Skoda Superb Sportline 4x4
Stealthy saloon gets the school-run thumbs-up, but damper settings fail to impress
‘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.