The Skoda Superb 4x4 V6 Laurin & Klement wagon is spacious, comfortable and well equipped. It's also the best value executive car on the European market. And yes, it's bigger than your A6.
Back in 2002, when our friend Nino Karotta reviewed the first (modern) Skoda Superb, he ended up with the conclusion that they should have named it the Good instead. More than a decade later, I got to try just how superb the second generation is with the most powerful engine and almost every extra thrown in.
A metallic brown wagon is always a good start, but of course this had the DSG as well as apparently every test car in VAG's fleet. At least this time, it finally made sense, helping with the effortless cruising that big five-doors are all about.
For me, the best Skoda is clearly the Octavia RS, and jumping into the top-of-the-line Superb after that reveals that their largest car is indeed six years old now even if the 3.6 4x4 in question is still the fastest Skoda in production. The interior feels a bit dated and compared to the new Audi A8 I drove back on our way to Le Mans, it's about a decade behind.
But it also Euro-VW quality while costing a third of the only slightly bigger Audi.
The badge is definitely not an issue anymore. With Germans and the British buying one Skoda after another, even the Hungarian government felt it was time to switch to Superbs from A6s a couple of years ago to show how reasonable they are when it comes to taxpayer money. It goes to the same company anyway.
The Laurin & Klement cars are the business class options with wood on the dash, leather seats and other popular favorites that won't wrinkle a suit. Unfortunately for the one wearing the 3SC 4710 plates, I don't usually wear a suit. My jeans stayed roughly as wrinkled as they were when I got into the car.
The first trial of the 4x4 system came when I was looking for a location to shoot the car somewhere outside of Budapest but next to the Danube. Our resident fish expert at Gawker Budapest sent me north and said the road in question can be a bit bumpy, but leads all the way to the water and should be okay with all-wheel drive. Scooter boy was almost right, except for that the road in question was better suited for a Lada Niva as there were plenty of mud and deep tire tracks to shake my confidence in this poor car.
Whatever. We made it to the corn fields, proving that while it's no Octavia Scout, the Superb 4x4 will still keep going when things get rough.
Now that we were this close to Mother Nature, I felt it was time to test how practical the Superb wagon really is when it comes to a nice road trip.
It's big and comfortable enough for a longer run, that's for sure. The ride is smooth and the handling is pretty neutral even on curvy roads. There's cruise control, of course, the DSG does its job with ease, the seats are heated and there are enough nets and storage compartments in the back to keep everybody's belongings in order. That's all very nice, but can you sleep in a Superb, you may ask?
I'm 6'2", and my answer is positive.
Plus some... company? Well, just throw out the divider and the rest of the equipment, and I'd say no problem to a weekend with twins.
But what about speed? When it gets out of the bushes, the Superb has to perform on the Autobahn too as a budget alternative to an A6 or a Passat. But since the Autobahn is pretty boring, I took it to an abandoned airfield instead.
The 3.6 FSI is a decade old engine, and while it produces 260 horsepower and 258 foot pounds of torque in the Superb, let's not forget that it would be a 300 hp engine if it was in a Volkswagen. Yep, Skoda is the underdog and is treated as such. Still, 260 hp equals to 62 mph reached in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
There wasn't much point in pushing this big brown wagon for a few laps around the track as the brakes started fading very quickly thanks to its 3,827 pounds, but the V6 at least sounds reassuring through the pair of twin exhausts and there's no question that the car could keep up with most on the highway once you floor it.
But it wasn't designed to do that, and therefore, getting one with the 3.6 V6 makes no sense at all. Fuel consumption is high for what you get in return and decreased range is the opposite of what you want from a comfy cruiser.
The next day, I stopped at a red light and next to me was the exact same brown Superb 4x4 wagon, but with a TDI badge. You can get the all-wheel drive variant with either a 140 or a 170 hp 2.0, and I would image the latter would turn this into pretty much the perfect big car for the money based on my experience with the not-much-lighter Yeti powered by the same drivetrain.
With that engine, all the gadgets, the DSG and the must have metallic brown paint, this is $48,500 wagon, which is about the same as what you pay for a base A4 allroad 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic around here with 177 hp. That's seven more horsepower, and about 4.6 inches less in length. Enough to make sleeping with twins in the back unpleasant during a long weekend of camping in the forest, just past the corn fields.
While I would never buy this new due to the simple fact that I don't have $48,500 to spend on a car, I couldn't think of a better choice as a second hand purchase. These Skoda's are all built to last, and with a bit of depreciation thrown in for good measure, these executive wagons turn into giant family cars packed with features and enough scars to make sure you'll feel fine taking them out for a nice trip, come rain or shine.
I think America should care about the Superb because I couldn't think of any new car in the States that compares to this wagon today. It's not a crossover, it's not upmarket, it's simply the most luxurious version of Skoda's largest car.
And it is superb.