It was a buzz in the office that refused to die. A month or so before the car entered our long- term park, it was the talking point virtually everywhere. Laura talk pervaded in the lunchroom, during coffee and cigarette breaks, and every second person wanted to know the date of arrival.
Skoda’s petrol-powered luxury car has left an indelible mark at Autocar India. But job number one for our new long-termer was no walk in the park. The car was needed in Chennai only a few days after joining our fleet, in time to get a thrashing around the track at Autocar’s annual track day. To say that Autocar staffers were falling over each other, volunteering to drive the 2600 kilometres from Mumbai to Chennai and back would be understating things. Some cancelled leave, others delayed operations and one smart bloke just went AWOL. And no one seemed surprised in the least that it made a swift snack of the Sriperumbudur track, posting a time cars twice its price would proudly have worn as badges. It was just mega around the track.
Back in Mumbai, our TSI has settled down to the urban grind without batting an eyelid. This car may be turbocharged, but the lag is barely noticeable. What you do notice though is a rapid change in pace once you hit 1800rpm. Here turbo boost and the stronger bottom-end responses of the direct injection petrol motor come together in perfect unison to slingshot you forward like no car in memory. Torque peaks from 1500rpm! This is particularly useful when driving in city traffic, especially as the wide powerband allows you to keep the car in the same gear for a long time. So, for example, you can hand on to second all the way from walking speed to 105 or third from 20 all the way to a hundred and fifty!
Its combination of on-demand power, wide powerband, six-speed gearbox and a comfortable suspension mean the car is in its element once traffic thins out. Gaps disappear with a heartfelt surge of power and the very comfortable seats and interior make even long across-town jaunts less painful. And the motor is smooth, refined and even manages to sound good under load.
Of course, this is also the car to take for a quick outstation trip. Average speeds are upped by 20kph, without the drive getting hairy in any way, the brakes are up to the job and the relatively short wheelbase and raised suspension mean you don’t have to worry about scraping its belly either. Comfortable back seats, huge luggage space and tough build all add up to make this one of the most impressive midsizers we’ve tested. It beat the Civic and Corolla after all in our comparison in June 2009. Even the fuel economy is good. However, reversing is a pain. Visibility is poor out the back and the mirrors, though large, have a very limited field of vision. Thank god this car has parking sensors.
Don’t know how long I can hang on to the Laura, but I’m making a list of long drives I want to do. Problem is, the list keeps getting longer and longer.