How does one define “luxury”?
Most of us imagine something that’s exclusive, requires skilled craftsmanship and made with materials that are rare or hard to process. And of course, the price must reflect all these qualities.
We are accustomed to luxury goods being expensive, for one expects to pay a lot for exclusivity. If the price isn’t exorbitant enough, we even wonder if the item is premium at all.
You will ponder this question after driving the latest Skoda Superb, which is more refined than ever, yet is still priced like its predecessor.
A QUICK RECAP
If you’re wondering what a Superb is, it’s the flagship model of Skoda, the Volkswagen-owned Czech car manufacturer.
Skoda was preceded by Laurin & Klement, which was founded by Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement. The L&K model variants are a nod to them.
The Superb, even before it was facelifted, offered more than expected. It has the spaciousness of a limousine, the practicality of an estate and in L&K trim, equipment typically only found in higher-end models.
At first glance, the latest Skoda Superb looks identical to the previous model. But approach it and you’ll notice it looks sleeker than before.
That’s because the front bumper is now slightly longer, and the fog lights are now slimmer. The headlights are now full LEDs and incorporate dynamic turn indicators.
Meanwhile, the rear looks swankier, thanks to the extra chrome trimmings on the boot lid and below the bumper. And instead of a logo, “Skoda” is now spelled across the boot lid, making it look more confident.
The exterior changes are nice, but it’s the improvements inside that make the Superb live up to its name.
Get behind the wheel and you’ll find that the analogue gauges have given way to Virtual Cockpit, a snazzy digital cluster with a variety of layouts to choose from. Being able to have the map displayed in front of you, instead of off to the side, is both safer and more convenient.
If “Virtual Cockpit” sounds familiar, it’s because Volkswagen-owned Audi also refers to their digital instrument panel by the same name.
The Skoda Superb L&K is equipped with the top-end Columbus infotainment system with a 9.2-inch touchscreen (it’s an 8-inch screen on other variants).
This unit is hooked up to a Canton hi-fi system consisting of 11 speakers and a subwoofer. I’m no audiophile, but the punch and clarity of the system sounded pretty good to me.
More significantly, Skoda has enhanced the Superb’s safety by including Predictive Pedestrian Protection as part of the Front Assist system. When it detects pedestrians suddenly crossing in front of the vehicle, it will perform an emergency stop to prevent a mishap.
Side Assist, which detects other vehicles in the Superb’s blind spots, has also been improved. It now detects cars up to 70m away – more than triple the 20m distance the older system was capable of.
The previous Skoda Superb was available with two engines. A turbocharged 1.8-litre powered the Ambition variant, while the L&K has a more powerful turbocharged 2-litre (the same engine utilised by the VW Golf GTI).
This time around, both the Ambition and L&K models are both equipped with a new-generation turbocharged 2-litre engine with 188hp (190PS) and 320Nm.
Said motor is less powerful than the one in the previous model, which has 217hp (220PS) and 350Nm.
However, despite the lower output, the Superb isn’t that much slower. Its century sprint time of 7.7 seconds is just 0.7 of a second off the pace of the older car. In regular driving conditions, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
The 7-speed dual-clutch is also smooth, although the initial response when moving off from a standstill could be quicker. The delay probably helps ensure that the Skoda Superb moves off in a gentle, rather than abrupt manner.
The previous Skoda Superb has a cossetting ride and this is also true of the latest model. Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), which lets drivers choose their preferred damping level, is standard on the Superb L&K.
The dampers, however, are so pliant that Skoda almost needn’t have bothered giving us choices. Even in the Sport setting, the ride remains so cushy that I sometimes think the DCC is set to Normal.
Ironically, “Comfort” is the setting I dislike the most. It still makes the Superb feel overly squishy when going over speed bumps, and too floaty when driving at highway speeds.
A MORE SUPERB FLAGSHIP?
The numerous upgrades undoubtedly make the Skoda Superb even more convincing than before.
That said, there are still a few things I wish had been added. Wireless Apple CarPlay and USB-C ports, for instance, would have been cool additions.
And while I can overlook the lower engine output, the ride quality in the Comfort setting should have been improved. Being comfortable shouldn’t mean having an overly soft ride, which can cause the car to bottom out if you drive over speed bumps too quickly.
Apart from these, the Superb L&K is an impressive proposition. It offers even higher levels of equipment and amenities, at a price that’s still below $160k.
The only question is, will people finally see it for the car it is?
Skoda Superb Laurin & Klement 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1984cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 188hp (140kW) at 4180-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 320Nm at 1500-4180rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 122.5hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 7.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 238km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.9km/litre (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $152,900 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Skoda Singapore