With our first ever Ferrari loan confirmed, it was time to plan logistics. What roads should we take en route to Maranello? Who of the team did we need to make this a killer trip? What camera gear should we bring? And most importantly, what second vehicle should we take as a reliable crew car that would meet all our needs of space, reliability, range, ease-of-use and comfort. And so it was that I called Skoda to chance my arm and ask for a Kodiaq, the brand’s new SUV that I’d already read good things about on websites like Autocar.
“What would you like the car for?” was the first question, to which I answered very honestly “I want to go abroad with four men and lots of cameras”. After allaying any fears of illegal activity or public nudity, a 10-day loan was agreed and the car you see in these pictures was to be our reliable chariot whose brakes would soon cook on the Stelvio and whose 12V would give out twice and refuse to charge a laptop. But despite these small things, each of us who drove the Kodiaq over 2000 miles absolutely loved the thing.
So to give a small account of what a car like this - something you wouldn’t ordinarily see on CT - is like as a crew and camera car, work horse, hotel and restaurant on wheels, here are the thoughts of the guys who experienced the 148bhp, DSG-equipped 1.4-litre Kodiaq first hand.
I’ll admit I was a little concerned. I’d be driving a twin-turbocharged 3.9-litre Ferrari 488 GTB with one passenger and minimal luggage while the two other guys in the Kodiaq would trundle behind in a single turbo 1.4-litre Skoda with around 150kg-worth (the equivalent of two men) of camera gear, bottles of Candy Up and all our clothing. This was going to be a tedious journey, I thought, but to my surprise, every time I looked in my rear view mirror there was the Kodiaq with its fly-spattered face and mountains of luggage that spilled over into the rear seats.
Where the Ferrari went, the Kodiaq went (albeit a little later once the roads opened up or got twisty). Over hundreds of miles on motorways, through cities and even on the Stelvio, the Skoda was there to charge batteries, ferry people up and down the mountain and proved stable and composed for some of the nicest video footage we’ve ever shot (full Ferrari video coming soon).
The picture above of me hugging the Skoda came after we dropped the Ferrari back at Maranello and had reached our next destination, Nurburgring 24 Hours, after a full day (I think it was 10 hours) of solid driving.
This was to be my first proper stint in the Kodiaq, and after the low-slung opulence and theatre of the 488, I was pleased to relax into a more normal car whose wheels were wrapped in tyres that protected the rims and whose commanding seating position allowed me to see more of the road ahead.
The DSG gearbox proved a great match for the 1.4-litre engine too. Just knock it in ‘D’ and away you go. No fuss. Little drama. It just did the job perfectly, and while 1.4 litres sounds too little for an SUV, it really wasn’t. We averaged 33mpg, got up to an indicated 131mph (even though the spec sheet reckons this car has a 123mph top speed) and at no point did I or any of the guys feel like we needed a break from driving.
As far as driving goes, then, the Kodiaq exceeded my expectations and was a very worthy Car Throttle crew car. For anyone looking for space, comfort, ease-of-use and efficiency, I’d certainly recommend it.
My first experience of the Kodiaq was at 5:00am outside Alex’s mum’s house in West London. All that lay around us was bag after bag after bag and I had a funny feeling we were going to struggle to get this lot in the cars - considering the Ferrari can take little more than a lunchbox. But alas, it gobbled every piece of equipment we had and that’s where our journey began.
Cruising in convoy down to Zurich was effortless. I spent much of the journey in the 488 and when I was told it was my turn to have my first ride in the Kodiaq it was like being 10 years old again with my parents forcing me to go to school. But for the next two hours I couldn’t have been happier - cruise control, comfy seats and being high off the ground made the journey into Zurich dead easy.
My next meeting with the Kodiaq came late the following day at the top of the Stelvio Pass. With the sun rapidly disappearing and a mountain of video and photos still to shoot I decided to double up with photographer George and get the tracking shots simultaneously. This is something we’ve never been able to do before due to a lack of space in previous tracking vehicles but the Kodiaq’s load space easily allowed us to get the shots we wanted at the same time.
The next day, I was able to get my first drive in the Kodiaq and this turned out to be (genuinely) one of the nicest drives I’ve had to date. And it was on a motorway. With my colleague Alistair needing to do some work, I jumped behind the wheel and set off from the bottom of the Stelvio Pass to Maranello. Ferrari in tow, we headed south on the A22 through the beautiful mountains of Northern Italy. The sun was setting, cruise control was on and some of the most extraordinary scenery I’ve ever seen passed us by.
My final journey in the Kodiaq was the next day as I headed back to Britain and left the others to head up to the Nurburgring. Another motorway journey but another smooth experience nonetheless.
The car was pretty faultless throughout our entire journey - it took all our baggage, allowed us to get all the shots we needed, and all in comfort. I went into that trip knowing I was going to love the 488 but came away from it with a deep respect for the Skoda.
The Kodiaq is easily the largest car I had driven at length, and most of my previous miles have been covered in a humble Honda Jazz that is no more. Despite this, my first miles in the Skoda - bleary eyed and fueled with coffee - were surprisingly unnerving. We departed London at an ungodly hour with the 488 illuminated in our headlights, and with the exception of Alistair’s playlist, I realised this was going to be a very pleasant experience. Cruise control wafted us to Folkestone in no time, and after discovering that the central cubby hole was the perfect size for two bacon-butties, we boarded the train to Calais.
On the French motorways we picked up the pace, the 1.4-litre engine surprisingly perky at higher speeds. When the roads quietened we pulled alongside the Ferrari to capture some car-to-car shots. The smooth ride of the Kodiaq acted as the perfect rolling tripod, even on the weathered tarmac of the Stelvio, as you’ll see from our Ferrari video next week.
Heading into the Alps after an overnight stop in Zurich, the Skoderia (Skoda + Scuderia) would be put to the ultimate test. Tight switchbacks and crazy gradients lay ahead, but we pushed on. The car felt reasonably planted, the brakes were sharp enough to react to suicidal cyclists, and the automatic gearbox was surprisingly intuitive as we climbed higher towards Italy.
Like the tortoise and the hare, the Ferrari scurried away through the corners, but was predictably caught at every fuel stop. Arriving at the famous Stelvio Pass, the Kodiaq transformed from a freight-carrier to a spritely mountain goat. For the rest of the day it was our taxi up and down the Pass, our mobile editing suite, charging station and shelter from the cold.
I drove the Kodiaq the most during our epic road trip, and while the journey was smooth on the whole, we did run into a couple of small hiccups that I like to call ‘character’…
First off, (and this one I’ll blame on physics) came the evening after filming the 488 on the Stelvio Pass. The four of us quickly discovered that the local restaurant was closed. And so it was that I drove us down to the town of Bormio at 23:00 to get some dinner (Alex had warned us that him having nothing substantial to eat would end badly for us). The town was around 30 minutes away and with the restaurant closing its doors at 23:30, I was tasked with hustling the Kodiaq along the switchback-ridden mountain road.
After only a few minutes’ driving, the Skoda’s brakes were cooked and Ethan’s stomach was in his mouth from the smell of tortured brakes and the feeling you get from exuberant changes in direction. I therefore had to ease off, still managing to get us to the restaurant just before closing time.
Fast forward a couple of days and George had flown to Monaco for filming with WTF1. Alex and I had dropped Ethan off at an airport to head home for his fiancee’s birthday. Ahead of us remained a full day of driving up Italy en route to the Nürburgring. Alex took over for the majority of driving that day as I needed to edit a video for WTF1.
On the journey, the Kodiaq’s trusty 12V plug that we’d used for phone batteries and laptops died. We figured it must have blown a fuse, and sure enough, 20 minutes’ fiddling to get to the fuse box behind the glove compartment revealed what we’d suspected. With the fuse replaced, we hit the road triumphant, but after plugging my laptop back in for more editing, it blew the fuse again, which meant we had to stop off at another service station to ask for electricity. (Massive thanks again to the two guys for helping me out!).
Despite these issues, we arrived at the ‘Ring at 10pm, feeling surprisingly refreshed, which really was the Kodiaq’s trump card; no matter how many hours we’d spent in it, the Skoda’s ease-of-use and comfort made every journey feel effortless and stress free.