IAIN ROBERTSON 

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq

Snapped opportunistically as it piles on the proving miles, reports Iain Robertson, the next and possibly most important step in Skoda’s brand development has been revealed in disguised form, leading the company to outline its broader specification.

If two and a half months of isolation has been difficult for many of us to become familiar with, the largely isolated life of an endurance tester for a car company has been progressing in solus status for years. As soon as the plans for a new model are mooted, the on-road and track reliability testing procedure commences in earnest soon afterwards. While ‘mules’ (test vehicles using an intentionally weighted platform but not the final body design) usually come first, they are followed by camouflaged versions of the actual vehicle, in an attempt to maintain market secrecy.

What is not visible to observers are the banks of recording media and technology that occupy most of the cabin, leaving only enough space for a test driver. The test schedule is intentionally gruelling, the driver following in-cab instructions off a laptop computer installed where the front passenger seat would be. The concise routes are planned worldwide, throughout the seasons, on varied terrains that include dry deserts, scaling mountainous roads, across frozen lakes and in jungle humidity, while the amount of driving hours is monitored legally and carefully, only driver changes and ‘heat sink’ tests giving the test cars brief respites.

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq

As one of the oldest carmakers in the world (120 years), vying with Daimler-Benz for the honour, Skoda was little known in the UK prior to imports commencing from the Communist State-owned manufacturer in the late-1950s. Of course, not long after the Czechs rejected Communism, with the ‘Velvet Revolution’, and sought a strong western partner for its car-making business (with VW in 1990), it was able to raise a flag for a brand that is much-revered these days. Skoda takes VW core engineering, applies its own unique twist and presents a multi award-winning line-up, of which Enyaq is its latest offering.

The first letter of its model name (E) gives away its Electric vehicle status, while the final ‘q’ follows the Kodiaq, Kamiq and Karoq pattern for its SUV/crossover models. For existing vRS fans, a model designation that has been the preserve of Skoda’s sportiest offerings, the punchiest of a five-strong EV powertrain (mileage ranges in brackets) could be worth waiting for. Three of the range feature a single electric motor in 109 (c.200m), 132 (c.240m) and 150kW (c.300m) forms that drives only the rear axle of the VW Group’s MEB platform. Factoring in an additional electric motor to drive the front axle, thus resulting in all-wheel-drive, 195 and 225kW (both c.290m) power choices are provided. The most powerful vRS model is said to clock 0-60mph in around 5.9s, with a top speed restricted to 112mph. This model also has a towing capacity of up to 1.2 tonnes.

The lithium-ion battery pack is located within the platform, within the 2.76m wheelbase, to ensure a low centre of gravity but, more vitally, a low rear floor for easier loading potential (up to 585-litres boot capacity). The overall length of the Enyaq is 4.65m and it is 1.88m wide and 1.62m tall. Typical recharging options use a domestic three-pin plug (full-charge overnight), 11kW domestic wall-box (full-charge 6-8 hours) and DC 125kW fast-charging points (10%-80% in around four hours); all necessary cables are supplied.

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq

As Skoda’s first all-electric SUV, a highlight of the new Enyaq iV is its innovative interior that intends to convey exceptional roominess. The dashboard layout provides state-of-the-art connectivity and infotainment, which should come as no surprise. The driver can read relevant information using the free-standing, 13.0-inch central digital and reprogrammable display, with an extra-cost option of a head-up display (projected into the lower section of the windscreen), which features augmented reality.

A permanent Internet connection ensures that information is always bang up to date (connection quality being good). With its generous amount of space, a lounge-like character and a capacious boot, Enyaq should be ideal for families and lifestyle-type customers seeking an EV that is both sustainable and compatible for everyday use. The details even stretch to sustainable materials such as olive leather being used for the first time in a production car. Naturally, customers can opt for alternatives to suit their preferences.

Interestingly, Skoda is building the Enyaq on familiar production lines at the Mlada Boleslav factory, located just 30m north-east of the City of Prague. The battery packs are assembled on a just-in-time basis alongside the main plant, which ensures that the final production examples are entirely Czech built and not an assembly of alien components, a factor that will support Skoda’s indefatigable reputation for reliability. Once the viral restrictions are limited, it is worth noting that the enormous Czech plant is located not far from Germany’s most easterly border, a day’s drive from the North Sea coast of the European mainland. I strongly recommend the drive, as the factory museum, adjacent to the plant, is well worth a visit and the Bohemian countryside is spectacularly beautiful.

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq

Enyaq series production commences towards the end of this year, in readiness for an international launch exercise that will continue in the UK from early-2021. Although rumours are rife about VW Group’s developments of Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, its commitment to BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) is total. As such, electric versions of all of its brands, of which Skoda is one, are set to appear imminently over the course of the next two years. Although pricing has not been established as yet, take it for granted that the Enyaq vRS will be the priciest Skoda ever (a guesstimate of around £55-£60,000), before any options are considered.

Whether the market will tolerate this remains to be experienced. It is already anticipated that our country is set to slump into a deep recession (if not depression) before the end of 2020, which is sure to restrict many potential customers’ acquisitions. Yet, Enyaq remains a landmark model for Skoda.

Conclusion:      While current EV registrations in the UK have been stilted by the deliveries of both Tesla3 and Jaguar i-Pace models, when most other brands have remained quiet, BEVs are still low-volume considerations. Skoda needs to be careful not to expect too large an uptake rate, despite high interest levels.

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq