The sun always shines on EV
At a glance
  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Interior
  • Practicality
  • Costs
Good range
Great real-world performance
Lovely interior
Energy-saving heat pump isn’t standard
Seat comfort could be better
Only the larger battery gets a performance boost
  • Variant: Coupe 85x Sportline Plus
  • Price: £50,305
  • Engine: Two electric motors and 78kWh battery
  • Power: 282bhp
  • Torque: 312lb ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 6.6sec
  • Top Speed: 112mph
  • Fuel: Range: 353 miles
  • co2: 0g/km
  • Road tax band: Free until April 2025
  • Dimensions: 4,653mm x 1,879mm x 1,621mm
  • Release Date: On sale now

Skoda Enyaq 85x Coupé 2024 review: Less range anxiety than ever – even in the desert

Our own Sand Job

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Rightly or wrongly, for as long as electric cars have been on sale, one metric more than any other has shaped a car’s success or failure: range. How far the car can travel on one charge of its battery is the first question on most people’s lips and the one headline-grabbing figure that some manufacturers use as a stick to beat their rivals.

Much like the fine print on an advertisement for investments or gambling, the results in reality may vary because the official testing procedure, known as WLTP, isn’t very realistic. You can bet the real world figure will be lower in the real world. What’s more, it will vary greatly depending on things such as air temperature (extremes are bad), how hilly your route is and whether you’re driving like Max Verstappen in a championship-deciding grand prix.

In most cases, though, the achievable range figure could just be called “enough”. That’s because the number of miles driven each day by the average motorist ranges from the high teens to the low twenties. This fact seems lost on buyers, however, and that’s why Skoda has just extended the driving range of its electric Enyaq as part of a 2024 model year update.

To find out just how much the range has increased, we didn’t set off from South Mimms services for a few laps of the M25 but took a leaf out of The Grand Tour and — as Skoda’s invitation — packed ourselves off to the Sahara for our own “Sand Job” adventure.

Morocco is the most easily accessible African nation to Europe, with a ferry crossing from Spain taking little more than an hour to cross the 20-or-so-mile divide.

Our journey began further south, in the city of Ouarzazate — known as a gateway to the Sahara Desert. Even in February, Morocco’s latitude means high temperatures, making the Skoda’s frosty air conditioning appreciated.

Barely noticeable new exterior

From the outside, not a great deal has changed with this car. Both the Enyaq and Enyaq Coupé retain the same sheet metal as before, though there is new badging to reflect the company’s recently revamped corporate identity. Mind you, you’d need to be a devout fan of the Czech brand to notice the slightly larger bonnet emblem and the revised typeface across the boot lid.

Sensibly, the “iV’ part of the model’s name — previously used to signify Skoda’s electrified models — has been dropped. Nobody outside Skoda bothered with those, anyway. And also logically, in the case of the model with the larger battery the numerical nomenclature switches from 80 to 85.

Sun power worthy of Scaramanga

The barren outskirts of Ouarzazate would make for a perfect location for a Bond-style action film. This is home to the Noor Power Station, one of the world’s largest solar power plants, sprawling over 6,100 acres and has a total installed capacity of 582 megawatts. It’s enough to power approximately 2.3 million homes or to charge the batteries in 7,097 Skoda Enyaqs, so we were told.

The facility uses various techniques to capture the Sun’s energy but the most visually impressive is Noor 3. At its centre is an 820-foot tower containing molten salt heated to several hundred degrees Celsius by an array of 7,400 heliostats — each the size of a tennis court and containing 54 mirrors that track the movement of the sun. They adjust in tiny increments every two minutes, like giant mechanical sunflowers, focusing the rays directly at the tower to superheat the molten salt.

That, in turn, heats water to produce steam to drive turbines that generate electricity. Such is the energy intensity of the reflected rays that anything passing through their path would be instantly vaporised. This is The Man With the Golden Gun stuff — Bond villain levels of sun power.

And the 150 megawatts that this one part of the Noor complex can produce is as impressive visually as it is from an engineering standpoint.

Although it made for a good photo, actually there was no need to charge up the Enyaq at this location. When you do need to plug in, its battery can now be charged from 10 to 80 per cent in as little as 28 minutes thanks to rapid charging at 175kW — up from a max of 125kW before.

A battery pre-conditioning system ensures it is at the optimal temperature when you plug it in, which helps reduce the charging times. Drivers can activate this manually though, as with Tesla EVs, it’s automatic if a charging station is set in the car’s navigation.

Plenty of power in the Enyaq, too

The road south towards the Sahara is unexpectedly good. Mostly devoid of traffic and very well-maintained, this sinewy ribbon of black tarmac draped across the rocky landscape reveals Morocco as an undiscovered driving paradise.

Skoda has added more power to the Enyaq, with the standard rear motor receiving an 80bhp bump, while the dual-motor 85x tested here gets a 20bhp increase to 282bhp. The location is exotic, remote, and spectacular.

It’s also almost completely bereft of EV charging points, though even as the miles racked up it was of little concern. Alongside the increase in power output, Skoda has made further improvements to the battery’s thermal management to increase the range. The sleeker-looking Enyaq 85x Coupé can now cover up to 353 miles between recharges, according to those official WLTP tests, while the slightly boxier Enyaq 85x can muster 348 miles.

Time for some sand

Leaving the tarmac at Mhamid in the Zagora Province and moving onto the fine Saharan sand allowed the Enyaq 85x’s all-wheel-drive system to show how good it is, even with standard road tyres fitted.

The Traction mode is designed to cope with a variety of low-grip surfaces, and in an electric car makes for an interesting experience. Drop the windows, and all you’ll hear is the tyres churning the sand. It’s ASMR bliss, while having the instant electric torque punch is also extremely useful on the sand when maintaining forward momentum is essential to avoid getting bogged down.

Reaching our desert camp with 49 per cent battery remaining was encouraging and reassuring, as in this remote location our nearest charger wasn’t simply “down the road”.

The intrepid adventurers

Skoda had arranged for us to meet some special guests at the camp, and their Enyaq had covered slightly more distance than us on the African continent.

The duo of Renske Cox and Maarten van Pel have spent the last 13 months driving from their home in the Netherlands to South Africa and back in their modified Skoda. Doing such a journey in any car would be challenging enough but doing it with an electric vehicle through often very isolated locations added an extra layer of complexity.

A set of flexible solar panels measuring 60 square metres that they laid out on the ground under the hot African sun was enough to recharge the battery during the day. It takes around 15 minutes to set up the panels, which can reach a peak of 8.5kW. That’s a far cry from the Skoda’s potential rapid-charging rate, but it did the job for the pair — on good days they could recharge half the battery in just a few hours. Typically, they would charge for one day and then drive for the other, using mains power only when it was more convenient in larger towns and cities.

Powering an EV from the Sun is by far the cheapest and most efficiency way to do so, and their set-up proves that anywhere is possible in an electric car, so long as you have time, patience and ingenuity.

As we left the flat and empty desert behind, we discovered yet more incredible driving roads that look like they’ve been cut through the Martian landscape. Morocco is a treat for the eyes, and heading towards Marrakech provides an opportunity to stretch the Enyaq’s legs over a longer journey.

The open road

An underlying stiffness to the Skoda’s chassis set-up combined with just enough firmness allowed us to confidently explore its handling through some of the glorious fast-flowing curves and bends as we began climbing towards the mighty Atlas Mountains. The Sportline Plus specification adds larger wheels, though I found they didn’t come at the detriment of overall ride comfort.

Playing with the ever-ready torque available made even the steepest inclines seem effortless as the Enyaq slingshot itself out of corners with the surreal smoothness that only an EV can provide.

You never lose the sense of the Skoda’s weight, especially through corners, though the mass is centred low down, so handling isn’t as adversely affected as it might be. The Enyaq always feels reassuringly planted, and the steering is nicely judged, too.

Climbing the Tizi n’Tichka road that stretches beyond 7,000 ft above sea level saps energy from the battery. However, unlike the combustion-engined vehicles we passed, which gasp for air at altitude and suffer from power loss, the Skoda’s performance was unchanged.

An upside of traversing such tall mountains is that the descent on the other side allows the Enyaq to harvest plenty of energy back into its battery. Strong re-gen rates mean there is little need to use the brakes on the way back down, all while you can watch the range figure increasing, rather than decreasing.

This downhill cruise gave us a chance to play with the updated infotainment system. Skoda seemed to do this better than sister company Volkswagen, but its updated 13in touchscreen is more intuitive and has a fresh look incorporating the company’s latest signature colours.

Skoda’s digital voice assistant, Laura, has also upped her game, and responds more quickly and accurately to requests. The wireless smartphone mirroring remains great to use, too, and the integration of What3words with Google Maps made pinpointing specific locations a doddle. You can download the What3Words app to your phone to see what I mean — clever stuff.

Undertaking such a road trip five or more years ago in an electric car wouldn’t have been one for the faint-hearted, but today, this Skoda (and plenty of other EVs just like it) made light work of the terrain and distance without a hint of anxiety.

The Enyaq isn’t without its rivals, but the overall package is one that works well. From its styling (with SUV or Coupé variants) to the interior quality that is comfortably the best among its closer Volkswagen Group siblings, the Enyaq is also immensely practical with no discernible compromise in space or functionality should you choose the Coupé.

Few buyers are likely to venture as far into the desert as we did, but it’s reassuring to know that the car can cope well with extremes when called upon.  

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