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Car reviews - Skoda - Superb - 206TSI 4x4 wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Outstanding engine and transmission, road noise suppression, plush cabin, huge boot, adept suspension in Sport mode
Room for improvement
Suspension too floaty in Comfort and Normal modes, expensive options, steering and chassis lack finesse

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Skoda logo22 Nov 2016

Price and equipment

SKODA starts with keen pricing for a large luxury flagship sedan ($50,990 plus on-road costs) and wagon ($52,690), particularly given the Superb 206TSI 4x4 uses the same drivetrain and all-wheel drive system as Volkswagen’s Golf R that asks $52,740 for what is a fast, small hatch.

There are some outstanding features typical of the brand, such as tri-zone climate control and adaptive cruise control, although they are also standard in the $39,990 Superb 162TSI.

Therein lies the first problem – the 206TSI does not add enough extra kit to warrant its $11,000 premium over the 162TSI that delivers the same torque (350Nm) from the same engine, but with 162kW instead of 206kW, and front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive.

Additions are reserved to the larger wheels (19-inch versus 18-inch), sports suspension, keyless auto-entry, LED cabin lighting and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the auto gearbox.

The options list is extensive, too, including some items that should be standard such as leather trim (replacing leather/Alcantara) with electric passenger seat adjustment (driver standard), front seat ventilation (to match the standard heating) and rear heated seats, all part of a $1500 Comfort Pack.

A panoramic sunroof adds $1900 while a Tech Pack consisting of three-mode adaptive suspension, electric tailgate, lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitor, automatic park assistance with rear cross-traffic alert and 12-speaker Canton audio requires $3400. It all took our test car to $60,190. Ouch.

Interior

The Superb 206TSI 4x4 cabin is nicely finished and extremely roomy, at least for four passengers. This is a long wagon and rear occupants will not want for legroom nor request a deeper seat squab than that provided.

However, for its size this Skoda also lacks cabin width, making three-across comfort squeezier than expected. The plush front seats are also more impressive than the flatter rear backrest, in particular.

In terms of leather trim quality and smooth, soft-touch dashboard surfaces, this flagship large wagon from the Czech Republic scores. The large 8.0-inch touchscreen offers high-resolution clarity with an intuitive interface, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, an integrated 10gb hard-disc drive, choice of twin SD, USB or CD/DVD player inputs, and simple satellite navigation.

A digital radio is missing, while Skoda has not yet migrated to ‘one shot’ voice control to enter in navigation addresses, as Audi has. The 12-speaker Canton audio can be cranked loudly without distortion, but it also lacks the crispness a premium system should provide.

That detail does not let the 206TSI 4x4 down but it renders this lovely $40-50K cabin out of its depth when another $10K is applied. There are thin leather coverings over the door trims and rubbery doorhandles, for example, while some of the lower dashboard plastics are cheap.

A sizeable upside is the gargantuan boot with a low-loading lip and clever array of adjustable compartments that closely rival the driver’s door-mounted integrated umbrella for typifying classic Skoda cleverness.

Engine and transmission

This Superb’s 206kW and 350Nm outputs are about par for a large sedan and wagon. A Commodore/Calais offers 210kW/350Nm while a Subaru Outback 3.6R delivers 191kW/350Nm.

Where such rivals utilise non-turbocharged 3.6-litre six-cylinder engines, however, the 206TSI 4x4 has pinched the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder from the Golf R to lather on its figures across a broad rev range.

Peak torque in the Subaru comes in at 4400rpm, for example, where the Skoda offers that maximum constantly from 1700rpm until 5600rpm. Its 5.8-second 0-100km/h claim certainly feels realistic.

The turbo engine teams superbly with one of the best Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) units around, together delivering a distant yet raunchy soundtrack backed by distant exhaust pops on each upshift.

Anywhere and everywhere there is great response, yet mostly the powertrain slinks into the background to feel efficient at low rpm, making light work of hills and traffic alike.

While we saw 18.0L/100km in slow traffic, the average settled at a reasonable (for a large, powerful wagon) 10.2L/100km, even if it was up on the 7.3L/100km laboratory-derived claim.

Ride and handling

Over all roads the Superb 206TSI 4x4 feels like it is trying hard to be a cut-price Audi limousine, at least when the 19-inch wheels combine with the optional adaptive suspension.

In both Comfort and Normal modes, this Skoda is boat-like in terms of its body float to the point where it could cause passengers sea sickness. We counted four bobs of the nose after traversing a speed hump in the softest mode, while even the middle mode saw the Superb hit a freeway expansion joint and blubber around momentarily.

Sport mode thankfully provides immaculate control, although some thudding filters through to the cabin. It is distinctly preferable and arguably more comfortable than the softer modes, however.

A mix-and-match Individual mode also allows the suspension to be set to Sport, with the drivetrain and steering in Normal, which is ideal in normal driving.

The steering is good without being superbly connected (like a Commodore’s), although its firmer setting just adds muddy weight.

Where the Superb gets closest to reflecting its boastful name is with road noise suppression, which really is superb even with large rubber rolling on coarse-chip black-top. Along with the engine refinement, the Skoda often feels like a genuinely premium product.

Yet it can also play semi-sporty wagon thanks to its performance in tandem with high grip levels and an all-wheel-drive system that favours point and shoot squirt. Simply plant the throttle early in a corner and drive can be felt being juggled rearwards, tightening its cornering line and ensuring this wagon feels anything but a blunder-bus.

Safety and servicing

Seven airbags (including dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), ABS, switchable electronic stability control (ESC), lane departure warning, pre-collision warning with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Two-wheel drive versions of the Superb have been awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

Skoda’s capped-price servicing program includes coverage up to six years or 90,00km at an average cost of $594 for each annual or 15,000km check, which is expensive for the segment.

Verdict

In some ways the Superb 206TSI 4x4 wagon is the anti-Skoda, being indulgent, with grunt and grip overkill and expensive options pricing.

Yet at its heart this is still very much a Skoda, from its versatility to its efficiency, its all-weather driveability and accommodation right down to the integrated umbrella. In the right (Sport) suspension mode, it best fulfils its brief as a luxury-sports wagon.

If and when some options migrate onto the standard kit list, the 206TSI 4x4 wagon will more clearly be worth the premium it commands over rivals.

Rivals

Holden Calais V Sportwagon from $49,990 plus on-road costs
Impeccable road manners with roomier cabin, less sweet V6.

Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium from $48,490 plus on-road costs
Goes offroad, but average on it and six-cylinder is thirsty.

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