ANYONE who has driven Skoda's excellent Octavia vRS will tell you what a hoot it is.
Could the Czech brand really come up with that sort of experience in a seven-seater SUV weighing nearly two tonnes?
The answer has to be ‘Kind of'. The car maker's first ever performance SUV is powered by a twin turbocharged 2.0 TDI engine with a stonking 500Nm of torque - the most powerful diesel ever levered into a Skoda - which propels it from 0-62mph in a brisk seven seconds.
However, its top speed is 136mph, the same as its hatchback sibling the Scala.
The Kodiaq vRS stands out from the crowd thanks to a striking design package including 20-inch alloy wheels, gloss black finish on the grille, roof rails, window frames and mirrors, dual exhaust pipes, vRS sports bumpers and trademark red brake calipers.
Inside, the flagship features figure-hugging Alcantara-trimmed sports seats finished with contrast vRS red stitching and logo and a multifunction sports steering wheel.
A carbon-look instrument panel and stainless steel pedal covers round off the sporting appearance, which also comes with a fully digital Virtual Cockpit display as standard. The system includes a special Sport view that places the speedometer in the centre of the display.
It's a pleasant and comfortable place to be. And, of course, its seven-seater layout means the entire family can travel with space to spare.
However, only children will be happy in the third row of seats, which also reduces luggage space to just 230 litres. It works best if you use it as a five-seater, with the third row of seats dropped into the floor, leaving a colossal 715-litre boot.
Other features include headlight washers, vRS front and rear bumpers, ISOFIX child seat fittings on outer middle seats, seven airbags, electric front and rear windows, heated front seats, cruise control, DAB radio, Bluetooth, navigation with 9.2-inch touchscreen display, front and rear parking sensors, light assist with high beam control, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, a heated rear window, and - of course - an umbrella in the door panel.
With 237bhp and 500Nm the Kodiaq vRS is no slouch but, because of its size and weight, it's delivered in such a way you don't get pushed back in your seat.
That said, the steering is direct and accurate, there's a huge amount of grip due to Skoda's excellent 4x4 system and there's remarkably little body roll. It remains surprisingly composed for an SUV of its size.
On the motorway, it's just as refined and fuss-free as a standard Kodiaq, save for the tell-tale rumble of the larger wheels. It officially returns up to 35.3mpg and on a 460-mile round trip I actually hit that smack on. Even commuting around town I managed a creditable 31.4mpg.
It's only available with a DSG gearbox but it's a good match - changing gears smoothly and quickly and dropping down readily when needed.
The vRS is not a sports car or a ‘hot hatch' and will never as be as rewarding as those to drive because of its bulky dimensions. However, it does perform well and the extra performance means it can be fun to get behind the wheel.
The Kodiaq vRS is a fine car - meaty, roomy, comfortable and versatile. But, it comes at a price. A 187bhp Kodiaq Sportline will save you thousands, look virtually the same, is mechanically almost identical, and will be almost as fast in the real world.