Driven - Skoda Superb V6 4x4

Now and then you drive a car which genuinely surprises - and Skoda's thoroughly impressive new Superb model is just such a car. I'd driven other current model Skodas which I'd found enjoyable so my expectations for the bigger Superb were not low.

Using some components shared with larger Volkswagen and Audi models, the Superb takes Skoda into a more upmarket segment of the car world than they've been in since before World War 2. In fact the somewhat unfortunate name Superb harks back to models the company sold in the 1930s. It's a bit difficult to pidgeonhole the new Superb. There are three models offered here - a 1.8 TFSI (turbo) 4-cylinder petrol unit, a 2-litre turbo 4-cylinder diesel, and at the top of the list, a petrol 3.6-litre V6, which I tested. The V6 Superb comes only with all-wheel-drive and a high specification level.

The 3.6-litre engine is a slightly lower power version of the powerplant I enjoyed in the Passat R36 and Passat CC earlier in the year and gives the Skoda very strong performance. Zero-100km/h in 6.5 seconds is no slouch for a big luxury car. And the all-wheel grip means that performance is very usable, even in adverse conditions.

The styling is generally inoffensive, if a little ungainly at the back. But there's a reason for that... the car can be used either as a sedan or hatchback with a clever system which allows either configuration to be used at the press of a switch. BMW has already copied the system and others will surely follow. You'll notice that the back doors are extremely long. Inside the back there's more legroom than in my Rolls-Royce. Very impressive. The leather seats are all very comfortable and the comfort and luxury level will satisfy anyone looking for a car in the under $100,000 mark.

And that's all the more impressive because the V6 4x4 Superb is just $56,990. the 4-cylinder models are more than $10,000 less! Compare these prices to their real opposition... a Citroen C6 is $118,000 a top line Saab 9-5 is $80,000. Audi's A6 starts at over $70,000 and a Passat CC is $65K. Alfa and Peugeot have both recently bailed out of this market segment in Australia. Nobody looking at a Skoda is really going to buy a BMW, the base 3-series (smaller, slower, less equipment) is the same as the top of the range Superb - and an equivalent 5 series costs more than double the price. Everyone I showed this car to was amazed by the value for money.

Areas where the Skoda definitely doesn't let you down are the quality and finish. Its a beautifully put together car as a look around the cabin or drive will prove. In overseas quality surveys, Skoda has been coming out ahead of sister companies VW and Audi in recent years. The feeling I got when first driving the Superb was a flashback to the old W126 S-Class Mercedes of the 1980s. And that's a compliment.

This is a car which certainly deserves to sell well - much better than it will, unfortunately. It's bound to take Australian buyers a long time to wake up to the quality and value that the Superb offers. Yes, the Skoda name doesn't do it any favours, but it won't depreciate worse that a BMW or Mercedes - check the figures. When I see someone driving a Superb, I'll admire them for their decision and commitment, knowing they've bought wisely. If you're in the market for a car anything like this, I'd highly recommend taking a drive.

Postscript: I was so impressed I bought a Superb V6 wagon myself, a year after writing this review.

Engine type: 3.6-litre V6
Power: 191kW
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: 6-speed DSG
Performance: 0-100km/h 6.5 seconds
Price: $56,990 at time of review
Text & Photos - Paul Blank (copyright)