DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES ABOUND IN THE 2016 SKODA SUPERB 206TSI 4X4 - it is, as we discovered, a feast of contradictions, yet somehow it all works. And with more than the occasional flash of brilliance.
The 206TSI 4x4 is the flagship of the Czech Republican large sedan and (in this case) wagon lineup, and from the measure of its legroom inside a leather-lined cabin to its chrome snout and multi-spoke alloy wheels, it exudes opulence.
However, this top-spec Superb also pinches the engine and automatic from the fiesty - bordering on rabid - Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch. So there's the first obvious contradiction...
And, also, despite the Skoda brand typifying pragmatism and "value", the pricetag for this sub-Volkswagen and sub-sub-Audi product reads (in the case of our test car) more than $60,000 plus on-road costs.
So, is this pricey but slightly schizophrenic Skoda a mix of awkward bedfellows or do they all fit (ahem) superbly together?
Vehicle Style: Large Wagon
Price: $52,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 206kW/350Nm 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo-petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.3 l/100km | tested: 10.2 l/100km
Although the Skoda Superb sedan starts from $39,990 plus on-road costs for the front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre turbo petrol 162TSI, a turbo-diesel 140TDI of the same engine capacity is available from $43,990 (plus orc).
Both models offer a similar level of equipment to this 206TSI priced from $50,990 (plus orc), which means the price hike is absorbed mostly by a power upgrade from the 162TSI’s 162kW to – the giveaway being in the name – 206kW, while torque remains an identical 350Nm with both petrol engines.
The 206TSI also gets all-wheel-drive and larger 19-inch alloy wheels (up from 18s), in addition to steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters for the auto, LED cabin lighting, keyless auto-entry and sports suspension to wrap up the $11,000 extra spend.
In each case the wagon bodystyle adds $1700 the price, but as we soon found out, there were more options yet to be added…
- Standard Equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather/Alcantara trim with power adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, auto on/off headlights/wipers, and keyless auto-entry with push button start
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, USB input, AM/FM radio, satellite navigation and 8-speaker audio
- Options Fitted: Tech Pack ($3400 – incl. three-mode adaptive dampers, blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assistance, 12-speaker Canton audio, electric tailgate and automatic parking assistance with rear cross-traffic alert), Comfort Pack ($1500 – incl. perforated leather trim with electrically adjustable passenger seat, front seat ventilation and rear seat heating) and panoramic sunroof ($1900).
- Cargo Volume: 660 litres (rear backrest up), 1950L (rear backrest folded)
As tested, the Superb 206TSI 4x4 wagon does a mostly outstanding job of mixing a premium feel with ample space, but the words ‘as tested’ need to be noted.
Relegating to the options list features such as an electrically adjustable passenger seat and premium audio system is uncompetitive for a $52k-plus large wagon, not to mention a surprising flaw for a value brand such as Skoda.
A sub-$40K Holden Commodore Evoke gets automatic park assistance standard, yet it’s optional here. That excellent Australian-made model’s luxury stablemate, the sub-$50K Calais V, further includes a head-up display, power passenger seat, blind-spot montior and a (disappointingly sedan-only) Bose sound system and sunroof.
At least adaptive cruise, tri-zone climate control and low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are included in the 206TSI 4x4, all of which are not available in the Holden and are all standard even on the entry Superb.
The overall problem is not just a philosophical one, as in ‘this is a Skoda so it should have more kit’. The greater issue is that while the cabin is impressive for $40k, its excellence is strained at $50k and disappears by $60k.
Plastics quality is generally impressive, for example, however the thin veneer of leather-covered door trim, rubbery doorhandles and harsh lower trim plastics are a reminder of the Superb’s more humble origins.
Fit and finish is to a higher standard than the aforementioned Holden, but slightly lower than a (sedan only) Hyundai Genesis that also plays in the same space.
The other issue is sheer size. The Superb has excellent front seats, and plenty of rear legroom. It is a large car at 4.86 metres long but rather narrow at 1.86m wide, versus 1.9m for a Calais V. The 4cm difference can be felt in three-across rear-seat comfort; the Skoda feels more like a four-plus-one seater and the Holden a genuine five-seater.
The optional panoramic roof also affects headroom, and the seat itself is comfortable but hardly indulgent.
Of course the sizeable cargo area makes the Superb a fantastically practical family wagon-cum-luxury-car and further adds to its diverse capabilities. Again, though, you’ll need to option the auto tailgate.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 206kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.7m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 660kg unbraked, 1950kg braked
It isn’t quite the transition from, say, Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner in moving homes from the Golf R hot-hatchback to the Superb large wagon, but the transplant of the 206kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine into the Superb certainly changes its street persona.
As for the engine, it loses its deep voice but that’s about it. And the result is that this is one searing Skoda, as the 5.8-second 0-100km/h claimed acceleration attests.
Very quickly a Superb 206TSI 4x4 driver will wave from afar to the naturally aspirated V6-engined Calais and Genesis drivers behind. In point of fact, a Holden buyer will need to find another $8000 for the 6.2-litre V8 engine option to keep pace (if not efficiency) and suddenly the Superb is price-competitive again…
The 206TSI 4x4 is a smooth, swift operator, with great engine and road noise suppression and a keen yet cultured feel on the road. The six-speed dual-clutch DSG responds instantly and intuitively, relaxing into tall gears on light throttle but also holding lower ratios during more spirited driving (especially in S-for-Sport mode).
Hard-driven economy isn’t fantastic, but an urban/freeway/country mix resulted in 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres or about 30 percent less than a Holden V8.
But the Holden is perhaps more at home on Australia's dodgy secondary roads. In fact, on any road the optional three-mode adaptive suspension can be felt working hard to round off the edgy effects of the liquorice-thin 19-inch alloy wheels.
In Comfort and even Normal modes the suspension segues between being nauseatingly floaty and slightly too floaty. The former setting is basically unusable on Australian roads, blubbering like a waterbed on ostensibly smooth freeways and bobbing its nose up and down multiple times over urban speed humps.
Normal is marginally better, but there is still a control compromise in ironing out small and large divots or potholes. The remaining Sport mode tightens things up while remaining tolerably comfortable, and, thankfully, an 'Individual' drive select setting can mix that raciest mode (though it isn’t really…) with Normal drivetrain and steering response.
Steering is neither a Superb highlight nor lowlight, with Normal being a fraction too loose though nicely weighted, and Sport being a touch too muddy just off centre.
Dynamics, though, are indeed impressive, with the 206TSI 4x4 possessing keen agility and grip to eclipse its rivals. It is more of a point-and-shoot device than the rear-wheel-drive Calais, but as an all-wheel-drive Snowy Mountains super-spacious express-wagon, the big Superb is in a league of its own…
ANCAP rating: Not yet tested
Safety Features: Dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera and collision warning alert with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Three services over three years or 45,000km costs $1299.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Superb 206TSI will soon have its slightly smaller near-twin, the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line delivering a similar package with a greater sporting emphasis from October.
For now, a Calais V V6 is hardly slower, cheaper and offers an outstanding ride and handling package without requiring adaptive suspension. But only the thirsty V8 will keep up with this Skoda.
The Outback 3.6R offers similar space with greater off-road emphasis and a pile of standard equipment, but it doesn’t drive nearly as confidently on the road or feel as premium inside.
If you can do without the wagon back, there are keen deals to be had on Hyundai’s Genesis sedan, which offers class-leading ride, refinement and room but without the sweet drivetrain or dynamics.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Place aside the options pricing issue and the 2016 Skoda Superb 206TSI 4x4 is brimming with not only divergent personalities but also diverse abilities that mostly come together … superbly.
It is comfortable without being ostentatious, spacious without feeling bulky, quick without being aggressively sporty, and yet – in the suspension’s firmest mode – it’s spirited without feeling soggy.
If more equipment were included, then the 206TSI 4x4 would be a near-ideal $50K family-slash-luxury car.
It's a sleeper this car. Should you have a look, you won't fail but be impressed by what you find.
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