What is it?
One of India's most popular luxury cars, the Skoda Superb appeals to Indian car buyers because it is both a full-sized luxury car and relatively affordable at the same time. A car whose strengths mesh perfectly with the needs of Indian luxury car buyers, the Superb is big, attractive and space and comfort on the inside are as good as cars priced twice as much.
Skoda offers the new Superb with two engines and transmissions options. The 1.8-litre petrol that outputs 177bhp comes mated to either a manual six-speed gearbox or a seven-speed DSG auto. The 2.0-litre diesel engine comes with only a six-speed twin clutch automatic gearbox and develops 174bhp and a massive 36kgm of torque. The Superb is available in five versions, with two basic trim levels – Style and Laurin&Klement.
The base 1.8 TSI manual starts at Rs 23.82 lakh. Despite being the lower spec version of the two, it does get quite a bit of kit. Things like like bi-xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, 12-way electric adjust driver seat, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with SmartLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and it even gets safety kit like electronic stability control and eight airbags, among a host of other safety features. The Style trim can also be had with the seven-speed auto for Rs 25.13 lakh, and with the diesel six-speed automatic, it costs Rs 27.73 lakh (all prices ex-showroom, Delhi).
The higher trim level or Laurin&Klement edition comes with a premium Canton sound system, ambient interior lighting, driver fatigue detection system, gesture controlled boot lid, 12-way electric adjust passenger seat and a three-zone climate control system, among others. The model with the petrol auto 'box in this trim will cost Rs 28.25 lakh and the diesel auto will cost you Rs 30.85 lakh. Question is, how good is it? Does it take the entry luxury game forward, and by how much?
What’s it like on the inside?
Comfy. Yes, the Superb’s calling card has always been seat comfort, specifically at the rear where the seats are large and offer good support. The new Superb’s seats are similar to those of the Octavia, but here, they get an extension for greater thigh support, so you are more comfortable, and the cabin is wider as well, which makes the rear feel more roomy and less constrained. And Skoda’s footrests that are attached to the floor with Velcro, work pretty well too. Sitting in the middle at the rear isn’t extremely comfy though. It’s much narrower, the seat is significantly harder, and as always, you are seated a bit higher up, putting you closer to the roof. And then there’s the large central tunnel to contend with. The rear AC vent blower has its own temperature control, but there’s no blower control and no ‘B’ pillar vents as on the earlier car, so the big cabin does tend to get a bit stuffy unless you adjust the blowers up front correctly. It, however, does get three-zone climate control and the system also has a humidity sensor that prevents the interiors from fogging up.
As the Superb is based on VW's MQB platform, Skoda has used many common parts on the inside, and this does tend to make it feel not so special in a few areas. The design looks a bit too similar to that of the Octavia, the center console, steering wheel and instrument panel are similar and though these bits are attractive in their own right, they don’t always feel special enough to be on this car.
Being a Skoda, there are a few clever touches in the cabin, like the bottle holder that can grip the bottle, allowing you to open the cap. Another feature is the boot release – if the key is on you, all you need to do is place your foot below the bumper (where the sensors are) and the boot swings open. There’s also a system that prevents the tall hatch from fouling garage ceilings (it limits the opening height). The boot itself is a huge 625 litres that can be extended to 1,760 litres with the rear seat-back folded down. And there are other useful features such as a side luggage box, loads of hooks and the option of cargo nets.
And of course, it’s a Superb, so like the old car, this one gets an umbrella too; but this time, there's two, one in each door.
What's it like to drive?
The new Superb, on its long wheelbase, feels extremely comfortable at speed. It feels planted and stable even as the speedo needle climbs past three-digit speeds and levels of agility are decent for such a long car, despite the fact that the suspension is quite soft and pliant. The soft setup, however, does mean there is a bit of roll, some amount of float, and it does pitch a bit over poor roads as well. So, while it does make its way around corners quite nicely, it isn’t a car which you really enjoy attacking corners in. What does help you stay quite relaxed behind the wheel is the fact that the electric steering is nicely weighted and extremely accurate, and the brakes are nicely set up too, so you can shave speed on the way into corners. The Superb also comes with a ‘smart’ differential for the front wheels, but because the setup is so soft, you don’t really feel the benefit when you want to accelerate out of corners.
That aside, the ride is absolute dynamite. The raised-for-India suspension is pillow-soft, even over the roughest roads, the long wheelbase and big tyres lend a helping hand over the rough, and what makes the ride nicer is the fact that the suspension works silently, with no knocks or whacks filtering in.
Adding to the level of refinement is the smooth and slick petrol motor. An absolute delight both at low and high engine speeds, it is both extremely refined and very powerful at the same time. Idle is near silent, there’s a nice shot of torque when you take off, and what makes driving this car even more gratifying is that it always feels ever eager to deliver more performance. Incredibly, rev it past 2,500rpm, and it smoothens up even more, and after that, the raw punch on hand is even more manic. The best bit is that the engine and gearbox work fabulously together, delivering a slingshot-like performance every time you mash your foot down. And the gearbox is reasonably quick, even when you want to come down the gears in a hurry.
Those looking to buy the better priced six-speed manual gearbox version get a car that drives just as well. The clutch is a teeny bit heavier than you expect, but the gears slot in with speed and accuracy and this version of the 1.8 TSI engine has considerably more pulling power or torque (32.6kgm vs 25.4kgm as the automatic has a torque limit), so a tap on the throttle is normally all you need to wake up the motor. There is a bit of turbo lag though and the engine only wakes up fully when you are past 2000rpm.
Also impressive is the diesel automatic. The 2.0-litre TDI has an extremely smooth and strong midrange and with 175bhp on tap, this is the most powerful Skoda diesel to be sold in India yet. It’s also an engine that enjoys being spun hard. VW’s new-gen diesels have lighter internals, less reciprocating mass and with more boost compared to earlier engines, performance is considerably stronger too. There is a bit of delay though between putting your foot down and the car accelerating due to the larger turbo used and the greater lag experienced. Refinement is also quite good. There is a bit of clatter at start up and some pitter patter as well, but once on the move, the engine smoothens up nicely. There is a bit too much fan noise once the engine is hot, but this is only apparent if the audio system is off and the air conditioning is on low.
Should I buy one?
We can’t think of a big enough reason not to. Sure, the touchscreen is small at 6.5 inches (people have phones bigger than this today) and it misses the in-built navigation. The instrument dials are a bit plain-looking and the dash, in general, looks like an Octavia. But look at these against the Superb's sheer size, entertaining engines, excellent ride, and the space and equipment that's ahead of what other manufacturer's offer and it’s hard not to like this car. And if you are still sitting on the fence, Skoda has even priced this car competitively, which is why making a case against it will be really quite difficult.