S-class hits Bri­tain

FIRST DRIVE Seven-seat SUV gets a dose of rugged style and ex­tra kit

Auto Express - - Contents - Lawrence Al­lan Lawrence_al­lan@den­nis.co.uk @Lobal­lan

First UK drive of Mercedes’ new S 350 d

SKODA’S Scout sub-brand isn’t ex­actly an orig­i­nal theme in the Volk­swa­gen Group, with Audi, VW and SEAT all of­fer­ing sim­i­lar off-road-ready ver­sions of ex­ist­ing mod­els. Yet the idea has al­ways fit­ted best with the Czech com­pany’s prac­ti­cal and no-non­sense ap­proach. The Oc­tavia and Su­perb were the first to ben­e­fit from the Scout treat­ment, and now the Ko­diaq SUV has been given the rugged makeover.

While the model’s two es­tate sta­ble­mates needed sig­nif­i­cant re­vi­sions to en­sure they’re ca­pa­ble of tack­ling more than a muddy car park, the Ko­diaq’s SUV sta­tus gives it a head start. Ex­ter­nally, the tweaks are more sub­tle than on other Scouts, and are lim­ited to unique wheels, some ex­tra badg­ing and sil­ver-painted skid­plates front and rear. You’d be hard pushed to spot the Ko­diaq Scout with­out look­ing at the badge, but at least it doesn’t spoil the car’s classy de­sign.

Even so, off-road en­thu­si­asts will be dis­ap­pointed by the tiny in­crease in ground clear­ance (a mere 6mm has been added), and even though there’s ex­tra un­der­body pro­tec­tion, it’s not par­tic­u­larly ex­ten­sive.

The Scout has more sub­stance hid­den away, though. Skoda is treat­ing it more like a range flag­ship, throw­ing in kit such as the largest Colum­bus sat-nav and in­fo­tain­ment, Wifi, adap­tive LED head­lights and Al­can­tara seat trim.

Off-road mode, which sets up the pow­er­train for low-speed mud­plug­ging, is stan­dard, too. Hill des­cent con­trol and an elec­tronic diff lock are also in­cluded. That’s use­ful kit, but it is all op­tional on a reg­u­lar Ko­diaq 4x4, which starts from nearly £6,000 less.

On the road, you’ll be pleased to hear the Ko­diaq’s han­dling is largely un­af­fected. There’s no dis­guis­ing the car’s bulk through cor­ners, but it’s more con­trolled than with other sim­i­larly sized SUVS. The big wheels can al­low sharp bumps to im­pact the cabin, al­though the ride is gen­er­ally com­fort­able.

The flag­ship 187bhp diesel we drove has iden­ti­cal per­for­mance fig­ures to the reg­u­lar Ko­diaq, and pro­vides de­cent pace. Ef­fi­ciency also im­presses; again, it’s the same as that of the nor­mal model.

Scout badges on the seats aside, there are few changes in­side – but that’s not an is­sue, be­cause even at this price the cabin is im­pres­sively solid and well de­signed. In fact, it feels re­mark­ably lux­u­ri­ous. How­ever, most buy­ers will be bet­ter off saving a big chunk of cash (or re­duc­ing their monthly pay­ment) with an al­ready well-specced SE-L.

NEED TO KNOW The Ko­diaq Scout can also be had with two petrol en­gines and a lower-pow­ered diesel. Prices start at £ 32,330

Scout gets lux­u­ri­ous Al­can­tara trim across all three rows of seats; ride is com­fort­able

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY Ko­diaq is as roomy as ever. With all seven seats in place, 270-litre boot is twice as large as a Kia Sorento’s, and ex­pands to 2,005 litres

EQUIPMENT Spe­cific 19-inch al­loy wheels, sil­ver de­tail­ing and raised ride height mark out the Scout. Hid­den un­der­body pro­tec­tion also fea­tures

TECH­NOL­OGY Stan­dard off-road pack brings hill des­cent con­trol and hill hold, plus an elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial lock

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