WHAT better place to experience the abilities of Skoda's new Kodiaq Scout than Finnish Lapland?
Some may scoff at the thought of one of the Czech brand's models being enthusiastically driven on the very edge of the Arctic Circle but, these days, they should be in the minority.
For the record, Skoda has been experimenting with ‘off-roaders' since the 1930s.
The foundation of its modern 4x4 success was the launch of the Octavia Combi 4x4 in 1999. Between then and the end of 2017 Skoda has delivered over 700,000 4x4 vehicles to customers.
In the last year alone, the company sold more than 127,000 of its 4x4 variants worldwide.
A Scout version of its new Karoq compact SUV is expected soon but the newest Skoda to win its badges as a Scout is the multi-award-winning Kodiaq seven-seater SUV.
Priced from £32,330, it is available with six engine and transmission options, all of which feature four-wheel drive.
There's two petrol offerings - a 1.4-litre, 148bhp unit and an extremely nippy 2.0-litre, 178bhp version - and two 2.0-litre TDI units with a choice of either 148bhp or 187bhp.
The lesser-powered model comes with a choice of a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an extremely smooth seven-speed DSG., which is standard in its mightier sibling.
Fuel consumption from the higher powered diesel is rated 49.6mpg with emissions of 151g/km.
Naturally, the Kodiaq Scout comes with a tent-full of special features in keeping with its outdoorsy nature.
There's special off-road front and rear bumpers, a rear diffuser, and 19-inch Crater Anthracite alloys, silver door mirrors and, in case you don't realise what you're driving, ‘Scout' plaques on the front wings.
Inside, there's plush Alcantara trimmed seats and door panels and - a nice touch this - wood finish dashboard and door inserts. The cabin also gets aluminium trimmed pedals, LED ambient lighting and another ‘Scout' plaque on the dashboard.
The Scout model is well prepared for adventures off the beaten track. All models are equipped with an off-road mode that adapts the chassis, engine and brake settings for rough terrain.
It also engages Hill Descent Assist on steep downhill slopes, automatically holding the SUV at a safe speed while it's descending.
A ‘rough road package' which includes a tough engine guard and underbody stone guard is also standard.
Like all Skoda's current 4x4 models - 13 of them - the Kodiaq Scout comes equipped with all-wheel-drive technology based on the latest generation of the electronically controlled multi-plate clutch. Electronically, it works precisely and quickly.
The control unit constantly calculates the ideal distribution ofpower between the front and rear axle. Loss of traction is therefore ‘virtually' eliminated. When coasting or at low load, drive is via the front axle.
At the Lapland Driving Centre, near Rovaniemi, there are a number of tracks carved out of the snow and ice - an ideal place to see if the Scout was as well prepared as it seemed.
On the snow handling track, the benefits of the 4x4 system were clear. With most functions dialled down, the Kodiaq was pretty much like Bambi on ice.
Switch them on and, as long as you weren't going berserk, the Scout was composed and agile.
The surface was naturally extremely slippery but as soon as traction began to be lost, the electronics took over. Be sensible and, in the Skoda, you will be safe.
A series of sensors - for wheel speed, steering angle, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, accelerator pedal position, engine speed - continuously evaluate the driving situation, while the all-wheel-drive electronics take all of the incoming data into account. Within milliseconds, the electronics alter the distribution of torque between the individual wheels, thereby ensuring the best distribution of power.
Assoon as sensors and control units engage the rear axle due to the driving conditions - because the front wheels are losing traction, perhaps - the control unit alters the pressure on the plates.
The torque is then transferred in the ideal ratio to the rear wheels, too. At the same time, the Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), which is active on both axles on Škoda 4Ã4 models, also prevents individual wheels on the same axle from spinning. The spinning wheel is slowed down and more torque transmitted to the wheel with better traction.
The redistribution ofthe driving forces between the individual wheels is imperceptible to the driver in normal driving conditions but very noticeable in the ice and snow.
You can tell the Scout's ‘brain' is working hard to ensure maximum traction, even when cornering and performing in such challenging conditions. You can feel its pulling the big bear back on track.
When off-road mode is active, the Kodiaq's infotainment screen also displays information about the terrain, including a compass, altimeter and the steering angle.
A ‘snow mode' can also be selected when driving on such slippery surfaces. The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) allows slightly more wheelspin. As a result, snow accumulates in front of the tyres and the braking effect is increased. At the same time, traction control (TCS) allows more wheelspin so the tyre tread grips more effectively and the gearbox selects higher gears than it normally would in the lower speed range.
The accelerator also reacts more smoothly, preventing any undesirable increase in the amount of torque. Thisprevents the wheels from spinning.
This was amply demonstrated by a short drag race against two-wheel drive models, which were left standing on the Finnish ice.
In the snow-filled forests of Finland, the Kodiaq Scout was definitely leader of its pack.