Superb rerun of seventies sharp
Even those rude about ŠKODAs will have to admit the flagship model is a class act, writes David Linklater
Brown is very fashion-forward for new cars at the moment. But that's not to say every model can pull it off. Premium machines, yes, because those at the top of the tree can afford to take a few risks and luxury cars do tend to set the trends.
Others? Probably cars that have a direct lineage back to the 1970s.
The Skoda Superb has a foot inboth camps. The Czech brand's flagship model is well-established as a high-quality proposition, thanks to Volkswagen Group technology and the kind of fit and finish that sometimes even outdoes its German parent company.
Skoda is now regarded as a cool brand by a certain (younger) demographic. But if you're driving one, you still can't escape the occasional negative comment about how the bad old days have tainted Skoda's image forever, no matter how good the cars have become. To those people, you can just say you chose brown as a homage to the polyester 70s.
The Superb in brown: it just works, no matter which way you look at it.
If you look at it from the front, you'll see this is the facelift Superb, with a reshaped front end and much bolder lines. Same at the back: LED lights and a kind of folded-cardboard thing going on around the number plate.
It all looks quite sharp, albeit in a Russian-doll kind of way. This revised Superb, all-new Octavia and the Rapid small car have been launched at the same time and they all share exactly the same styling cues. Without a sense of scale, from some angles you'd be hard pressed to tell one from another.
That's possibly less of a problem with Superb, because it's still huge. At 4833mm in length, it has a similar footprint to Holden's Commodore Sportwagon. We're talking big-six family-car territory - without the big engine.
The Superb is still available with a variety of powerplants, but most are four-cylinder units (only the flagship petrol version has a V6). Our test car was the TDI 125 - the most powerful diesel powerplant - in the top Elegance specification, which features 18-inch wheels, the latest satellite navigation system, so-called Glamour leather upholstery with heated seats front and rear, and, since it's a wagon, it also gets a powered tailgate. It's a lot of car for $56,900.
Add another $3000 and you can even have it in four-wheel drive. that's not be a bad idea because 350Nm of torque, a quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox (revised for this model) and soft suspension do sometimes manage to relieve the front wheels of traction under hard acceleration. Or in tight corners, as weight comes off the inside corner.
Mind you, the Superb does not claim to be in the least bit sporty, so perhaps a bit less aggression on the part of the driver is a cheaper solution. The Skoda's comfort-oriented chassis is one of its biggest assets: even on 18-inch rims, it lopes along in relaxed fashion and cruises through corners nicely as long as you maintain a smooth driving style.
The cabin is vast: limousine-like rear leg-room has long been a Superb hallmark. This new model even has a new limousine-like feature: controls that allow the rear-seat passenger to move the front seat forward, should extra legroom be required. Seems unlikely.
The load-space is cavernous: 603 litres in standard configuration and up to 1835 litres with the rear seats folded down. It announces German - I mean Czech - practicality, with tie-down points, sliding restraints and hooks for your shopping bags.
I have always been a sucker for the Superb and this one is no exception. This is a mere facelift so it's nowhere near as fresh as the smaller Octavia, but the big guy still stands up well. There's very little I'd change: the parking radar works fine but given the sheer size of the thing, some people might like to spend $650 for the fully automatic parking because it's a system that works particularly well. And I'd certainly eschew the $2500 panoramic roof fitted to our test car: it's a lot of glass and it generates a lot of heat.