Skoda Su­perb Sport­line 4x4

Stealthy sa­loon gets the school-run thumbs-up, but damper set­tings fail to im­press

Evo - - FAST FLEET - John Barker (@evojb)

‘My youngest son asked if it was an Audi. Good work, Skoda en­gi­neers’

IT MAY HAVE SIM­I­LAR RUN­NING gear to my re­cently de­parted SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive (end-of­term re­port com­ing soon) but the big Skoda is a very dif­fer­ent beast. As James Dis­dale noted in evo 245, the plat­form and hard­ware shar­ing at the Volk­swa­gen Group is a vast en­ter­prise. I imag­ine in Wolfs­burg there is a vast com­puter pro­gram, a mas­sive look-up sheet, list­ing all the brands and mod­els and com­po­nents, and con­tain­ing all the per­mu­ta­tions – and, cru­cially, the ex­pected rel­a­tive at­tributes of those mod­els. That’s to say how much per­for­mance each model is al­lowed, what its re­fine­ment tar­gets are, what level of in­fo­tain­ment is per­mit­ted, etc, so there aren’t too many du­pli­ca­tions. The sort of thing Bri­tish Ley­land should have had in the ’70s. Per­haps.

De­spite shared run­ning gear, there’s clear wa­ter be­tween the Leon and the Su­perb. For starters, the Su­perb is vast in com­par­i­son. Kinda snuck up on me that, be­cause the dark paint and dark wheels dis­guise its size and, hap­pily, from be­hind the wheel it doesn’t feel huge. My boys cer­tainly no­ticed the space in the back, though. There would al­ways be a fight to avoid the mid­dle seat in the SEAT, but with the Skoda em­barka­tion was stress free, the jour­ney good hu­moured, with lots of pos­i­tive re­marks as to the space and re­fine­ment. On ar­rival at school, Reuben, the lit­tlest one, who hadn’t seen the back of the car be­cause the tail­gate was al­ready up when he slung his school­bag in, asked if it was an Audi. Good work, Skoda en­gi­neers.

Will Beau­mont was grudg­ing with his praise in is­sue 244, which per­haps shows he’s not the Skoda’s tar­get cus­tomer on that vast VAG spread­sheet. I probably am and ap­pre­ci­ate the sub­tle looks and the cav­ernous boot. That said, as with the SEAT, the adap­tive damp­ing op­tion­ally spec­i­fied for our car is an im­per­fect thing. Staff pho­tog­ra­pher As­ton Par­rott praised its Com­fort set­ting for of­fer­ing a feath­erbed plat­form for track­ing shots, but I find even the Nor­mal mode is a bit loose; over speed humps the nose bobs be­fore set­tling. Se­lect Sport and the big-bump con­trol is there but you have a load of nad­gety de­tail too.

To my mind, Nor­mal should be the chas­sis en­gi­neer’s best shot at a one-tune-fits-allsce­nar­ios set­ting. In other words, as like the stan­dard non-ad­justable set-up as pos­si­ble but with the ex­tra scope and greater con­trol adap­tive dampers brings. If the cus­tomer then wants more waft (one man’s waft is an­other’s wal­low) or firmer, sportier con­trol (un­yield­ing, busy), so be it.

It may be big­ger and a smidgen less pow­er­ful, but com­pared with the SEAT, the Skoda’s throt­tle pick-up seems keener and more pro­gres­sive, its en­gine sounds more au­then­tic and its per­for­mance is strong enough. Down­sides? Not un­ex­pect­edly, it’s re­turn­ing 3 or 4mpg less and even in its sporti­est set­tings it doesn’t re­spond as keenly to steer­ing in­puts. But over­all I’m a big fan.

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