Is space the final frontier? It might be for Skoda and its Superb Scout
It takes a lot to get Iain Robertson to make intense pronouncements about some new cars but, having watched the development of Skoda’s largest model, he is prepared to declare that there is nothing finer available at the price, or in the class.
While a Superb model existed in Skoda’s historical line-up of the mid-1930s, the VW-owned company resurrected the Superb brand for a modern era in 2001. A hatchback car, with a twist, it was based on a Chinese-developed, platform-stretched version of the VW Passat, which offered limousine-like cabin space and an enormous boot accessed via a split rear door (it opened like a regular hatchback but had a secondary function that made it look more like a boot). It should be noted that the embryonic Chinese car industry believed that the Passat was ideal for its growing numbers of politicians and business entrepreneurs.
By 2009, the Combi, or estate car variant appeared in Mark Two form, a year after the new hatchback version, again with market-leading roominess. It also benefitted from being styled in the Czech Republic, although some of its details were slightly odd to say the least. The firm’s third generation Superb arrived six years later and affirmed the company’s place in the large car class, selling a near-50:50, hatch/estate model mix. In Germany, the figure is closer to 10:90 in favour of the estate car. It has just been revised again, while keeping the main body identical, lamps, grilles, bumpers and interior details are all changed.
Soon to grace our roads is the first Scout version of the Superb; a model name synonymous with 4WD and a modicum of soft-road competence, it has been used for the strictly 2WD Fabia and Roomster, as well as Octavia models. Powering the revised Superb line-up will be a choice of both petrol and diesel engines from VW’s impressive range (starting with a 117bhp 1.6TDi, to a 269bhp petrol TSi), the punchiest unit being allied to an all-wheel drive transmission and seven-speed DSG automated-manual gearbox in Scout trim. Boasting an electronically restricted top speed of 155mph and the ability to blitz the 0-60mph sprint in just 5.3s, without even a flurry of wheelspin, it is a top-of-the-shop model that will cost over £40,000, when it arrives but represents quite remarkable value-for-money.
Of course, there is also a 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel available for up to 48mpg frugality but most buyers will settle for the petrol, which can still make 42mpg possible. However, engine statistics are not really the Superb Scout’s forte, which lies in its elegant interior, complete with soft-touch dashboard mouldings, wood-trim, electric ‘everything’ and enough space in which to set-up a home-from-home, were you so inclined. In fact, a ‘Sleep Comfort’ pack provides larger headrests and even a blanket and side-blinds, when specified.
Leather and (optional) Alcantara swathes the seats, with electric operation providing a seemingly endless range of adjustment, allied to that of the steering column, to create one of the most comfortable and accommodating driving positions of any car, from any class. The driver is fronted by the (optional) multi-mode digital instrument panel that can display a full sat-nav map, or dials, on demand. Minor switchgear is placed around the centre console, with a large touchscreen amidships providing access to almost everything else, including the adjustable suspension settings and ride quality control.
Crack open the hatchback and you are confronted by a cavernous 660-litres of boot space, before even contemplating the dropping of the split-fold rear seatbacks that can expand it to almost 1,600-litres. It is this unrivalled space that makes the Superb so desirable for families and for long-distance businesspeople. It removes the compromises normally inherent to transporting five people and their luggage, or belongings, and is enhanced further by below-floor storage compartments for valuables. The flexible luggage cover retracts automatically.
Naturally, to complete the Scout package, buyers can opt for a 15mm greater ride height and extra-cost 19.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, if the 18.0s are not adequate for the more adventurous types. Full LED lighting, with matrix-style headlamps, ensures that the road ahead remains well-illuminated, while slimmer taillights and bolder SKODA lettering across the rear door informs following drivers that they have just been overtaken by a superior Superb.
Apart from the sparkling performance envelope, the Superb provides a delicious loping ride quality, which helps on the mile-eating front, while comfort levels are aided by the relatively long wheelbase of the car and beautifully resolved damper settings. Body roll is exceptionally well controlled and there is hardly a millimetre’s dive, or pitch at either end of the car, whether under hard braking, or acceleration. Nicely weighted and accurate steering provides great balance and the all-round disc brakes are as powerful as they need to be. In terms of deportment, the mix really does not get any better.
As a several times Skoda buyer (from the very first Octavia to the more recent Citigo models, over a 20 years period), even though I no longer own a Skoda, I continue to respect the brand for its greater dependability, more so than any other VW Group model, and, thus, its engineering capabilities, even though its Fabia entry-level is now over-priced and the Octavia is just a profit-generator for the brand. The Superb, on the other hand, has so much going for it that, even in a more premium-priced Scout trim, it seems to be right-priced.
Conclusion: Orders are being taken now for the new Superb Scout but it is worth highlighting that a 215bhp plug-in hybrid alternative will also be available early in 2020, if you can hold your horses until then.