Superb by name, superb by nature
- 2009 Skoda Superb; 3.6-litre V6 petrol AWD; six-speed DSG; four door sedan - $56,990*
- Metallic Paint $990
Space may be the final frontier, but the Skoda Superb is up to the challenge. From the outside, it only looks like a medium sized car. Photographs belie its proportions, except for the dead side-on profile, which hints at its overall length. The Superb doesn't really give away its secret until you walk closer and open the doors; the size of this car then begins to make perfect sense.
Shout inside the interior and you may hear an echo - it is that spacious. It is slightly on the narrow side in terms of absolute width, but leg, head and foot room all more than make up for it. More than anything, the rear seats are the most impressive. In the Skoda Octavia, the rear seats are quite flat and hard, but the Superb is the complete opposite. There's more shaping for the outside two seats, as well as softer cushioning. Its rear leg room is seriously lounge-room-like, plus there's rear outboard seat heaters as standard on the V6 Elegance model we tested.
As if that's not enough room, the boot has some seriously good space, too. There's a massive 565 litres of space with the seats upright, but drop them and a colossal 1670 litres becomes available. The Superb debuted Skoda's patented Twin-Door feature, which turns a regular boot lid into a hatch-back at the touch of a button, and increases practicality enormously, especially for loading and unloading long pieces of luggage.
By pressing the regular boot release, the first hinge allows a normal action where just the boot lid opens. There's a second button to the right - touch that, and there's a whirring and clicking, after which the boot lid is locked to the rear glass, and you can then open the entire hatch as a one piece assembly. It may seem like a gimmick, but it isn't. It's an appreciated, thoughtful touch.
The quality of the cabin is also without fault, with a beautiful flowing dash, soft leather, woodgrain that doesn't look old and outdated, and chrome highlights dotted about the place. It feels very VW, as you'd expect (Skoda being owned by Volkswagen), with plenty of familiar switchgear and instrumentation. The solid 'thunk' when you close the doors cements the impression of quality.
Under the bonnet lies a lusty 3.6-litre V6, making 191kW and a solid 350Nm. Maximum torque happens fairly high up (2500rpm) but stretches to 5000rpm, near to where peak power is made at 6000rpm. It means that there's a fair spread of torque, which gets you off the line, and the power carries it through the rev range.
It's an extremely flexible engine, which pulls very hard from just over 3000rpm and keeps pulling right up until its upshift at 6500rpm. The sound is also throaty and rorty, without being overly loud - it's brilliant.
Even the DSG, which in some drivetrains can lag a bit off the line, takes up cleanly, and doesn't complain about full throttle, pedal stomping launches. Given its penchant for quick and early upshifts, it not only feels seamless, but also contributes to good fuel economy. An ADR certified 10.2-litres/100km of 95RON is certainly achievable, although with a heavy right foot, that could climb into the teens. This is despite a car which has the power to propel it from 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds. Holden needs a 6.0-litre V8 in its Calais to better this, while Chrysler's 300C with the 5.7-litre Hemi V8, by comparison, does the same dash in 6.8 seconds. The only six-cylinder to rival it is Ford's G6E, but it needs to be turbocharged to be ahead, and then it uses more fuel.
If there was a criticism, it would be the size of the Superb's fuel tank. For such a large car, with such a cargo capacity, you really need something a bit bigger than 60 litres. For example, all its rivals have tank sizes of 70 litres or larger, giving them a range advantage before you even get to the economy side of things. To be fair, there is a diesel variant, but in this country of big sixes, 60 litres doesn't cut it.
However the ride does. The Superb V6 Elegance is all-wheel-drive, and to put the extra drive to good use, the Superb is endowed with excellent grip. Often that comes at the expense of the ride, which can be stiff and brittle. Not so, in this case. There's firmness, yes, but the suspension has enough give to keep passengers from rattling their teeth. It's an excellent trade-off between a compliant ride and supreme road-holding, considering it runs on 18-inch hoops.
On turn in, there's a little push from the nose, probably because of the length of the car, being all-wheel-drive and the fact that the engine is so far forward. The steering has enough weight, not a whole lot of real feel, but responds politely when asked to switch directions quickly. Braking is also a little over-assisted, but learn to begin with a light foot and it's easy to get used to.
Skoda has done a (ahem) superb job with this car. Price-wise, it's a little up there when fitted with the V6 ($56,990), but when you consider the same space and refinement attributes are available with the base model, $42,990 doesn't seem that bad after all. However for the driving enthusiast, the V6 is a refined, roomy and grunty option which deserves its place in Australia's large car market. Perfect for racking up the kays across our vast country, an unlimited kilometer, 3 year warranty is the icing on the cake.
For those who can't quite get past the slightly odd styling, wait until you see the wagon version. Even more space, and better looking? It's a win-win.
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