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.
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.
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.