I’m driving on one of the most spectacular roads India has to offer, and giving me company is the latest premium sedan to hit our shores - the brand new 2016 Skoda Superb. The plan is to take this premium sedan from the Karnataka’s popular sea port, Mangalore, and drive it 3,800 feet above sea level to the unbelievably scenic hill town of Madikeri in Coorg.
If you’ve been reading ZigWheels you’d know that the 2016 Skoda Superb is not a mild facelift but a brand new car based on the new MQB platform, just like the new Skoda Octavia. And as you can see, the sharp design makes the new Superb longer and wider; yet more aerodynamic than ever before. What may not be visible is that it’s also almost 20 per cent more powerful, up to 75kg lighter and has improved fuel efficiency.
There are five variants of the 2016 Skoda Superb on offer. The most afforable is the base petrol manual Style variant priced at Rs 22.68 lakh. The petrol automatic comes in two variant - the Style costs Rs 23.91 lakh, while the top-spec L&K carries a price tag of Rs 26.89 lakh. The diesel 2016 Skoda Superb is only offered with an automatic transmission, where the Style comes for Rs 26.39 lakh and top of the line L&K diesel costs Rs 29.36 lakh (all ex-showroom Mumbai).
Comparing the silhouette of the outgoing Superb with the new car, the front overhang has been reduced, the roofline has been given a slight coupe-ish finish and the boot has been stretched by a couple of millimetres. This translates into an even more spacious cabin and a longer wheelbase. The B-pillars are also sleeker and create a larger glass house, adding to the visibility as I drove through the hustling and bustling Mangalore streets.
So in terms of overall design, the great proportions, intricate detailing and crisp lines make the 2016 model look modern, appealing and premium. And as the pictures suggest, the new Superb compliments the beautiful hill roads like a dream. Being the Skoda flagship, Chief Designer Jozef Kabanmall has paid special attention to the smallest of details on the new premium sedan. So, every time I stopped to take pictures of the 2015 Skoda Superb on the ghats, I couldn’t help but admire the painstaking effort put into the intricacies. The fine details of the headlights and taillights are a fine example, right from their crystal elements to the decorative cuts on the glass. Or the “invisible” bonnet, which simply merges with the front grille and is camouflaged with the shoulder line on the sides.
Talking about the side profile, you might have noticed that my test vehicle doesn’t flaunt the snooty Laurin & Klement badging on near the wheel arches. Meaning, today I am driving the entry-level Skoda Superb petrol powered Style variant.
It also means that this model doesn’t get many of the useful features seen on the more premium L&K trims. These include an automatic gearbox - hence no driving modes, rear camera and electrically adjustable front passenger seats. Apart from these, the top of the line Skoda Superb L&K variants also get smart features like a Virtual Pedal for contactless opening of the boot lid, perforated and cooled seats and a “Boss” button to electrically move the front passenger’s seat from behind.
Some other stuff is also missing on the Superb’s base model; but before you start flinching, let me remind you that the price for the Skoda Superb TSI Style is Rs 22.68 lakh, making it a whole Rs 6.5 lakh cheaper than the top-spec Superb L&K diesel automatic trim.
Apart from saving you enough money to buy a decent hatchback, the Skoda TSI Style also comes packed with an impressive eight air-bag set, leather seats, Bi-Xenon and adaptive headlamps, panoramic sun-roof, 6.5-inch colour display, three-zone climate control and a whole bunch of electronics including ABS, EBD, electronic differential lock, hill hold and parking sensors. Other unique small features like the tiny waste paper bin on the door panel can also be found on this model.
So, rather than cribbing about lack of features or not getting to drive the more popular diesel automatic version, I shifted my focus back on to the beautiful road that my set of wheels was doing full justice to.
This is supposed to be more of a chauffeur driven car, but its spirited 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine punches out 180PS of power and keeps the adrenaline boiling. The motor is not just more powerful but is significantly lighter than before. This, along with the weight reduction of the overall car, makes the 2016 Superb a peppy one to drive.
The 6-speed manual gearbox offers absolute control and with its well-spaced ratios, the gears slot seamlessly. I also have all the liberty to hold on to a gear for a bit longer, for overtaking a slow moving car (since buses in Karnataka are usually not slow moving, if you know what I mean), or to slot into a higher gear and enjoy the scenic location.
The massive 320Nm of torque is available close to 1,500rpm and acts like a safety net. So, I don’t have to shift down to third to keep the engine revs high, as there’s plenty of torque available even on fourth gear.
The 4.8 meters long, front wheel drive premium sedan weighs almost 1,500kgs and isn’t meant to hone your driving skills. But around corners, the 2016 Skoda Superb did allow me to go faster than I usually would in a car of this size, making it unexpectedly more fun to drive. Every single corner that I attacked, with much vigour if I may add, the Superb remained impressively composed and fairly accurate; all credit to the new MQB platform.
Though the basic Style trim didn’t have any driving modes to set-up the car, the sublime ride quality remains the icing on the cake. Apart from the redeveloped chassis, the retuned MacPherson front struts and multi-link rear axle also assist to keep the body roll on check around fast corners and steamroll through the worst of roads or a set of speed breakers. The steering has a nice weight but doesn’t feel that sharp, so I had to be a little more aggressive with my inputs. But the strong brakes helped me tackle most corners with more confidence.
By the time we reached Puttur, the summer sun had nicely baked my Rosso Brunello coloured Superb. Soon enough, my co-passengers on the back seat couldn’t hide their discomfort for not having any temperature or blower controls for the air-conditioning at the back.
One thing they did appreciate though was the space at the back and the extremely comfortable rear seats, which have great under thigh and back support. There’s no dearth of space, with more than adequate legroom. It’s just the protruding transmission tunnel that plays spoil sport to an otherwise opulent cabin. And here I must mention the massive 620-litres of boot space, which accommodated luggage, four camera kits, and tripods, yet had plenty of space to spare.
Upfront, the driver gets an electrically adjustable seat that sits slightly lower than before. I like this, as the seating posture feels sportier now. The three-spoked steering wheel design feels naturally comfortable to hold, while the instrument cluster and display are easy to read. The L&K variants, however, get a more youthful white ring on the dials that look a touch better.
There’s an all-new dashboard too, evenly split in a practical black top and a more premium height base. The design isn’t really new, especially if you’ve been in the new Octavia recently but the functionality and finish is right up there. More chrome adds to the more premium feel. The infotainment is easy to use, and the 6.5-inch touchscreen can be connected to your Apple or Android phones. The feel of the buttons and knobs resonate quality. The centre console splits the front of the cabin and has a unique bottle holder, which is cooled and has wedges at the base to hold the bottle in position, so that drivers can unscrew the cap with ease.
No sooner did I take a sip of that cooled water, we spotted the sign that directed us to the Taj Vivanta Madikeri Coorg. The private cement roads was the narrowest section we’d driven on all day, and every oncoming car made me feel every millimetre of the width of this massive car. It’s 1,864mm wide and close to 5 meters in length! Steamrolling through the last patch of broken roads along the spectacular Madikeri Golf Cource, where we took some more pictures, we stopped for the night at the Taj. In the evening, the Skoda executives emphasised, during a conversation, how the company in the last couple of years has been mainly focusing on improving their after-sales support and dealerships, which is visible by the hassle free ownership stories of new Octavia and Yeti buyers.
The 2016 Skoda Superb has not only managed to take the game to the next level, but offers way more than other cars priced in this range. After-sales being the only chink in the armour, Skoda seems to have fixed that issue to a large extent too. The new Superb remains an excellent bargain if you are not infatuated with a premium badge and are purely in search of a premium car that ticks all the right boxes in terms of style, comfort, features.
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