2021 Skoda Superb long term review, first report


The last 12km to the Shillim resort near Aamby Valley is a badly broken stretch of road that is best suited for SUVs. Had I known the condition of this monsoon-battered, part-dirt, part-tarmac road, I may well have taken an SUV instead of the Superb I was in. It was a Skoda event I was driving to, so I thought it only fitting to arrive in a Skoda. Besides, this Magnetic Brown Superb with only 1,570km on the clock has just entered our long-term fleet, so I was keen to see if it had the legs for a long-distance trip.

GROUNDS UP: Has good ground clearance for a long wheelbase sedan.

Now, Skoda owners aren’t going to go off-roading in their Superb, which I unwittingly did when the tarmac gave way to mud and potholes on this horrible Shillim road. So, it wouldn’t be fair to expect it to perform like an SUV, but on that drive, I learned two things. The first – and possibly the most important thing – is that the ground clearance is shockingly good. I say this because a sedan with a wheelbase of 2,841mm translates to a poor ‘breakover’ angle which makes the underbody vulnerable. On a particularly bad patch with large stones and badly built culverts that stuck out from the road like large bricks, I clenched my butt in anticipation of a dreadful thud from under the floor, but amazingly, the Superb was spared from any contact. The first thing I did after getting out of the car at the resort was to glance at the car’s ride height. Yes, there’s enough air between the tyre and the wheel arch which gives the Superb that typically Indian ‘raised’ look. No doubt it spoils the stance of the car, but ground clearance is something that can’t be compromised with. Case in point, the first-gen Honda Civic which bombed because it kept hitting speed breakers.

LOOKING HIGH: Raised suspension spoils the stance.

The other thing I learned is the importance of tall sidewalls. Now again, higher profile tyres may take away from the looks, but if the Superb came with Euro-spec rubber, there’s a good chance I would have been changing flats and been late for my dinner with Skoda’s top brass.

After three generations of the Superb on Indian roads, Skoda knows what has to be done to ‘Indianise’ its flagship sedan and the suspension is one key area. This means the ride is on the softer side to cushion bad roads, especially in the city where most owners ply. However, the soft damping raises its unpleasant head on the highway. The front suspension is particularly soft and the nose has a tendency to pitch on an uneven surface. Driving back on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the Superb would heave a fair bit over the bumpy concrete section near Lonavala. It’s not really disconcerting, but you expect the Superb to have a more solid and planted feel, just like its more stiffly sprung predecessors. Clearly, a flat and firm ride has been sacrificed for more compliance and comfort, which, quite honestly, is what you want 90 percent of the time. It’s just that my first encounter with the Superb was on the highway where tighter body control is always preferred.

SOFTLY DOES IT: Softly sprung for high speeds, pitches on uneven surfaces.

The last car I drove before the Superb was its younger sibling, the fourth-gen Octavia and it made for an interesting comparison. Both cars are propelled by the identical 190hp, 2.0-litre TSI mated to the same 7-speed DSG gearbox, so power delivery should be identical, right? Wrong. That’s because both engines aren’t quite identical. ECU calibration is completely different and you may not realise this when driving each car in isolation. The Superb doesn’t quite have the same hair-trigger throttle response of the sportier Octavia and delivers all its horses in a more measured and linear manner. Again, that’s exactly in keeping with the car’s credo. Most owners are likely to be chauffer-driven and when you’re at the back, the last thing you want is nausea-inducing bursts of acceleration. That’s not to say the Superb isn’t quick. On the expressway, it canters past traffic quite easily and despite a fairly sedate power delivery, it is happy to visit the 6,000rpm redline quite frequently. It’s unusual for a turbo-petrol to be rev happy but that’s TSI tech for you. The DSG gearbox isn’t as enthusiastic, especially when it comes to downshifting and rolling down the Lonavala ghat, I need to intervene with the paddles to drop a gear or two for some ‘engine braking’.

 The Superb was pleasantly fuel efficient and a round trip from Mumbai to Shillim gave an impressive 11.2kpl. Impressive because when you throw a twisty uphill road into your route, efficiency drops, but the Superb’s TSI motor managed to keep consumption in double digits.

FRUGAL RUNNER: Delivers good efficiency over long distances.

Specced in L&K trim, our Superb has all the bells and whistles and sumptuous seats. I haven’t sat at the rear yet but glancing at the amount of legroom there is on offer, I am sure that won’t be a shabby place to be.

from Autocar India - All Car Reviews

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