The CarAdvice rationale for taking on long-term loan cars (which supplement the growing fleet of cars we own outright) isn’t hard to get your head around. Living with a vehicle for a few months is a very different thing to the week-long loans that are our bread-and-butter.
A long-term press car is an evolving story, a car that will be driven day-in and day-out for months on end. By the end of our tenure, we can expect our long-termers to have been driven by a multitude of staffers, competed against rivals and become, frankly, as much a part of the office furniture as our spiffy orange and black swivel chairs.
When it came time for yours truly to take ‘ownership’ of a long-term loan car, there was a clear and obvious candidate — the Skoda Superb. Because I’m firmly of the opinion that this might be the single most under-appreciated new vehicle you can buy.
Few in the know would argue that Skoda remains one of the most interesting car brands on the Australian vehicle market. A hugely important part of the wider Volkswagen Group, the Czech-based company has carved out an important niche within its parent company.
The brief for its team is simple. Take Volkswagen architectures, and focus on producing spun-off cars with an emphasis on practicality. It’s a strategy that’s working, because while it may lack Porsche or Audi’s glamour, its operating margins are nothing to be sneezed at.
The Superb is Skoda’s flagship, its headline act. And while some may equate the brand with cheap and cheerful, this car is neither. It moves the game forward over its predecessor, yes, but it also puts the related Volkswagen Passat on notice, and a broad swathe of other big wagons too.
Let’s break it down. Our Superb is the wagon version, though you can also buy a lift-back sedan if you fancy the three-box design. Ours is also the range-topper, called the 206TSI 4x4. The starting price is a not inconsiderable $52,690 plus on-road costs ($55,990 drive-away).
That's more than a Volkswagen Passat Alltrack or Ford Mondeo Titanium - both fine cars, though neither of which can touch the Skoda's performance. The Superb is actually more of a poor man's Audi RS6.
But then, you’re not left wanting for power, space and luxury. Under the bonnet is a VW Group 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine pumping out a hefty 206kW at 6500rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1700 and 5600rpm, giving this load-hauler a verified 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.8 seconds. That’s quicker than a Golf GTI or Subaru WRX, for those playing at home.
This engine is matched to a 4x4 system that couples a Haldex clutch to send torque to the rear axle when the dominant front wheels are struggling for road contact. Which on Melbourne’s wet winter roads is a simple enough situation to elicit. It works, with axle tramping or even front tyre chirping largely banished by the reactive, but sophisticated, system's control unit.
Torque is fed from the engine to a six-speed DSG automated gearbox with two wet clutches.
What we’re looking at here, then, is a wagon that uses similar mechanicals to the lauded Volkswagen Golf R wagon, but which is simultaneously two-sizes bigger and more spacious, equally luxurious and substantially cheaper. See what we mean by under-appreciated?
The engine is absolutely fantastic, as that broad swathe of torque (the peak amount is on tap across 3900rpm of the rev band) can attest to. It’s flexible and responsive, while in the car’s sports mode the throttle sharpens up, the DSG gets angry, and the AWD system rockets the Superb off the line in a way that’s far from dignified.
Day-to-day, it pays to doddle about in comfort mode. Lots of people don’t enjoy the characteristics of dual-clutch gearboxes around town, but it’s really all about driving style. You can’t be stabby on the throttle, which will only cause the ‘box to delay off the mark in a way an auto with a torque-converter wouldn’t. Instead, your right foot needs to operate with moderation. The Superb’s unit is relatively fuss-free as far as DSGs go.
We’d also give a shout-out to the vibration isolator in the car’s idle-stop (stop/start) system, which is so good that I don’t even turn it off (sorry to my friends in the Greens for that habit). I also like the VW Group’s Auto Hold system that stops you creeping at traffic lights with your foot off the brake and in D. It’s like an EV in this regard. You can hit a button to switch this off if you like.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.3 litres per 100km, though sessions of spirited driving will send this north of 10L/100km in a hurry. My average over the first fortnight was in the high 9s, which betters a V8 Commodore Sportwagon but is hardly a bastion of economy. If you want that, buy the Superb 140TDI diesel.
The 206TSI rides on sports suspension, which is 15mm lower than the 162TSI and 140TDI front-drive versions. This setup, paired with the large 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 rubber, means the Superb has a firm ride, with less travel over bumps and joins. This means it’s an agile handler for its size, but you also won’t glide over pockmarked B-roads like you would in some big wagons, and you can thud over speed bumps.
It’s also more philosophically a trade-off I’m content with, because the car’s stance is so much better this way. Seriously, this is a good-looking wagon, isn’t it? The design is clean and clinical, but it’s a head-turner. My nosey neighbour agrees.
The low-profile tyres mean there’s some road roar too, but it’s easily overcome by the strong sound system that pumps out my tunes via the car's integrated Smartlink Apple CarPlay/Android Auto software. I find it hard climbing into cars without phone mirroring technology at this point, though not everyone likes having to plug-in their phone cables every time they climb in and hit the column-mounted starter button.
Reassuringly, the noise stops here. Unlike a few of the cars we tested (and called out) on the Australian launch, our Superb hasn’t developed any squeaks or rattles to speak of. The build quality in fact appears hard to criticise. So far. But we're watching closely, guys...
Beyond this, the cabin is largely excellent. The leather/Alcantara seats are good, though not the huge body-huggers you'd get in a Commodore. The neon green ambient cabin lighting strips gives the car a very X-Files vibe at night, though you can change colours. The touchscreen with sat-nav is familiar from any high-end VW you may have driven, meaning it’s easy to get your head around.
The only annoyance so far is the overly touchy front sensors that overreact at times and require you to hit the ‘x’ on the screen to shut them up.
Other features I’ve found myself relying on are the radar-guided cruise control; the self-levelling and powerful bi-xenon headlights; and the ample storage areas in the doors (which are also coated inside with smooth fabric so stuff in there doesn’t rattle), below the fascia, and glovebox/console/sunnies holder are all ample.
One thing we think should be standard is the Tech Pack, which adds Adaptive Chassis Control, side assist, blind-spot detection, lane assist, the premium German Canton sound system (12 loudspeakers, central speaker, subwoofer and digital equaliser), Virtual Pedal hands-free electric tailgate opening, rear traffic alert and self-parking. We've enjoyed most, if not all, of these features. Worth the $3400, yes, but it would be better if it were standard!
There’s really not a whole lot missing here beyond this. Oh, and before I forget, yes those signature door umbrellas remain, ensconced in the door lining. Just like a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
However, this total list of features, and even this performance, is hardly revolutionary (though at this price it goes close). But the Superb goes up another notch in your estimation once you climb into the back seats, which are as commodious as any SUV (save the lack of ride height) and a lot of luxury limos out there.
Comfortable seats with decent support, an iPad holder mounted to the headrest, air vents and big body windows help, but it’s the acres of legroom, headroom and shoulder room that grab you, despite the car’s overall dimensions and wheelbase being on a par with the (also massive) Ford Mondeo.
And as you can see from the images taken by our producer, Mike Stevens, it’s all rather baby-friendly. Mike’s little boy was apparently very happy back there in the ISOFIX-anchored seat with top-tether. The material quality feels well up to the abuse it’ll cop over a long life, and Skoda’s performance in Europe’s JD Power reliability surveys gives us cause for confidence.
Ditto the cargo storage area (look at the pictures), which is simply colossal at about 2000 litres (as big as a large SUV) once you’ve folded the back seats via clever levers in the back. You also get a cargo cover, lots of hooks and velcro backed moveable cargo ‘fences’, though not a full-sized spare wheel under the floor. It’s as practical as any SUV, save that ride height, and so, so much cooler.
We haven’t had cause to get our Superb serviced yet, but Skoda’s Car Pack gives you three-years of servicing (45,000km) for $1299, the same as an Octavia RS, while you can now negotiate a guaranteed future value with the company with terms, to offset one of its major bugbears: resale value. A Passat will hold its value better, so if you turn cars over regularly, keep this in mind.
We also have the reassurance of a three-year/unlimited km warranty with full roadside assistance, though we’d suggest Skoda, as a challenger brand, might consider matching the likes of Hyundai at five years, Citroen at six or even Kia, at seven. It’s all about perception.
So that’s our first long-term review of the Superb 206TSI, which has only grown in my estimations. If you don’t need to have a SUV like everyone else, and a drop-dead, lightning quick and super luxurious left-of-centre Euro wagon without a deluxe badge (such as one with four rings) appeals, it’s simply brilliant.
The name ‘Skoda Superb’ is a bold one. But a month in, it’s hard to think of a better adjective. Keep your eyes peeled for the next long-term report to be co-written with our comparisons chief, Curt, and for an impending twin-test to boot. In the meantime, we’d love to get your thoughts on the car below.
Click the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.
2016 Skoda Superb 206TSI Wagon
Date acquired: June 2016
Odometer reading: 602km
Travel since previous update: N/A
Consumption since previous update: N/A