Skoda gearing up to launch the Superb next month

Our Automotive Bureau 30 April 2004 Skoda is gearing up to launch the Superb in the early second half of this year. It will be imported here as a fully built unit and is expected to compete with high-end luxury cars like the Mercedes E-class. Like the E-class, the Superb is close to five metres long and structured around a wheel base of 2,803mm on a Volkswagen Passat platform.

Adorning the Skoda business grille, it is easy to mistake the Superb for the Octavia at a glance. It is only when you peep into the bi-xenon head lamp cluster with a small chrome washer at the bottom do you realise that this is a bigger, plusher and more sophisticated than the Octavia. The cars flowing lines and sleek profile hint at Volkswagens design influence. This assures that the car looks very similar to an Audi from the rear and a stretched Passat from the side.

Interiors are well put together and cavernous. Made up of a mix of leather and wood, both the front and rear seats of the Superb provide high levels of comfort. Space at the rear is comparable with that of the S-class. This means the rear seat occupant almost walks in and out of the huge rear doors. Equipment levels are good as the car comes equipped with power seat adjustment at the front, a trip computer that is accurate and useful, CD-player, auto air-conditioner, heating elements in the seats and a steering wheel that is adjustable for reach and height. The left rear door has an umbrella compartment with a drain that funnels water away and outside the car. ABS and electronic brake distribution is standard and so are six air bags.

Behind the wheel for a few kilometres and the solid built of the car shines through. Up front is a 2.8-litre, V6, petrol engine that belts out 190 bhp via the front wheels. Yes, the big Superb, which weighs 1,619 kg is a front-wheel drive luxury limo. This certainly has an effect on the handling and the handling is very different from the competition, most of which is rear wheel propelled.

Handling is good but not as good as the rear-wheel drive competition. Close to the speed limit the car understeers and this is sure to sizzle out any plans of an adventurous life behind the wheel of the Superb. A relaxed mode of driving is best applied even as ABS and electronic brake force distribution jut in to police. What the Superb manages best is ride quality. At low speeds the ride quality is a little harsh but improves considerably with increments in speed. At speed, potholes, ruts and other road irregularities hardly make their presence felt. Not much of the road noise filters through the cabin either.

For those who are keen to sample the performance, the car displays super straight-line stability and poise. The pull from the 2.8-litre V6 is strong and the power band wide. The power band starts from low down and the ratios of the five-speed auto transmission complement engine behaviour. This helps the car pull quickly off the mark and reach deep into the three-digit territory with hardly any effort. A drive through town is as effortless but shift to the tiptronic mode and the gear lever does not quite like being shuffled through the gate in a hurry. It feels spindly, as if it will break with exertion of more force. In a hurry it even tends to jam. But thats not a big worry as you push the lever into D (drive) and relax.