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Test driving the new Skoda Superb

It's high on space, has brilliant handling and rides more comfortably than before. Does the new Superb have what it takes to be the 'Best in Next Class'?

Indian car buyers are a demanding lot, irrespective of their individual budgets. Naturally, the bigger their budget, the more they demand. At Rs 35 lakhs, they want space, back-seat comfort, the beginnings of luxury, road presence, driving pleasure, power, refinement and brand value.

So when Skoda decided to target the next higher class of car buyers with its new Superb, it had its task cut out. To highlight its intent, it even chose a fitting tagline for the car: 'Best in Next Class'. We took the new car for a spin all the way from Mangalore to the pleasant climes of Madikeri to find out if it really was the best in next class or if that line is just a clever piece of marketing.

Where the slightly elongated silhouette of the previous model was a bit of a put-off, the new Superb is gorgeous. The lines are bolder, the stance more of a squat and the proportions dynamic. At the same time, there is an aura of understated elegance that suits it well. The design language of the new car is inspired by Czech crystals and as a result you will find a few cuts and slashes (particularly around the headlamps) that don't really offer any functional benefit, but add subtly, yet significantly to this Skoda's face.

The diesel engine is smooth and powerful. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
The diesel engine is smooth and powerful. Pics/Sanjay Raikar

Once inside the car, you are greeted with a view of a neatly laid out dash, made premium with its wood and brushed aluminium inserts in measured quantities taking you back to those thoughts of understated elegance. The lower half of the dash is finished in a shade of cream that matches that of the plush leather seats and serves to accentuate the feeling of space, inside the rather roomy cabin.

Speaking of in-cabin room, that's at least one area where the Superb will not only take on the next higher class of cars, but also best it. At 625 litres (expandable to 1,760 litres), the boot is enormous. Not to mention, you can access the boot from the rear seat via a hatch that lies behind the centre armrest.

The massive boot with a wide opening boot-lid
The massive boot with a wide opening boot-lid

The Superb gets Skoda's latest cutting edge infotainment system with three different ways of connecting a smart phone to it. The car boasts virtually everything you would want from a luxury sedan. Of course, the amount of kit on offer will vary, but on the range-topping Laurin & Klement trim level, we were left wanting for nothing. Except, inexplicably enough, a sat-nav.

The umbrella tucked away in the front door is a neat idea
The umbrella tucked away in the front door is a neat idea

Although the new Superb (like its predecessor) has a 1.8-litre TSI petrol variant, the one we got our hands on was powered by VW Group's 1,968-cc turbocharged diesel engine mated to a six-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox with Tiptronic manual function. The engine's peak output of 177 PS is available from 3,600 to 4,000 RPM, but far more importantly, its maximum torque of 350 Nm is available from as low as 1,500 RPM and stays with you right till 3,500 RPM.

The cabin quality is top notch
The cabin quality is top notch

As a result of this flat torque curve, you can easily cruise at medium double-digit speeds in top gear all day or you can just push the throttle down a bit to get past others. Given its torquey nature the TDI engine should also prove quite fuel-efficient. Refinement levels are high too and there isn't much by way of engine noise that filters into the passenger compartment. Nor are there any notable vibrations. To boot, there are four driving modes as well — Eco, Normal, Dynamic and Individual. The modes change engine maps, gearshifts and steering response with Eco being the softest setting and Dynamic being the crispest.

On the twists and turns of the climb up to Madikeri, the new car feels softer than its predecessor. The electro-mechanic power steering, though light, is full of feedback. The softer suspension set-up also means that the a quality ride.

Passengers are cosseted from all road irregularities and only the largest of bumps will catch the car out.

To bring this 2,060 kg sedan (kerb weight 1,565 kg) to a stop there are disc brakes all around, naturally. The brakes offer plenty of bite and more than enough progression.

At the end of a full day of driving, there is no doubt that as a product what Skoda has here is an out and out winner. There is however, a 'but'. Two, in fact. One is Skoda's long-standing legacy of poor after sales. Admittedly, the company is
trying hard to reverse that image, but it isn't easy and this will make the Superb's work harder. Second, the top-of-the-line Superb carries a sticker of Rs 29,36,850, ex-showroom Mumbai, making Skoda not one to compete with the next class yet.
That consideration aside, there is no doubt that the new Skoda Superb could easily be the best in next class.

Need to know

Skoda Superb: 2.0 TDI L&K
Engine Type: 1,968 cc, four cylinder turbocharged, 16-valve, DOHC
Max Power: 177 PS @ 3,600-4,000 RPM
Max Torque: 350 Nm @ 1,500-3,500 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed DSG
Weight: 1,565 kg
Price: Rs 29,36,850 Ex-showroom, Pune

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