Skoda raises its benchmark with the new Superb. Shapur Kotwal gets a first-hand account

The new Superb takes the low-cost high-ability luxury car game to the next level. We bring you a preview from the mountains of Austria. Don’t we all have a thing for underdogs? Individuals that promise little but deliver so much, performers who fight in a higher class. And that’s essentially the appeal of the new Superb — it’s the thinking man’s luxury car that conceals its many talents well.

Okay, so its looks are an acquired taste. The car looks modern and the scimitar-shaped headlamps work well. The problem is the rear — the steep ‘C’ pillar and sloping boot just don’t gel. And then there’s the mismatch between the long cabin and the relatively stubby nose. . While the new Superb may have a slightly shorter wheelbase than the current Superb being sold in India, it has even more space on the inside.

Step into the cabin and the upgrade from economy to first-class is instantly palpable. Feel the leather, toggle the plastic buttons and hear the doors ‘whump’ shut, and your brain immediately parks this car a level higher. Think VW and even Audi; this top-spec Superb is that impressive.

Attractive interior

The steering has a lot more feel, turn is good and overall grip levels are much higher. The new Superb doesn’t feel nose-heavy or lacking in cohesion between the front and the rear suspensions. Where Indian owners may feel slightly let down is in the choice of engines. Of the choice of two engines powering the new Superb, neither will be a V6. Both the diesel and petrol motors will be four-cylinder units, the diesel displacing 2.0 litres and the petrol, 1.8.

The petrol actually does a better job. It’s a modern, up-to-the-minute direct injection petrol engine, similar to VW’s FSI units, and puts out an impressive 160bhp and 25.4 kgm of torque. Of course, it uses a turbo to boost its volumetric efficiency or lack of engine capacity, but there is very little lag. Called TSI by Skoda, the petrol we drove is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed gearbox. Power comes in smoothly all the way from 1800 rpm and there is strong acceleration from as early as 2500 rpm. And the motor can sustain the shove all the way to 5500 rpm.

We’d previewed Skoda’s new 2.0 common-rail diesel last month, and now we managed to get our hands on the PD version, similar to the motor that powers the Laura. Of course, the motor has been substantially improved and it makes 103 KW in this form. The diesel clatter is substantially reduced and the DSG box we drove the car with manages well; only a slight lag is discernible. Still the motor feels underpowered and out of breath when asked to power a car of this weight on the open road.

There’s none of the current car’s silky smoothness and though the midrange kick of the PD motor is nice, Skoda would do well to plop their new common rail motor in under the hood. It makes 170 bhp and that’s more than the current diesel V6.

If you liked the earlier Superb, you’ll most certainly love this one. It offers acres of space, comfort and is well-built too. Powered by an efficient diesel, the car rides better than ever, with improved handling and agility. It has a boot large enough to swallow a small country.

While its looks may take a while to grow on you and this is not a car you’d run in the Autocar drag, as a luxury car around this price, it is second to none. Come on Skoda, price it well.