Updated: June 9, 2015
Well, well, time for more automotive action. So far, we partied in Croatia with Opel Insignia, driving heavy mileage in all kinds of road conditions. Then, we went to Italy, cruising in Ford C-Max down the autostradas and narrow coastal roads. This third part in our journey takes us to the famous, unlimited German autobahns and significantly restricted Belgian roads, with a visit to Spa, at the famous racing track. Test vehicle, Skoda Superb.
For seven days, we drove roughly 830 km in a 2.0-liter turbo-charged diesel version of the premium Skoda model, not counting the circuit laps or the time the car was merrily towed away by the Dusseldorf police. Our Superb was equipped with the six-speed DSG transmission, and it was actually an estate, which makes it both prettier as well as more voluminous than the already massive faux-saloon hatchback. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us take it slowly. I mean, fast. After me.
Many places, cars and speeds.
Our model is a really nice piece of machinery. German quality, affordable price, tons of equipment. Maybe the ultimate family car, all the prettier in the estate version. Five doors that open to a cavernous cabin, with leg room for giants and then some and a massive boot. Light alloys that transfer solid 140 HP of energy and a bagload of low-rev torque to the fine German asphalt, coupled to a smart, six-speed DSG box that does not make the driver feel hampered or annoyed in any way for the lack of the third floor pedal. Roof rails for extra carriage. Twin tailpipe for street credit.
On paper, this is the perfect family carrier, combining elegance with practicality and space for humans, dogs and luggage, plus tons of gadgetry to keep you occupied and alert. The driving position feels familiar, and if you've sat down in one VW Group car, you've sat in all of them. Everything fits nicely, the ergonomics makes sense, and you love your work environment. The engine is quiet for a turbodiesel, but we won't know what it can do until we test it on the road. And there's no better playground than the Deutsche autobahn.
Very stylish, very slick.
Everyone has that checklist, which states the several things they must do before they die. For most men, the list mandatorily includes an adult experience with more than a single partner simultaneously as well as driving on German highways at a speed equaling or above 200 km/h. Luckily, the test vehicle, the road conditions and the legal framework all allowed me to strike down one of the items off the list. The second one.
Some may assume that you can go Mach 2 on any German road. That's a misconception. Most of the roads are limited to the EU standard of about 130 km/h, with some stretches permitting even less than that. Then, you also get lucky from time to time, and some sections of the autobahn sweeps are unrestricted, which means you can floor it. However, this also means being attentive to your surroundings, keeping a bigass distance from the cars in front of you, and hoping you will have enough room to accelerate to heavenly speed but in a responsible manner than won't take you to heaven.
WARP Deutsche, engage.
Driving from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf gave me and my co-driver a plenty of opportunity to test Superb's engine. The 140 horses we had are not too grand, but they are sufficient for the required task. Comparing to Insignia, Superb is less composed above 150 km/h. It feels a little more wobbly, a little less precise, and the steering wheel is a bit light. It's nothing too cardinal, but the car, and consequently you, feel more at home driving in the mid hundreds than higher up the speedo range. Deceptively, while Superb is clocked up to 270 km/h, the official top speed is just 212 km/h. It really takes its time above 180 km/h.
However, less precise than Insignia does not mean bad. The acceleration is quite good, although you will have to downshift for extra kick. The second is long, like with all Volkswagen group cars. You have little paddles behind the steering wheel to make your work effortless, especially at high speed. DSG was accurate and did not impede the fun in any way.
You have many ways to entertain yourself and pretend like you have an extra pedal. In the D mode, the car tries to be frugal, so it will upshift like mad. The S regime is more fun, but it can be tiring as the engine computer wants to retain a steady 2,000 rpm. This was cool in Audi A6, less so here. Finally, M for those who want to control the engine's torque on their own, although realistically, there's no need. The twin-clutch box is smart enough to do all the shifts for you, and this is from a sworn manual fan. Good work.
So perhaps Opel does their steering in a very clever manner, and their handling and grip is great, but that does not mean Skoda or friends are anywhere behind. More like sideways, exploiting other qualities and characteristics that are superior to the Opel's range. For instance, Superb has better mid-range acceleration and an enviable fuel consumption, despite the brutal regime we submitted the car to. Better than even the economy results I achieved driving Jetta in the US. More about that later.
While we are going to slobber more on what Superb does in a dedicated review, it was a clever and loyal partner during our rides. The seats are highly comfortable. They grip well, you feel rested even after long drives, plus they come with cooling, heating and electric controls plus memory settings for those with OCD. Amazing. The cockpit ergonomics is very well laid out, and it's more pleasing than the competition, by far. Commands are supple, the arrangement logical. Everything works like a well-oiled machine. Apart from an odd squeak at high speed.