If you like umbrellas, then the new Skoda Superb is the car for you. The connection is far less tenuous than you might think, because one of the car’s features is that it comes preloaded with not one but two umbrellas – they’re stored in compartments in the front doors. In this regard, the Superb leapfrogs behemoths like the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Ghost, which make do with a positively plebian single brolly. I didn’t have occasion to employ either of the Superb’s fitments, mainly because not a drop of rain fell during my drive in it, from Mangalore to Coorg, but I’m sure that when the monsoon hits, this will be a rather useful feature.
Enough about umbrellas, though – the new Superb offers you considerably more than twin ways to stay dry, and I daresay that there are enough features in it to make the purchase of a higher-segment car seem a bit of an overkill. This isn’t surprising, because the Superb has always punched well above its weight since the day it first set foot in India; the problem has often been that Skoda’s own after sales experience has punched it (and Skoda’s other cars) in the face. On the bright side, there appears to be a genuine effort under way by Skoda to set this right, and the number of complaints I hear has reduced exponentially.
On to the car, then. This is the all-new Superb, of course, not merely a cosmetically boosted product – it’s based on Volkswagen’s MQB-monikered global platform, on which several other cars are built. At first sight, there’s a family resemblance to the older Superb, but there are also a host of new design touches that set it apart. This car is a lot sharper, edgier and more aggressive in its styling, with a variety of creases and other flourishes on its exterior contributing to this difference. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a sexy car, which is not often the way premium vehicles like this are described, lesser still Skodas. It’s longer than the older car by 20mm, and this is immediately evident – the Superb has a hefty and commanding presence on the road. Personally, I find that its rump isn’t quite as attractive as its nose, but that is picking at nits; it’s possibly best viewed in profile, with a coupe-like touch to its roof line. An especially attractive touch are the headlamps – look closely and you’ll see an interweaved, cut-glass like pattern to them, which is in fact a tribute to Czech glass-making traditions.
The business end of the Superb has always been its interior, and this emphatically continues to be the case. Open one of the enormous rear doors and you’re greeted by a cavernous rear cabin, bathed in cream leather (perforated, in the top-trim Laurin & Klement edition). I’m nearly six feet tall, and even with the front passenger seat pushed almost to the stop, I had ample leg room at the rear – you can really stretch out in this car, due to its increased length (it’s wider, too). More under-thigh support would have helped, but otherwise, the literally sprawling rear seat is a triumph, with comfort further aided by footrests built into the floor mats. In the L&K edition, the rear left passenger has access to a ‘Boss’ switch, which lets them adjust the position of the front passenger seat – I can see this being a great way to annoy the crap out of whoever is seated there. One thing, though – with three seated at the back, the person in the middle is going to have to almost straddle the protruding transmission tunnel.
The cabin, especially in L&K trim, is loaded to the gills with everything a normal human being might want in their automobile. I’ll reel off a list, in no particular order – climate control, 8 airbags, a touchscreen infotainment system with all the bells and whistles (Mirrorlink, ApplePlay and Android Auto) and a proximity sensor, a variety of clever storage spaces (including a very useful mini-trash can), two cooled storage compartments, ambient lighting in different colours, a 12-speaker audio system, heated/cooled front seats, coat hooks, ticket holders on the A-pillar, 12V power sockets, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, lashings of chrome and leather, a ginormous 625-litre boot (expandable to 1760 litres with the rear seats folded)and free entry to the Playboy Mansion, among others. I’m kidding about only one of these things – the full list of equipment takes almost three pages in the brochure. In all seriousness, at its price point (Rs 22 lakh onwards, ex-Mumbai), no other car can touch the Superb in the features department.
You might think that a luxury barge like the Superb would be a bit of a bore from the driver’s seat, but you would be comprehensively wrong. The car I drove had a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine, putting out 177.5 bhp and a startling 32.6 kgm of diesel-like torque; equipped with an outstanding 6-speed manual gearbox, this version of the Superb was an absolute joy to drive through a variety of traffic and road conditions – city crawling, highway blasts, corner hooliganism in the hills, baby-butt road surfaces and broken country roads alike.
The engine’s refinement and power delivery were unfailingly excellent, and if your chauffeur is a bit of a driving enthusiast, you’re best off fastening your seatbelt and holding on at the back. You can option a 7-speed automatic with the petrol engine, or go with the equally impressive 2-litre diesel engine, which produces 174.5 bhp and a meaty 35.7 kgm of torque; this version only comes with a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda claims that either engine is up to 30 per cent more fuel efficient, despite their power bumps, but only sustained real world use will prove that. No matter which powerplant you choose, the Superb offers plush, pliant ride quality and very composed handling, with the brakes to match its go.
The inevitable question, then – should you rush out and buy the new Superb? Yes, you should. Skoda has been working overtime to correct its poor after-sales experience, and if you set that aside and look only at the product, the Superb is currently peerless. Not only is it the best car in its (admittedly tiny) segment, I’d posit that it’s as good, if not better, than some cars that sit in the classes above it. At Rs 22.6 lakh onwards (ex-Mumbai), it’s a bargain, considering everything that you get with it.
Check out the Skoda Superb here.