Skoda’s voluminous new-gen Superb transforms itself into a strikingly handsome and individual left-field alternative.
WHAT IS IT?
Skoda’s opportunity to demonstrate what it can do with the Volkswagen Group’s ‘Modular Transverse Matrix’ (MQB) platform when stretched to a sizeable 2841mm wheelbase for its impressive all-new liftback-sedan and wagon.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Given the dynamic and packaging excellence of Volkswagen’s closely related B8 Passat (launched here in October), it’ll be interesting to see if Skoda’s approach can produce an even more compelling medium-to-large alternative. With greater room for the money, a pair of Volkswagen Golf GTI/R-related turbo-petrol engines and a range-topping all-wheel-drive variant, the slick new Superb may well be the antidote to Australia’s indulgence with SUVs.
Ford Mondeo, Hyundai Sonata Turbo, Kia Optima GT, Mazda 6 and Peugeot 508, as well as the Volkswagen Passat, despite Skoda’s assertion that it isn’t a direct competitor. And if you take the Superb’s vast cabin and boot space into account, Holden’s Commodore and Calais should be on the radar, too.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
If punters aren’t won over by the new-gen Superb’s palatial interior space and reasonably trim sticker price, then maybe its exceedingly handsome styling will do the trick. Given the visual awkwardness of the old Superb sedan, Skoda has performed a miraculous turn-around in making the new sedan the looker of the range, complete with a neat liftback tailgate, a ginormous 625 litres of boot space and an Octavia RS engine, all for 40 grand. More dynamic panache would be appreciated but at least the grippy 4x4 variant gives the Skoda Superb a genuine point of difference over its relatively conservative rivals.
PLUS: Beautifully proportioned styling; unbeatable space; excellent quality; sweet turbo-petrols; refinement; ride; solidity
MINUS: Not as dynamically poised as a Passat; adaptive dampers only available as part of a pricey options pack; 206kW turbo-petrol deserves a fruitier exhaust note
THE WHEELS REVIEW
EUROPEANS love wagons, and so do motoring journalists. Combining SUV-beating space with the manoeuvrability of a low centre of gravity and the dexterity of an elegantly sized body, you’d think choosing a wagon variant would be a no-brainer. But that isn’t how life works.
Skoda buyers, on the other hand, have sporty wagons in their DNA. The biggest-selling model in the Aussie Octavia line-up is clearly the RS wagon, so Skoda (wisely) paid close attention to this phenomenon when decking out the all-new B8 Superb for its Down Under debut.
Indeed, our ‘base’ Superb scores the Octavia RS’s excellent 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four, also shared with VW’s Golf GTI, while the Skoda flagship nabs the Golf R’s 206kW engine and Haldex-coupled all-wheel-drive system. Both drivetrains also feature in the VW Passat in Europe, yet they’re conspicuously absent here, giving the Superb a sizeable leg-up over its German sibling if you value performance. And while the Superb’s 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel might seem familiar (and priced $2K cheaper than VW’s Passat TDI), its loping nature and improved refinement somehow suit the more laid-back Skoda better than they do the sportier Volksy.
Like the smaller Octavia, the Superb occupies a unique position in the Volkswagen empire, sitting somewhere between Audi’s A4 and A6 in size, while clearly out-measuring the Passat for everything bar track width. The result is a classy, cavernous carry-all that grabs the Superb’s reputation for space and runs with it.
The $39,990 Superb 162 TSI will hit 100km/h in just 7.0sec, which is bang on what a 210kW V6 Commodore can manage, yet it drinks just 6.4L/100km on the government cycle – nearly a litre less than the old 118kW base model. It’s a sweet thing to drive, too, with a subtly raspy engine note and acres of load-lugging torque (the same 350Nm as the 206kW version).
Jump to the 19-inch-wheeled Superb 4x4 and the first thing that comes to mind is ‘cut-price Audi Avant Quattro’. Given the 4x4’s 110kg weight gain, the primo Superb’s claimed 5.8sec-to-100 time is bolstered by its off-the-line purchase and thrust, but it still feels respectably agile on really tight roads, especially when kicking drive to the rear when exiting hairpins – the uprated engine’s throaty chubbiness proving particularly satisfying between 4000 and 6000rpm.
Thing is, the Superb doesn’t overwhelm you with its hard-driven chassis poise like a Passat does. While it has the muscle its VW sister lacks, the Czech limousine clearly favours interstate effortlessness over ultimate amusement. Adaptive dampers are optional – packaged in a $3400-$4700 Tech pack with premium audio and safety electronics – and welcome if your driving enthusiasm covers freeway blasting and back-road carving. But even then, the Superb is more about confidence-inspiring composure than egging its driver on.
And that’s where the Superb truly excels. With more room than most people would know what to do with (try 625-660 litres of boot space!), it somehow manages to shrink around the driver, which must in some way relate to its excellent vision. Hammering a 4x4 wagon through the hills around NSW’s Kangaroo Valley, riding on supportive, yet fairly high-mounted buckets, the Superb really struck a chord with me.
Elevated enough for a clear view in all directions, yet close enough to the road to feel connected to the experience, the Superb treads a rare path in offering the best of both worlds – car and SUV. If you purchase a ‘4WD’ simply to sit higher, without giving the new Superb some attention, then that’s your problem.
With a very comprehensive equipment list, an abundance of practical storage ideas, a trio of tempting options packs ($1500 Comfort, $1700 Image and $3400-4700 Tech pack) and one of the most attractive styling efforts to hit the medium-to-large category in many years, the suave, yet subtly quirky Skoda Superb could well set the benchmark for what an Aussie sedan and wagon should be.
Model: Skoda Superb 206 TSI 4x4
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 206kW @ 6500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1700-5600rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 5.8sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 7.3L/100km
On sale: Now
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