The Skoda Superb has long appealed to Indian luxury car buyers because it is a full-sized luxury car offered with a relatively reasonable price tag. The Superb lists its expansive size, attractive looks and high levels of cabin space and comfort as some of its strengths, and to be frank, these are on par with cars priced nearly twice as much.
The Superb comes in five versions of varying trim, engine and transmission combinations. There are two basic trim levels – Style and Laurin&Klement, two engine options – a 1.8-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre diesel, and three transmission options – a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG auto mated to the petrol engine, and a six-speed dual clutch auto mated to the diesel.
The base trim, despite being the lower of the two trims, is still loaded with features and equipment. It comes with bi-xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, 12-way electrically adjustable driver seat, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is armed with SmartLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a generous safety kit that includes electronic stability control and eight airbags among others.
The higher Laurin&Klement trim gets everything that the base trim does, plus a premium Canton sound system, ambient cabin lighting, a driver fatigue detection system, a 12-way electrically adjustable passenger seat and three-zone climate control.
Moving inside, you are greeted by a spacious cabin and seat comfort continues to be the Superb’s forte. At the rear, the seats offer ample thigh support, and feel spacious and unconstrained due to the car’s width. You get floor-attached foot-rests too. Seating for the middle passenger is not as comfortable though, due to the harder, raised seat and the large central tunnel. The rear AC blower gets its own temperature-control-function, but lacks blower control. Also missed are the vents on the pillar between the front and rear door, which were there on the earlier Superb. The three-zone climate control AC system also has a humidity sensor to ensure that the interiors don’t fog up. However, in the Coorg heat on our test drive, the aircon struggled to keep the rear passengers cool.
In true Skoda tradition, there are plenty of clever bits in the car such as the grippy bottle-holder in the centre console which allows you to uncap a bottle with one hand, or the smart tailgate which not only opens by placing your foot below the boot, but also has a sensor that senses the ceiling height and limits the opening height of the hatch accordingly. And just like the old car, you get an umbrella here too; this time around, though, there are two – one in each door!
However, it is not all rainbows and sunshine. Skoda, probably in an effort to curb costs, has used many common parts in the cabin. The design of the dash, especially the centre console, steering wheel and instrument panel, is a bit too reminiscent of the Octavia. And though there a few chrome and wood highlights peppered in the interiors don’t quite have the sense of occasion of the old car.
A big plus, though, is the boot space. The Superb plays a host to a vast 625-litre boot, which can be extended to 1,760 litres by folding the rear seatback down. It is adorned with several useful features too, such as a side luggage box, plenty of hooks and the option of cargo nets.
In terms of handling, the new Superb feels extremely comfortable at high speeds. It is planted and stable on the roads, with levels of agility that are quite good for such a long car. The electric steering is accurate and feels nicely weighted, and the brakes offer a good amount of bite but feel a touch too sensitive so have to modulate pedal pressure gingerly. The suspension set-up is soft and plaint, which leads to some amount of float as well as some pitching on poor roads. But overall ride comfort offered by the tuned for India, offers a pillow-soft ride. The suspension works well but there sharp edges can heard rather than felt with thuds resonating a bit into the cabin.
Moving on the performance – the 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine delivers 177bhp and 32.6kgm (manual gearbox)/25.4kgm (DSG gearbox), works great at low and high engine speeds, and is a good combination of refinement and power. It is near silent when idling, punches in a nice shot of torque when you take off, and feels eager to deliver more performance across the rev range. At higher revs, in fact, it is even smoother and punchier. Adding to this is the seven-speed DSG gearbox, which delivers sharp and quick responses all along. The six-speed manual gearbox works equally well, though the clutch is slightly on the heavier side.
The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, delivering 174bhp and 36kgm of torque, is impressive too. The most powerful Skoda diesel on offer in India, it comes with only one transmission option – a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The engine is refined, punchy and powerful, though there is some clatter when it is started.
The new Superb continues to be a great value proposition. Yes, it does have some niggles, like the tiny 6.5-inch touchscreen sans navigation, and a cabin that doesn’t feel as special as before but these issues get overlooked when you factor in the larger virtues of size, comfort, performance, space and equipment list this car offers. The pricing is what really drives the car home though – the base petrol starts at Rs 23.82 lakh and will climb up to Rs. 28.25 lakh, whereas the diesel is priced in the Rs 27.73-30.85 lakh range (all prices ex-showroom). Skoda’s flagship now in its third innings seems to have mastered the game.
(In association with Autocar India)