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Road Test: Skoda Superb [2009-2014]

CarWale Team, 01-Jun-2009. Car Tested: Superb [2009-2014], Version: Elegance 2.0 TDI CR AT
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Introduction

Superlatives are something we reserve for things that exceed our expectations. Things that pleasantly shock us, and make us go “I want one of those”. We certainly thought that when we saw the first images of the new Superb, and that feeling was reinforced when we stepped inside it. This is not the overgrown, anonymous Laura lookalike any more, but something that makes people stare, or look twice. “Welcome on board,” like the music system says when you switch it on.

Exterior

This is a large car but you won’t notice it right away. Its enormity will only sneak up on you when you park it in a public parking lot next to a Fiesta or Accent, walk away, and turn around to look at those beautiful headlamps. You will then realise that the nose is sticking out too far, so you'll walk back to check how far from the wall you are, and discover that you’ve parked it perfectly. It then hits you – it really is that much longer than the car next to it! The design is revolutionary in some aspects, but they’ve retained a few old design cues, like the grille and the clean sides. The rest of the car now has that ‘wow’ factor that the previous Superb so sorely lacked. The lines on the bonnet, the headlamps, even the new tail-lamps make heads turn.

There should a picture of the Superb V6 in the dictionary, right next to the word ‘sleeper’. The only visible differences that the V6 offers compared to its four-cylinder siblings are a unique paint shade called “Platin Grey” that is a blue-gray metallic shade and wheels that sport more spokes than the other two variants. The Superb manages to look good even though a less sober colour would have been nice for the quickest Skoda ever made. The quad exhaust tips hint at what lies under the hood, but there is no other hint at all that you’ve paid nearly Rs 30 lakh for your Superb. The boy racers in us are rubbing their hands in glee at the surprise and bewilderment that shows on people’s faces when you take off at the lights, or they hear the engine rev, but most of the time it flies under the radar – and we’re not so sure that’s a good thing in our market.

Interior

One of the things luxury cars have to do well is make their owners feel special. The Superb has this quality in spades – wood, leather and plastic in black, beige and brown combine to make you feel like the king of the world every time you set foot in the car. The color combination may seem a little incongruous, but it works. Slip into the driver’s seat, and you’re presented with the traditional Skoda steering wheel boss and the ‘smiling’ chrome strip. The wheel tilts and telescopes, and has click-and-scroll buttons on the wheel that make going through menus and music really simple. The instruments are arranged in a twin-pod layout with white-on-white lighting that is easy on the eyes. As with most cars from the VW auto group today, the speedometer is calibrated in steps of 5kph up to 180kph, beyond which each line indicates an increase in 10kph. A convex right wing mirror instead of the plane one provided would certainly have helped things along in our crowded traffic conditions – the blind spot it creates on roundabouts can hide a small car! The seats adjust for height and lumbar support as well as the usual adjustments, so finding a suitable driving position is a doddle. However, the rear seat is definitely the place to be, what with the amount of legroom available and small touches like a footrest for the feet making things so much more comfortable. Even the interiors of the Superb V6 are identical to the other two variants, the only visible difference being the chrome on the top of the gearshift lever being engraved with ‘V6 4x4’ on it. Not that there is much one would want to change with the Superb’s interiors, since they’re that well-appointed already.


    The audio system is one of the highlights of the Superb. It is a two-DIN touchscreen system that can hold six discs at a time and can play pretty much every format available for audio. It is clear right up to its highest volume, but we couldn’t help but wish for more clarity in the low-mid frequencies.

    Storage spaces are what we’ve come to expect from a car in this class, but special mention must be made of the ‘twindoor’ boot, which can be opened either like a sedan, or like a hatch. In simple English, it will hinge either at the bottom or the top of the rear windscreen, depending on whether you need to load big objects into the boot. No object will be too big for this boot – it is 565 litres with the rear seats upright, and when we flipped the rear seats and sent someone in to measure how big it becomes, we lost him in there. We’re probably still searching for him as you read this.

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Engine, drivetrain, fuel efficiency

Engine
    The Superb is available with three engine options in our market, two petrols and a diesel. The four-pot petrol displaces 1.8 litres, and develops 160bhp with the help of a turbocharger. It is deathly silent at low revs, and a refined, muted growl makes you aware that it is hard at work at high revs. It hustles the Superb to 100kph in 10.6 seconds, as opposed to the 140bhp diesel, which manages the sprint in 12.2 seconds. They might be almost the same in the dash to 100kph, but their characters couldn’t be more different. The petrol keeps things so hushed that you don’t know if it’s internal combustion or cold fusion that’s going on under the hood. The diesel is the same unit as the one under the VW Passat’s hood, and is as noisy as the Passat’s unit. There’s always a gravelly note accompanying proceedings, and things can get excessively noisy by luxury car standards when pressing on. There’s fearsome torque from the diesel, though, although both motors exhibit just a hint of turbo lag. Keep them spinning in their powerbands, however, and you can keep your pace up. However, if you’re going to be in a real big hurry most of the time, you do have the option of the all-wheel drive 265bhp V6, which should make things interesting for the likes of the Accord V6. The current motors will accelerate smartly to 200kph, and coupled with the chassis, suspension and accurate steering, you can cruise at whatever speed you want all day long without breaking into a sweat.


 The Superb V6 derives its power from a transversely-mounted narrow-angle V6 engine that shares its genes with the Audi TT’s engine. The VW-Audi group wanted a six-cylinder engine which wasn’t too long, because it was to fit under the hoods of cars developed on the VW Passat’s platform, which is engineered to accept only transversely-mounted engines. The Superb is a stretched Passat underneath the skin (and is identica l to the long-wheelbase Passat that is sold in China,) so it was imperative that the engine in the Superb be relatively short if it was to be transversely mounted. This meant that a V6 was in order – but a V6 is wide, which meant more weight forward of the front axle, which would affect a lot of things like weight distribution (and therefore handling,) and pedestrian impact safety. A straight six would achieve these targets easily, but wouldn’t fit in the engine bay.


      The engineers finally compromised, and developed an engine that is almost, but not exactly, either a V6 or a straight six. The cylinders are arranged in two banks of three each, but with an angle of 10.6 degrees between the banks which allows  for the cylinders to be placed closer and with a single head and half the number of camshafts required by a regular V6, which reduces complexity and cost. This narrow-angle V6 is called a ‘VR6’ engine by VW, and can be found in the Passat R36 that is sold in Europe and America. This naturally-aspirated engine displaces 3597cc and generates 258bhp@6000rpm and 350Nm@2500rpm. It has a very Jekyll-Hyde personality; it will waft at close to idling speeds without making a sound, but boot it and it will rev manically to the redline. It sounds quite like a motorcycle engine in the way it revs freely to match revs when downshifting under heavy braking. It helps the Superb to sprint to 100kph in 8.7 seconds, and cover the quarter mile in 16..3 seconds at 141.8kph.


Drivetrain

    The petrol gets a seven-speed DSG gearbox, and the diesel gets a six-speed one. Both ‘boxes shift well, but the diesel sh owed a tendency to hold on to a gear in D mode where the petrol would upshift. You can also choose to shift gears manually by tipping the lever left while in D mode, or using the paddles behind the wheel. ‘S’ mode is available for when you’re in a hurry, or on a slope – it holds on to gears much longer than D mode does.

The Superb V6 utilises a fourth-generation Haldex system to power the front wheels under normal driving conditions, but should it detect slip, it will transfer up to all the torque to the rear wheels as well. If you go quickly through a corner, the power from this engine is transferred to the rear wheels, offering a rare mix of safety when grip is low, and fun when spirits are high. The Haldex clutch routes its power to a six-speed DSG gearbox, which is just as good as any VAG-group gearbox is, with its intuitive shifts. ‘S’mode in this gearbox seems a bit of overkill, since the engine has so much power, anything above 3000rpm gets the car leaping forth with every twitch of your right foot. Some Superb V6 owners might prefer that they be offered a seven-speed gearbox like the other petrol superb, but six is plenty for this engine. The swift kickdown helps this car go from 30-50kph in 2.3 seconds, and 50-70kph in 2.7 seconds.

Fuel Efficiency

       Both the four-cylinder engines showed surprising efficiency for a car of this size and weight. The petrol offered about 9kpl in normal driving, but it was the diesel that wowed us, with no sign of going below 10kpl, no matter how hard we drove it.

Skoda recommends 95RON petrol for its 3.6 V6 FSI engine for optimum performance, and says that it will run trouble-free on 91RON. We couldn’t get much better than regular fuel (which is rated at 88RON) with additives, so we added octane booster. You should know that fuel with a higher octane number will improve this car’s performance and efficiency by a fair margin, so if you’re an owner, either tank up on 93/97RON fuel or purchase a case of octane booster and always keep a bottle handy. Our test car returned almost 7kpl during normal usage, which is quite good considering the displacement, number of cylinders and all-wheel drive.

Ride & Handling, Steering

The ride seems a little stiff at low speeds but improves with speed. Manoeuvering the car in a parking lot can be bothersome, but things are made much easier with the parking sensors that are present at the front and rear. The ride improves with speed, and the accurate steering offers a lot of confidence to the driver. Handling is surefooted, even at speeds over 180kph. Don’t expect extremely feelsome steering or rapid direction changes; this is a big, heavy car, after all.

The Superb sports McPherson suspension with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser at its front and a multi-element axle, with one longitudinal and three transverse links with a torsion stabilizer at the rear. The V6’s ride is slightly stiffer than its siblings at low speeds thanks to the larger rims and low-profile tyres, but it isn’t uncomfortable. The ride improves by leaps and bounds at speed with the primary ride coming into play. The Superb is very manoeuverable for its size in traffic, thanks mostly to the electro-hydraulic steering which adds assist at low speeds, then reduces it at high speeds for better feel and accuracy. The approportioning of torque to the rear wheels does wonders for the handling – it will put a few cars a segment above to shame with its confidence through corners!

Braking, Tyres, Safety

Braking
    ABS with EBD helps stop the Superb fairly quickly. 80-0kph takes 2.8 seconds and 36.7 metres for the petrol, and 3.1 seconds and 39.0 metres for the diesel. They bite well, have good feedback and are progressive.

At low speeds, the Superb V6’s brakes feel a little too sharp to be comfortable. If the driver isn’t smooth and careful with his foot, everyone in the car will lurch forward in their seats. However, this immediacy of the brakes is much appreciated at speed, especially considering the silly speeds this car is capable of achieving at the drop of a hat.

Tyres

    Goodyear Eagle NCT 5s connect the Superb with the road. The 205/55 R16 rubber offers decent grip, is quiet at speed and progressive on the limit.

The Superb V6 sports 225/45 R17 Pirelli PZero Rossos. These Pirelli were soft and refused to give up even at speeds above 200kph. Tread noise on smooth concrete and tar roads was extremely low. The Superb V6's wheels have a different design when compared to the other Superbs.

Safety
    There’s VW thoroughness engineered into the Superb, so eight airbags are on offer, along with ABS and a host of other features like cornering headlamps. Euro-model Superbs have some space-age safety features like headlamps that change their beam pattern according to the weather conditions, but the Indian market hasn’t got those to cut down on costs. Watch the Superb's EuroNCAP video below.

 

Cost, Overall evaluation

Cost
    At Rs 18.4 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai, the 1.8 TSI is incredible value for money – not something a luxury car in India can usually boast about. The TDI PD is a little pricier at Rs 21.5 lakh, but will definitely offer better resale value than the petrol.

Overall evaluation
    If you’re looking for rear seat comfort, look no farther. You’ll have to look at something like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class for equivalent legroom, but this is priced much lower than the C-Class – so much that it’s one of a kind: a new, up-to-date luxury car that’s a bargain as well. We’d pick the petrol and take the good and bad that comes along with it. Besides, if the Superb is good enough for the Czech head of state, it’s certainly good enough for us!

The Superb V6 retails for Rs 26.4 lakh, ex-showroom, Mumbai. At the price, it is on par with the Honda Accord V6 and the Nissan Teana. It is packed with more features, offers all-wheel drive, a dual-clutch gearbox and handling and driver involvement that is certainly the best of the trio of V6-powered luxo-barges.

 

Test Data

Engine Specifications - Petrol

1798cc, four cylinders in line turbopetrol. 160bhp@4500rpm and 250Nm@1500rpm. View specifications

Speedo Error

Speedo Reading (kph) Actual Speed (kph)
40  36.9
60  56.9
80  75.8
100  95.6
120  114.5
140  133.8

Max in Gear

Gear Speed (kph@rpm)
1st  53.8@6500
2nd  83.9@6500
3rd  116.8@6500
4th  154.2@6500
5th  202.5@6500
6th -

Performance Test Data

Top Speed 207.4kph*
0-60kph  5.2sec
0-100kph  10.6sec
Quarter Mile (402m)  17.8sec@134kph
Braking 80-0kph  2.8sec@36.7m
30-50kph in 3rd**  2.5sec
30-50kph in 4th**  2.6sec
50-70kph in 5th** ----

Fuel Efficiency

  City Highway Overall Worst
Mileage (kpl)  --- ---
9.7
7.1

 

 

 

Engine Specifications - Diesel

1968cc, four cylinders in line turbodiesel. 140bhp@4000rpm and 320Nm@1750rpm. View specifications

Speedo Error

Speedo Reading (kph) Actual Speed (kph)
40  37.7
60  56.7
80  75.6
100  95.7
120  116.6
140  135.3

Max in Gear

Gear Speed (kph@rpm)
1st  48.0@4500
2nd  61.4@4500
3rd  101.4@4500
4th  140.4@4500
5th  176.6@4500
6th ----

Performance Test Data

Top Speed  187.2kph*
0-60kph  5.7sec
0-100kph  12.2sec
Quarter Mile (402m)  18.5sec@127.8kph
Braking 80-0kph  3.1sec@39.0m
30-50kph in 3rd**  2.2sec
30-50kph in 4th**  3.1sec
50-70kph in 5th** ----

Fuel Efficiency

  City Highway Overall Worst
Mileage (kpl)  --- ---
12.5
10.4

 

Engine Specifications - V6

  3597cc, six cylinders V-layout direct-injection petrol. 260bhp@6000rpm and 350Nm@2500rpm View specifications

Speedo Error

Speedo Reading (kph) Actual Speed (kph)
40  34.9
60  57.2
80  75.1
100  95.6
120  114.4
140  133.9

Max in Gear

Gear Speed (kph@rpm)
1st  54@6500
2nd  86.2@6500
3rd  130.2@6500
4th  191@6400
5th -
6th -

Performance Test Data

Top Speed  211.2kph*
0-60kph  4secs
0-100kph  8.7secs
Quarter Mile (402m)  16.3secs@141.8kph
Braking 80-0kph  2.7secs@29m
30-50kph in 3rd**  2.3secs
30-50kph in 4th**  --
50-70kph in 5th**  2.7secs

Fuel Efficiency

  City Highway Overall Worst
Mileage (kpl)  - -
 7.0

--

*Achieved

**In kickdown

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