If the Octavia can be termed a well-planned and executed revolution, the first generation Superb was a calculated risk. The Skoda brand had gone through a resurrection of sorts, but was the company ready to take on the Mondeos and Vectras which filled up the fleet sales in Europe? Well, the car was so well received that it was compared to far more expensive stuff — machines that wear three pointed stars and leaping cats! As for fleet sales, the last- gen Superb managed well and sold over 1,30,000 odd units.
In India, the old Superb was launched with a petrol engine and a rather exorbitant price tag and failed to make any serious inroads into a market dominated by American cars made by the Japanese — read the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. Well, the new Superb was supposed to change the game, as it came with brilliant petrol and diesel motors and, more importantly, a very good price tag — one that took the game to sushi land.
Now, that introductory paragraph was absolutely necessary for one reason — to justify me spending a glorious day driving a new Skoda Superb in and around the Czech capital, Prague. And it was not powered by the 1.9 TDI PD diesel or the 2.0 TDI diesel. Nor was it powered by the rage-of-the-town TSI petrol engines. Instead, taking the game directly into four-ringed territory, the car I had at my disposal had a 3.6 litre V6 FSI engine delivering, ahem, 260 silken petrol horses!
Despite having potentially unruly power and performance, the flagship Skoda behaved brilliantly inside city limits — the engine purring away and pulling cleanly from the signals. Soon we were driving on some of the best roads you can find in Eastern Europe, with very little traffic to trouble our progress. And boy, was the FSI motor in its elements or what! This, ladies and gentlemen, is a car that can do 100 kph in only 6.5 seconds and keep up with the best Munich and Stuttgart can offer at 250 kph without struggling hard! The steering is crisp and the V6 engine feels at home in its monocoque.
Like in the Audi A6, the power is transmitted through a six-speed DSG gearbox. A fourth-generation Haldex clutch monitors the power electronically, with 100 per cent of power going to the front wheels in normal driving conditions. When it snows out, or when you lose traction in rain, almost all of the torque can be sent automatically to the rear wheels. This has made the already good new Superb an even better all-rouner, one that can live with gravel roads and most weather conditions.
Alas, my driving was on billiard-table surfaces on a sunny day, with the chance of snow being as remote as the return of communist rule in this part of the world. Yes, I know — the photo here is from Skoda’s website, so. Really, the Czech Republic, along with most of Eastern Europe, has embraced the ways of the developed world in almost all aspects — and as is the case with the new Superb, has even managed to give them a fright.
As the sun settled over the Prague Castle, we returned to the cobble-stoned alleys of the great, beautiful city — once the capital of Europe itself. The new Superb, with slanting rays reflecting off its roof, needless to say, blended well into the picture. This scorcher is already available in India, and is a serious challenger for the Accord V6’s crown. Stand by for further developments. Swap engines, twiddle with the gearbox, soften or harden the suspension — the things you can do with an existing car is virtually limitless. Or, if you’re Skoda, you could take the Fabia, stretch out the rear, slap on some butch extensions on the wheel arches, play around with the interiors and add the suffix ‘Scout’ to the name.
SKODA FABIA SCOUT
Making its debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the Fabia Scout takes after the Scout versions of the Roomster and the Octavia. The concept is simple, really. Why ruin a perfectly good thing by trying to introduce something new? Instead, Skoda’s worked on the Fabia, increased its carrying capacity to 1,485 litres from 505 litres and restyled the thing by adding more plastic around the edges. The Scout rolls on ‘Arktos’ alloy wheels, 16 inchers as standard with optional 17-inchers as well.
Not content with lavishing the goody brush on the exterior, Skoda has taken it into the interiors of the Skoda Scout as well. The seats get special Scout upholstery, the mats are embellished with the Scout logo and the pedals are made of stainless steel with rubber studs. The detailing continues with the gear lever knob, aircon louver trim and door handles getting a luscious matt silver touch.
The Skoda Scout is available with four engine options. The basic unit is the four-pot 1.4-litre petrol with an output of 84.8 bhp. The second motor is also a four-cylinder engine, but this one displaces 1.6 litres and puts out a healthy 103.5 bhp. The other two engines are both diesels, one being a 1.4-litre that produces 78.9 bhp and the other is a 103.5 bhp unit that displaces 1.9 litres. Whew!
So are we going to see this Fabia on Indian roads? Well, we’ll go with an “it’s not expected any time soon” reply. It’s sad these sorts of things take the longest time to get here and when they do, they don’t really sell like hot-cross buns — remember the Palio Adventure?