Skoda has given its flagship sedan, the Superb a face-lift to make the already popular sedan an even more appealing proposition. The face-lift is purely cosmetic and the underpinnings of the car remain the same as that of its predecessor, which is a good thing as the Superb has done well in the Indian market.
We take the both the petrol and diesel automatic versions of the 2014 Skoda Superb for a drive from Mumbai to the Sahyadri mountain range in Maharashtra to see how the updated Superb fares on a variety of terrain.
But before that, lets take a look at all the changes that Skoda has incorporated in the new Superb.
In 2013, Skoda had showcased the 2014 model for the Superb featuring exterior design updates that not only gave it a refreshed look but also brought it in sync with the company’s new design theme that includes the new horizontal slat grille and the new bonnet design that houses the Skoda logo on a protruding section on the centre, which places itself on the top-mid section of the new grille with chrome lined slats.
The refreshed Skoda Superb retains the earlier model’s adaptive front light system bi-xenon headlamps with washers but now gets daytime running LED accents on the corners which do indeed give the car a more modern appeal. The front bumper also gets a revised air dam that now houses the fog lamps at either corner with chrome linings for them and a nice chrome line stretching between the lamps themselves.
The side profile of the updated Superb remain the same as that of the earlier model with the same ORVMs with integrated turn indicators and the long chrome lined window line that enhances the length of this car measuring in at 4833mm. The car retains the sleek chrome side beading running along the doors while the nicely subdued shoulder line of the car running from the top of the headlamps all the way to the boot give the car a well contoured side profile while the wheel arches have a prominent crease running around them. You can distinguish the new model from the side by the new head lights and tail lights that stretch onto the sides as earlier but now have LEDs and reflectors on the rear bumper. Another factor setting the new car apart from its predecessor are the new 10 spoke 16 inch helix alloy wheels.
Around the back, the updated Skoda Superb gets new LED tail lights than do indeed look better than those of the earlier car. Other changes include the new boot lid that gets a centre line dividing it with the license plate now located in the lower half of it, the bottom gets a chrome lip with the Skoda badge located on the left corner while the Superb badge is placed on the right corner. The Skoda logo is now located on the upper mid section of the boot lid while the top gets a nice sleek rear spoiler. Finishing the rear profile of the car are the twin chrome exhaust pipes and shiny black air dam in the centre section of the re profiled rear bumper that houses reflectors at either end. The new bumper also gets a prominent crease running along the centre and a character line running over the lower section of the bumper.
Overall, the 2014 Skoda Superb has a very nice look with the face-lift as the car looks better profiled at the front and at the rear with the design changes. The long profile of the car gives it imposing road presence that lets you know this car is all about comfort and luxury. But there is so much more to this car than just that as you shall find out while you continue reading this road test report.
Inside, the cabin of the updated Superb remains identical to that of the previous model apart from the new three spoke steering wheel with chrome accents and steering mounted controls. The instrument binnacle has similar large and easy to read dials while there is a multi-information display for the driver at the centre of the binnacle.
Interior trim and fit and finish is good on the Superb with good quality plastics. The top section of the dashboard and door pads are finished in black plastic which is a good thing considering our dusty Indian conditions. The chrome lined air vents with scroll controlled airflow have a sleek rectangular design with faux wood inserts located just below them. If I have a complaint here it would be the faux wood inserts that are a tad too shiny. But maybe that’s just me as they lend a nice visual appeal otherwise. The mid and lower section of the dashboard and door pads are beige in colour and while quality of plastic is good and lend a bright and airy ambiance to the cabin, they tend to get dirty very easily and need to be finished in a different grade of plastic.
The centre console is finished in black with the 6.5 inch touch screen Bolero sound system that comes with nice and large switch gear that have a solid and high quality feel to them like all the other switch gear around the cabin. Sound quality from the eight speaker system is good and its easy to adjust the sound waves according to your favourite tunes.
Unfortunately, the stereo does not offer USB connectivity which is really disappointing considering how hooked we are to USB devices at the moment due to their easy connectivity. What it does offer though on the connectivity front is a Six CD player, SD card reader, an AUX port and Bluetooth compatibility. Again there is a complaint here, as the Bluetooth system is unnecessarily complicated, having to use the steering controls to connect phones to the system.
Moving onto other equipment aboard the Elegance trim of the 2014 Skoda Superb is a fairly elaborative affair as the car packs in a serious bit of kit such as a two foldable remote keys with controls for the door locks, boot lid, closing of sunroof, windows and ORVMs, 12 way adjustable electric front seats, driver’s seat with three memory settings. Its easy to find a good driving position with the electric seat having plenty of room for adjustment and the way you can adjust the cushions to support your back is a very comfortable feature indeed. The seats are trimmed in Nappa leather while the steering wheel, gear lever and hand brake lever are all finished in leather that is of the right texture by being firm but not hard.
The car also gets dual zone climate control with automatic air circulation. There are vents under the front seats for rear seat occupants as well as air vents in the B-Pillars. The ORVMs have three memory settings as well with a very thoughtful auto tilt function when reverse gear is engaged.There are 12V power outlets for front and rear seat passengers as well as in the boot. There are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin with the cooled and illuminated glove box, illuminated centre console and box under the centre armrest while there are cup holders in the centre console as well. The rear centre arm rest gets a storage compartment too with cup holders as well. The section itself can be opened for access to the boot on the go. Other storage spaces include a net compartment on the left of the centre console for the front passenger, front seat back pockets, storage compartment under the steering wheel and storage compartments in the boot. There are puddle lamps on all doors and lighting for all four foot wells. The car also gets sun blinds for the rear windscreen and windows. Another thoughtful touch are the wet case umbrella holders in the rear door pads.
The rear seat itself has a good seating position and offers a clear view ahead, that said maybe they could have been a tad more reclined for a more leaned back posture for those tiring moments. There is acres of legroom for rear seat occupants no matter how tall you are. And while there is adequate under thigh support maybe the seat squab could have been a tad longer to provide more under thigh support for tall passengers. Seat cushioning is supportive for the rear seat.
The Skoda Superb continues to come with the dual function boot lid that can open like a normal boot or like a hatch, something that is massively practical for loading large pieces of luggage as well as better access into the boot.
The Skoda Superb comes loaded with a host of safety features such as crumple zones, side impact beams, eight airbags, automatic headlights with cornering function for the front fog lamps, rear fog lamp, auto dimming rear view mirrors, defogging for rear view mirrors and rear windshield, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, anti slip regulation, an electronic differential lock, electronic stability control, active front head rests, height adjustable front seat belts, seat belts with pre tensioners and front and rear parking sensors.
Engine and Gearbox
The 2014 Skoda Superb comes with a choice of a 1.8 litre turbocharged direct injection DOHC petrol engine developing 160PS of power @ 4,500 rpm and 6,200 rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1,500 rpm and 4,500 rpm. The petrol powered Superb will be available with the option of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. The diesel engine is a 2.0 litre turbocharged DOHC unit developing 140PS of power @ 4,200 rpm and 320Nm of torque between 1,750 rpm to 2,500 rpm. The diesel Superb will be available with a six-speed double clutch autobox only.
The diesel powered Skoda Superb is very responsive throughout most the power band. Right from standstill there is enough power although there is an initial bit of lag that you feel when in a hurry but once the turbo kicks in there is no looking back as the motor pulls cleanly and the DSG gearbox is always holding the next gear for that upshift. And in case you are in the mood for a sportier drive experience the gearbox comes with tiptronic function as well as paddle shifters for shifting gears manually to align gear changes to your driving style. The gearbox also has a sport mode that holds on to gears longer for optimum acceleration. The autobox does a good job of ambling in traffic and its only when you ask for sudden power in traffic that some turbo lag can be felt from the 2.0 litre engine.
There are a couple of niggles that I came across with the diesel Skoda Superb though, for one there is a constant hum from the four cylinder engine inside the cabin and while you may like this initially, overtime it can become monotonous. The second issue is that while there is good responsiveness from the motor at low and high speeds, its during moderate speeds where if you depress the pedal for more power in ‘D’ mode, the car takes a second to respond but once the power kicks in it does so with a sudden burst that is sometimes more than what you asked for. You can ofcourse control this by shifting gears manually to moderate power in a better manner.
Overall though you can overlook the aspect about too much power kicking in occasionally as the motor otherwise always rewards you with enough oomph across most of the power band with power tailing off as you get close to the rev band.
The petrol powered Skoda Superb on the other hand is a whole different ball game. The 1.8 TSI motor is always eager to be revved hard and when you do, it lets out a nice sporty engine note urging you to exploit the potential of this modern direct injection petrol engine. Since peak torque kicks in quite early, acceleration is fairly linear with the engine revving happily past 6,000 rpm. No matter where you are in the rev range all you need is a tug of the shift pedal or depress the right pedal harder to get instant power from the lively engine. Both automatic and manual mode of the seven-speed DSG gearbox are responsive and make for comfortable driving in city traffic or cruising on highways and spirited driving when you are in the mood for some. The engine has a nice zing to the top end and responds well when more power is demanded even at speeds of over 180 km/h.
Ride and Handling
The 2014 Skoda Superb comes with a McPherson strut suspension setup upfront with triangular links and torsional stabiliser while at the back there is a multi-element rear axle with one longitudinal and three transverse links along with a torsional stabiliser. The car also gets an electronic power steering unit.
On the road this translates into rather good handling traits for a sedan of this length. But in the interest of better classification lets do this in two parts.
The diesel Superb feels like it has a very firm setup and under moderate speeds, sharp tarmac bumps seep through into the cabin and while straight line stability at high speeds is good the car tends to get unsettled a bit at very high speeds by minor bumps and crests. The electric steering gets very heavy at high speeds and the car does not like changing direction around tight bends and when you push it, the vehicle does roll a bit.
At higher speeds though, the car behaves very differently. The Superb simply glides around tight bends, dips and crests in a very confident manner urging you to push harder till you hit the limit of grip. Nothing to worry about though as the traction control keeps power in check and the anti-lock brakes work well all the time by providing strong and feel some braking force making you feel confident about the dynamics of the car.
The suspension does a good job of cushioning bumps over broken sections although with a bit of road noise and some horizontal movement over uneven terrain. And this is where we go back to the engine note of the 2.0 litre diesel engine, the engine note combined with the suspension noise gets to you overtime while travelling over bad roads and I wish Skoda would have used more NVH measures to contain both noises for a more pleasant ride.
With the petrol Superb the story is a little bit different. The car feels a bit lighter at the front due to the lighter engine, it also feels more agile around tight bends and is more confident around corners with the traction control kicking in constantly to keep power in check while cornering and also while accelerating as the rev happy engine does react very well under hard acceleration.
At around 180 km/h the steering is just as tight as it should feel and the car is willing to change direction more willingly than the diesel. On the whole, the petrol feels more agile at higher speeds and more confident while cornering hard. Ride comfort is the same as that of the diesel and suspension noise is present over broken roads although due to lower engine noise from the petrol motor the ride is indeed more pleasant.
The Skoda Superb has always been a very good car and with the update the Superb has become more appealing. The car looks smarter and sharper than earlier and now has a very imposing profile that is sure to get you noticed everywhere you go. The Superb also packs in a healthy dose of equipment and safety features making it very competitive against its rivals.
And that’s not all either, armed with a range of good engine and gearbox combinations the Skoda Superb makes for a good drive too. The chassis and suspension are well setup and allow you to push this long sedan in a very confident manner.
But the one aspect, that has in the past and still does now impress me and worry its competitors is when it comes to interior space. The Skoda Superb’s large and spacious cabin offers comfortable seating for all and a lot of practicality. This combined with the Superb’s good drive dynamics, safety equipment and features makes sure the Superb continues to be a serious worry for its rivals.
But then again, Honda’s Accord and Volkswagen’s Passat have been phased out in India due to limited sales. So the only rivals that the Superb has right now are the Nissan Teana and the Toyota Camry. We must say the Superb has the market fairly cut out for itself and I’ am sure the refreshed Superb will pick up well where its predecessor leaves off, by performing well on the sales charts.