up different functions on the infotainment display including the compass, the steering wheel angle, the altimeter, and even the oil and coolant temperature. This mode is integrated with a software specially designed for the Scout that adjusts not just the characteristics of the engine, but the electronic assistants like ABS, EBD and stability control systems too.
We tried it with the hill-descent control on, and the SUV descended a steep slope safely without any slippage of the wheel. We didn’t have to provide any throttle or brake input. Also, when there's any loss of traction, an electro-hydraulically controlled multi-disc inter-axle clutch smoothly distributes the torque between the front and rear axles. This ratio ranges between 96 per cent to four per cent and 10 per cent to 90 per cent respectively. More interestingly, this system can transmit as much as 85 per cent of the torque to just a single wheel. Of course, the coupling of the rear axle is automatic, so under normal conditions, the Scout is predominantly front-wheel drive. But under extreme conditions it engages the smart system so that one can enjoy the excellent traction provided by the 4x4 drive.
Should I buy one?
Skoda’s intention of bringing in the Scout is to offer a Kodiaq that can easily be taken off the tarmac for some action in mud and sludge. And it does that well making it even more capable than the standard SUV. Its off-road package adds a touch of ruggedness and protects many of its components too. This Kodiaq Scout still continues to be a car that can be driven daily to office in delightful luxury with an easy and fun to drive car-like experience. Then, it also doubles up as a comfortable people hauler on long drives. If not for Skoda’s after-sales service experience, it’s not hard to recommend this SUV to anyone. Still, the carmaker has pulled up its socks and improving its service, while prospective buyers will also appreciate the six years optional warranty that the carmaker is offering.