"The first thing you're going to say when you drive it is that it needs a differential," said Revo Technik's Paul Farenden as he handed me the keys to the Octavia vRS development car. Actually not the case. The first thing I said was a tad more ... expressive. In fairness to Paul, once I'd calmed down a bit and considered what had just happened my attention did turn to the lack of differential. But let's rewind a bit and talk about what we actually have here.
Since starting out in 2002 Revo Technik has become well know in the tuning industry, predominantly focusing on VW Group and Ford vehicles. Pigeon-holing it as a re-map specialist actually does the firm a disservice, Revo also having considerable know-how in terms of set-up and dynamics too. Which isn't to say they don't have a bit of fun now and then. Like getting a bit Spinal Tap on this Octavia vRS and turning it up to 11.
What started out as a regular Octavia vRS 220 DSG estate now boasts a huge list of upgraded parts. Demonstrating what Revo can do if you have the money and desire to make your sensible family estate car go really, really fast.
At the heart of all the upgrades is a bigger IS38 turbocharger, pinched straight out of a MK7 VW Golf R. This is combined with all the usual bits of hardware to make it work more efficiently - intakes, exhaust and so on. Tying all this together is
Revo's Stage 3 performance software
, which is really where the magic happens. Numbers are, as expected, fairly staggering, with 410hp and 380lb ft at your disposal. In an attempt to translate this power into useable performance, Revo has applied a few other bits and bobs to the car, most notably its very nice (and very light) 19-inch wheels shod with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT tyres.
But how does it drive? Well, we quite liked the standard Octavia vRS, so as a road car it was always going to be a capable and quirky starting point... There is however one issue, as accurately noted by Revo and mentioned by me at the start of this article. Being this project started before the vRS 230 (complete with its clever VAQ 'differential') was available, meaning that there is a huge differential-shaped hole in the capabilities of this car. To put that into perspective, Skoda claims the clever diff in the vRS 230 accounts for almost all of the 10-second reduction in 'ring lap time compared to the original vRS 220. And that is with almost half the amount of power to manage compared to the Revo car.
Differential is noticeable
Putting that to one side very few people are likely to go this far when it comes to tuning their Octavia, Golf or S3. Nor will they need to, both because Revo offers a range of baby steps for tuning your car but, perhaps more importantly, because this level of performance in an Octavia is simply unnecessary.
Actually, scrap that. Performance like this is never unnecessary. But you get my point. Every time you get a chance to stretch its legs, the Revo Octavia surprises you with way it piles on speed at supercar rivalling levels. Whilst that sounds like classic forum posturing, it isn't. In testing, this car performs the 100km/h-200km/h sprint in around nine seconds. OK, this is a test that flatters an over-powered front-wheel drive car. But even so that time puts it on a par with a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. Yes, it is that fast, and that alone makes it an exciting thing to drive. Incredibly, the chassis handles that power with alarming composure and even the standard ESP and traction control systems manage it surprisingly well. The engine is also helped the whole time by the updated DSG software, which has been mapped to keep the engine in its new-found sweetspot wherever possible. If only it had a differential...
Despite the outrageous performance, and putting aside the significant cost, there isn't actually a downside. Everyday driving is incredibly similar to the standard car, and even fuel economy seems unaffected in regular use. Indeed, Revo is proud of the all-round ability its tuning packages deliver. For example, this car has advanced torque management in first and second gears, the ECO mode still functions for frugal long distance cruising and you can left foot brake should you wish to trim your entry speed into a corner - or make your passengers headbutt the dashboard. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the "cold start protection". In simple terms, this limits the boost available and releases it in stages as the oil temperature comes up to its operating window.
There does remain a worry and a stigma about tuning like this - surely it'll just go pop after a few thousand miles? However at the end of our loan, before the car went back to Revo, I was fishing about in the glove box and stumbled across a little black book. Inside was a list of every one of the 13,000+ miles the car has covered, including who had driven the car and for what purpose. There was line after line of "calibration", "performance testing", "dyno testing" and "track testing". Put simply, Revo knows there will always be those scared that, like a night on the tiles, what seemed fun at the time can leave a nasty and expensive hangover. With thoroughness of that order however, it might just be able to convince a few more of us to take the plunge.
SKODA OCTAVIA VRS Revo Technik
Engine: 1,984cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 410hp@5,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 380@2,900 - 4,000rpm
Top speed: 170mph+
Weight: 1,345kg (hatch), 1,367kg (estate)
Price: VW / Audi / Seat OEM "IS38" Turbo £1,200
Stage 3 Performance software: £958
DSG software: £478
High Flow intake system: £358
Scorpion Exhaust with Revo sport cat £718
Revo RV019 wheels / Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres: £1198
Revo Anti-Roll bar upgrade: £274.80
Revo Spring upgrade: £178.80