4x4: Superb performance
By: Web Editor
Mark Harwood Stone road tests one of the largest estate cars on the market.
THE largest of Skoda’s range the Superb estate physically eclipses them all while representing the reincarnation of one of the company’s old model names.
Measuring just short of 16ft in length combined with distinctive looks, to describe the Superb as imposing can at times be an understatement. Offering almost limousine standards of accommodation it’s also one of the few that can transport four full-sized adults plus a minimum of 633 litres of cargo over vast tracts of high speed distance while still delivering more than acceptable levels of fuel economy and, while not an off-roader, in 4x4 guise it provides impressive levels of safety and grip.
Looking more or less akin to an elongated Octavia with some aggression dialled in, the deep front air splitter draws the bonnet upwards and over the adaptive front bi-xenon lights, gentle body curvature, subtly flared arches, 18in alloys and down to the extensive rear tailgate that, like the oversized front and rear doors provides uninterrupted access to the load bay and generously proportioned interior.
Internally while trim specifications vary the cabin dimensions remain the same. Commodious front seats ensure those up ahead enjoy exceptional comfort while even with the front seats as far back as they’ll travel, rear passengers still enjoy the same levels of ease with a minimum of 6in between their knees and the back of the front seats.
And while luggage capacity remains useful as is, with the rear seats folded the volume increases to an almost van-like 1865 litres with the option of up to 2000kg of braked trailer weight. In addition SE spec and above also benefits from a flexible luggage partition system, an interior light that doubles as a small rechargeable torch and a collapsible umbrella concealed within the rear left-hand door. Equipment-wise once again depends on the model specification but all versions provide the driver and occupants with clear, easy-to-use instrumentation, the usual onboard readouts, multi-vent heating and air conditioning.
Engine-wise even though it’s now reached a stage where the price of petrol could be deemed significantly less than diesel, for most people the oil burner is still the one to go for. In 4x4 guise customers can select from the turbo-charged 1.8 160bhp as tested or a 3.6 260bhp V6 or the more practical and well proven 2-litre 170bhp turbo-diesel unit that still delivers a combined 43.5mpg all mated to either a short throw six-speed manual or auto-sequential DSG gearbox.
However, even with the petrol powering the Superb on test figures were still more or less acceptable. Covering a total distance of 288 mixed miles over a variety of road types the average return was 34.3mpg with a best figure of 42 on extended use although press on hard and the consumption will drop down into the mid-20s. Add into this the engine’s flexibility, willingness to perform coupled with smoothness of delivery and long-legged feel.
But while the 4x4 Superb exhibits little of its capabilities during routine journeys, advance on to sinuous A and B roads and this large estate transforms itself. Employing Skoda’s favoured Haldex clutch system that requires no input from the driver, their only choice being as to whether the traction control is operable, the small spinning clutches attached to the rear axle instantly access where drive is required, increasing the drive to the rear wheels or the corner most in need. These result in a large, long haul estate that takes on sports car-like dynamics combined with surprisingly neutral characteristics with hardly any hint of dive or squat even when provoked around the most severe corners.
A large and genuinely accomplished estate car that is perfectly at home around the country lanes or city centre, the Superb more than any other Skoda would seem to be the primary reason why the company has developed a sudden urge to send the brand upmarket. This in turn means that in keeping with the newly aspirational edict the firm has also increased the showroom prices to a level where many potential buyers are now starting to consider other alternatives. Add into this residual price that hasn’t kept pace and you quickly find that your £26,000 car has nose dived in value at two to three years old.
That said the Superb 4x4 like all Skodas represents practicality and quality that still costs significantly less than the equivalent makes and models within the VW group. But whether this will be enough to convince existing and future customers to try the Superb benefits for themselves remains to be seen. Without doubt the Superb 4x4 is an excellent vehicle that embodies virtually everything the rural driver looks in a multi-function motor but while the entire range speaks for itself, Skoda’s new direction could well undo what made it so popular in the first place.
Model: Skoda Superb TSI 4x4 Estate
Price: £26,090 (as tested)
Engine: 1.8 litre, 4cyl, 160bhp petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Performance – max mph: 134mph
CO2 emissions – g/km: 191
Economy – combined mpg: 34.3 (as tested)
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