New Skoda Superb Facelift Review: Simply Superb

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The superb has been on the market for a long time now, close to a decade actually. In a way it never had a fierce competition or any life threatening rivals. Although it came with engines which were proven performers, it scored a bit low on the visual desirability quotient. During our New Skoda Superb Facelift Review, we realized Skoda has just done that – up the desirability factor, in the form of a facelift with new bumpers, hood, headlamps and a few more bits…read on in our .

Design

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The Superb was always known for its spacious interiors, thanks to the `stretched` VW Passat platform. While retaining the long wheelbase look, Skoda has endowed the car with a fresh set of front end styling as well as major changes at the rear which could have been termed as boring, previously. Gone is the bulky look and with the facelift, the Superb looks, let’s say tight-skinned with better defined lines. Traces of design hints and elements of the recently launched Octavia are imminent with the new Skoda logo receiving its own space on the engine hood forming a kink into the grille.

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The famous wide slats are retained and now get chrome treatment giving them prominence. The `new` headlamps are similar in shape as before, however it’s the placement of the LED DLRs and the blacked effect that have changed its visual appeal and are more suited to the facelift. The bumper chin has received the Polo/Passat like chiseled look and the air dam is split with a chrome strip. The fog lamps again lose the jewel effect and look more functional now.

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Viewed from the side, the 4833mm length is prominent and the new smart looking 16 inch `turbo-vane` effect “Helix” alloys look a wee bit puny. We wish it came with 17 inch wheels although the alloys look a lot better than the previous iteration, the Indian road conditions led Skoda shy away from bigger wheels. The chrome surrounds around the entire window area with polished B pillars remain un-changed; however they do a good job of highlighting the limo effect.

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The rear of the Superb is another area where it has received a considerable `lift`. Instantly recognizable is the relocation of the number plate. Gone are the bland and the bulky looks, and in is the more exciting appeal thanks to the LED tail lamps and the revised badging. This has lent the Superb a taller looking stance as opposed to the squat profile that the earlier elements imparted. The Superb is now available in 3 new colours, namely Brilliant Silver, Magnetic Brown and Metal Grey. Externally, the Ambition as well as the Elegance trims remains identical and Skoda has only skipped the Bi-Xenon headlights, Daytime Running Lights and Adaptive Frontlight system on the Ambition trim.

Next page for interior, cabin comfort and features>>>

Interior, Cabin Comfort and Features

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Skoda has left most of the interior untouched, only a few bits have been added in the already plush and well appointed cabin. On the inside both Ambition and Elegance trims come with mostly similar interiors except for the steering wheel which varies 3 spoke and 4 spoke, depending upon the engine option chosen. The beige interiors are clothed in Nappa leather, and the sunroof adds to the airiness of the cabin and the overall build quality remains impressive as before. The face-lifted Superb now comes with the “Bolero” audio player with CD changer and SD/MMC slot. The USB slot still remains sorely missed.

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Stepping inside, one is sure to get most comfortable behind the wheel as well as in the passenger seat as it comes with 12-way electrically adjustable seats with memory function (paired with the ORVMs). This coupled with the tilt and reach adjustable steering helps immensely on occasions when the owners would like to take the wheel as otherwise this could mostly be a chauffeur driven luxury sedan. The black dash top is the industry favourite grain finish with matte effect and prevents the annoying glare on the windscreen, while rest of it is a mish mash of faux wood trim, piano black panels with chrome surrounds and beige treatment for the lower half of the unit. The leather wrapped multi function steering wheel has the regular telephony controls.

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It must be noted that the Bluetooth devices can only be paired via the steering mounted controls and the MaxiDot display (instrument cluster) while the vehicle is stationary, the touch screen audio player does not support this task. The leather wrapped steering wheels (3 spoke as well as 4 spoke) are fantastic to hold and also carry the same piano black theme which complements the new Skoda logo without the green accent. The clear dials which house the customary check lights (upon ignition) are split by the MaxiDot display which handles the duties of various information like the trip meters, digital speedometer and lots more; which can be cycled through the button on the Wash/Wipe stalk. The twin chrome-ringed binnacle layout of the instrument panel looks symmetrical as well, and Skoda has still retained the temperature gauge which otherwise nowadays has been replaced by “engine check” warning light. The symmetrical design and placement of MuFu buttons (knurled roller) along with a well finished steering are a joy to use.

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Skoda has given a touch screen enabled audio player and though quite intuitive and simple to use, we would have loved some more sensitivity for the screen. While touch screen helps in reducing the number of buttons in the cabin, the “Climatronic” controls make it look a bit cluttered and the buttons are a bit too small as well. The air-con controls offer the settings for the dual zone air-conditioning with the big rotary knobs being assigned with the temperature selection task where as the fan speed can be changed with a typical “+,-“ button underneath. Twin cup holders with a slide shutter are neatly integrated near the handbrake lever and come very handy to stove away belongings at random. The central storage bin has decent space, houses the aux port and an adjustable leather wrapped lid which also doubles up as an arm rest-neat.

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The electric sunroof with bounce back feature-controls, as well as the sunglasses holder and interior monitor/tilt sensors are all housed near the cabin light. The rain sensors are cleverly incorporated in the RVM mount and remain undetectable otherwise.

The door pads carry the similar tri-tone theme as the dash and has chrome finished door release which looks classy. The door pockets aren`t too large and can strictly be used to carry no more than 500ml pet bottles, the passenger side door gets the lock/unlock button while the rear doors away with it altogether. The air-con vents for the rear passengers are integrated in the B pillars and can be adjusted for flow and direction; these seem more effective than the ones usually provided in the central console between the front passenger seats. Speaking of which, the central console doubles up as an ash-tray with a 12v socket and a digital clock.

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The rear seats of the Superb is what the business is all about, with acres of legroom (with lounge step), foot-well lighting, multi functional central arm rest as well as the ac vents – Skoda has taken care of it all!. The central arm rest has a shallow storage recess and works well for your smart-phones as does the push to pop twin cup holders which can hold anything from a fizzy drinks bottle to a cappuccino. The legroom, thanks to the lanky wheelbase begs for more thigh support from the seats, perhaps softer cushioning as well. The seats are supportive and fantastic per se, however as Skoda has spoiled the occupants with so much comfort; asking for a bit more pampering isn`t harsh or is it?

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Right from the first generation of Octavia, Skoda cars have been known to offer cavernous boot space and the Superb as in its earlier avatar is no different. At 565 litres, it has more space than what a family of 4 or even 5 (may be more) would require. Add to this, its Twindoor rear hatch which is a clever piece of engineering that enables to electrically lock the hinges so that it can be opened as a normal boot or like that of a hatchback, we love the latter. The voluminous boot also has cleverly placed 6 luggage anchor hooks apart from 2 storage compartments on either side, superb!

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 Next page for engine and performance>>>

Engine and Performance

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The engines on the Superb have been carried over from its previous iteration, 1798cc TSI producing 160PS@4500-6200 rpm and the 1968 TDI producing 140PS@4200 rpm. The turbocharged petrol produces an impressive 250Nm@1500-4500 rpm where as the oil burner does 320Nm@1750-2500 rpm of twisting force. The TSI is available with an option of 6 speed manual or 7 speed DSG while the TDI comes with a 6 speed DSG only.

We drove the petrol and the diesel mated to the double clutch auto DSG tranny and came back impressed. Since we have spoken about the magnificence of the DSG numerous times already, we won`t get into those details yet again, here.

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To start with the oil burner which puts the 6 speed DSG to a good use owing to its max torque figures which lie in a narrow band of 1750-2500 rpm. Yes, there is a hint of turbo lag, or may we say hesitation until the power surges in and propels the car with gusto-with a generous 320Nm of it which is punchy even for this 1.6 tonner. The peaky as well as a bit heady power delivery make it a bit unpredictable in stop and go traffic conditions and gets a wee bit challenging on tight uphill sections where the ECU allows the revs to climb in the north of 2500 rpm in 1st, only to fall out of the power band after shifting into 2nd despite the 8 millisecond shift time. The best way to tackle this is to go manual with the shifts by nicking the lever on the left in D mode giving the intelligent fuzzy logic of the ECU some rest.

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Where the oil burner really shines is with its mile munching ability on the highways since it always has torque on tap making overtaking a breeze with minimal kick-down. Yes, the diesel is a bit noisy for our liking, but that’s only until you drive it’s gasoline run sibling. The diesel does have fair amount of tyre roar and wind noise filtering inside the cabin and is pronounced if you are seated at the rear, surprisingly and undesirably. Thanks to the 6 speed DSG, in the D mode the ECU optimizes the shifts early enough without unnecessary revving to increase the fuel consumption-result, relaxed cruising at triple digit speeds while the engine spins at low rpms.

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Driving the TSI mated to the 7 speed DSG after the TDI is a pure revelation. The turbocharged petrol produces its max torque of 250 Nm between 1500-4200 rpm; the flatness of this torque curve is mighty impressive. This free revving engine with high refinement levels along with the 7 speed DSG is like a match made in heaven! Being nearly 46 kgs lighter than its diesel sibling also helps in the added pep while driving this version around any kinds of roads. There is barely any turbo lag, and the linear power delivery makes it a very tractable motor and fun to drive. Drive it with zesty around bumpy and twisty sections and that frequent wheel spin is imminent as the Traction control, the ESP and the Anti Slip Regulation work in conjunction to keep things neat and tidy. Even at triple digit speeds, the petrol offers a very quite ride and the wind as well as road noise is minimum. Thanks to the 7 speed tranny and flat torque curve, it is possible to cruise at high speeds at low rpms. It does 80kmph@1650 rpm, 100@2100 rpm, 120@2500rpm and 140@3000 rpm, all figures in 7th gear, and it helps in the fuel efficiency department as well.

Next page for ride and handling>>>

Ride and Handling

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The Superb rides on McPherson struts stabilized by a torsion bar at the front, the rear is taken care of by one longitudinal and 3 transverse links with torsion stabilizer bar; coil spring suspension. The spring, damper and torsion rates are of course tweaked as per the engine, but Skoda has done a good job of offering a near balanced ride on all three versions (TSI manual, TSI – DSG and TDI – DSG).

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To start with the TDI DSG, the low speed ride is a bit stiff and the suspension mildly crashes through ruts and sharp edges. The diesel`s ride quality is directly proportional to speed, as we found, and it improves vastly once it gets into cruising speeds this is not to say the low speed ride is bad by any comparison. The Superb is equipped with electro mechanical power steering and thankfully not an entirely electronic power steering. At low speeds, the steering is delightfully light and remains that way up to speeds of 40-50kmph after which it starts feeling weighty. The diesel does feel slightly nose heavy if driven enthusiastically, however the body roll is well contained for a sedan of this proportions. Cruising at higher speeds in the TDI makes it slightly nervous, it is best to keep it up to 140, which still is fast enough.

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Driving the TSI after the TDI is guaranteed to plaster an ear to ear grin regardless of whether it is a chauffeur or a petrolhead. Even though this version is 46 kgs lighter than the TDI, the boffins at Skoda have managed to endow the car with impeccable road manners. The lag from the Turbo if any is barely noticeable and what makes you grin is the linear power delivery as well as the sheer refinement of the entire package. The free revving engine sounds sonorous and along with the paddle shifters in the party it blatantly encourages to be driven hard. The steering offers decent feedback but we would have enjoyed it even more if it were more direct especially at lower speeds. This luxury sedan feels light and agile on the move thanks to the near spot on suspension setup which treads the golden middle path between ride quality and handling. Chuck it into corners, floor it while going up tight twists and turns, try it the way you want it and the TSI does not disappoint whatsoever. Hill Hold Control, Traction Control system, Anti Slip regulation, Electronic Differential lock, Electronic Stability Program, Electronic Brake Force distribution, Mechanical Brake assistant & Hydraulic Brake assistant are the driver aids that silently work in making the Superb fast and enjoyable, yet safe.

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Another aspect worth mentioning on the Superb remains the brakes. Discs all round with Dual Rate system assist ensure that they scrub speed at a mere touch. The pedal feel and feedback is fantastic, rarely will anyone be in a situation to `jump on to the brakes`. Let’s not forget the ground clearance of 159 mm, which in itself isn`t a number to boast of, but the Superb startled us all with its `bad` road manners. During the test, we encountered nasty broken patches with large potholes-the kind of roads which could make any car owners heart sink, but the Superb surprised us with a scrape-free drive even with a full load of passengers! Mumbai`s monsoon blessed roads? Bring `em on!! Skoda claims 13.1 kmpl for the TSI and 17.2 kmpl for the TDI, we haven`t tested those but expect them to be a km or 2 shorter of the claim which still is pretty impressive.

Next page for conclusion, tech specs and image gallery>>>

Conclusion

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Quick shifting dual clutch gearbox with paddle shift, 160 PS at disposal and a free revving engine form the perfect recipe for this stretchy sedan to be an involving car to be driven. While the TDI has a punchy torque kick, the TSI pleases with its refinement and handling. Pick any, you can’t go wrong with either of them. Personally, we are quite smitten with the TSI, what`s more – the TSI is likely to be cheaper too! Skoda has ramped up the production of the face-lifted Superb as the current model is phased out and the prices should be announced during or shortly after the Auto Expo 2014 in February.

So does the facelift give the car enough Superb-ness and readiness for another innings? With its long list of features at the asking price, it`s a Yes from us!

Price:

1.8 TSI Ambition manual INR 18.87 lakh ex-Delhi
1.8 TSI Elegance manual INR 20.65 lakh ex-Delhi
1.8 TSI Elegance DSG Auto INR 22.27 lakh ex-Delhi
2.0 TDI Ambition DSG Auto INR 23.43 lakh ex-Delhi
2.0 TDI Elegance DSG Auto INR 25.20 lakh ex-Delhi

Engine:   1798cc, turbo-petrol /  1968cc, turbo diesel
Power 158bhp at 4500-6200 rpm  / 140bhp at 5800 rpm
Torque 250 Nm at 1500-4500 rpm  /320 Nm at 1750 rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manual / 7 speed DSG auto (petrol), 6-speed DSG auto (diesel)
Boot volume 565 litres

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