Author:  Kieran Bicknell - 14 October 2021

Škoda Superb Sportline, effortlessly quick, wonderfully practical

The flagship of the ICE-powered model range, the Škoda Superb has long been considered the ‘gold standard to judge all other family cars by, and with good reason.

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Covering everything from the frugal – but still well-kitted – S and SE models through to the opulent Laurin & Klement trim, there really is a Superb for almost all tastes. Couple this with excellent styling, a range of attractive optional extras and enough space to make a small van sweat, and there’s no wonder why the Superb has proven time and again to be so popular with the UK market. 

Performance enthusiasts will no doubt note that there is no vRS model available – for that, you’ll need to look at the Superb’s smaller stablemate, the Skoda Octavia – but there is a ‘Sportline Plus’ variant, offering 280PS on tap from the 2.0-litre TSI engine, a seven-speed DSG gearbox with paddle shifters and 4×4 as standard. Whilst not a ‘performance’ car per-say as with its vRS cousin, the Sportline stacks up well on paper, so what’s it like in the real world?

Well, to find out, I booked one for my week away in Devon, covering a total of over 550 miles in all conditions, from blazing sun to torrential rain and from motorway runs to snaking lanes and B-roads, to give the Sportline Plus the most thorough evaluation possible. 

Exterior:

As soon as the car arrived, we were off to a good start. Finished in the Sportline Plus range-exclusive colour of Metallic Race Blue (an optional extra at £595), there was no denying the sheer presence of the Superb. Big, imposing and striking in this gorgeous shade of blue, it looked every inch a premium product, helped significantly by the regular chrome trims being ‘blacked out’ by the Sportline Plus specification – much better!

The optional 19” Supernova wheels also significantly lifted the exterior styling compared to the standard Superb – in itself a great looking car – though I do wish they’d been painted entirely in silver. However, that’s likely just the photographer in me talking, as I’m an avid opponent of black wheels.

Elsewhere, the built-in roof rails add some ‘lifestyle’ purpose to the Superb’s appearance. However, I can’t help but feel the 4×4 system is likely somewhat superfluous, as with the low-profile tyres fitted to the 19” wheels, I wouldn’t feel brave enough taking the car off-road without fear of causing damage, both to the vehicle and my spine. However, the added assurance of AWD on a wet or snowy road can only be a benefit to the right customer.

Interior:

On the inside, Škoda’s typically restrained design language continues, with only the figure-hugging Alcantara seats and other Alcantara details providing obvious visual clues that this is no ‘ordinary’ Superb estate. The optional-extra virtual cockpit is always a welcome sight as Škoda’s is one of the best in the business. The upgraded CANTON sound system is superb (sorry, I had to make the pun at some point in this review) and makes long journeys a breeze, with crisp sound throughout its range and plenty of ‘punch’ for bass-heavy songs.

The Ergonomics are also fantastic as you’d expect, with lots of ‘simply clever design features such as numerous cubbies for storage, well laid-out touchpoints and controls, and – of course – an umbrella in the door, which proved all-too useful during my week in Devon; Remind me why going on holiday in England is a good idea again?

Speaking of holidays, my other half is a chronic over-packer, a situation I’m sure many readers will be familiar with. Nonetheless, the Superb’s impressive 600-litre boot swallowed all the cases, bags and miscellaneous luggage we could throw at it without having to resort to using the back seats. This has two main benefits: if we had children or passengers, we could use the back seats, and two, it meant we could leave the car parked at the services or our destination prior to check-in without fear our luggage was on show.

On the Road:

Given that I knew I’d be covering over 400 miles during my time with the Superb Sportline Plus (it ended up being over 600), comfort was a significant factor for me, something that concerned me a little with the low-profile tyres and large wheels.

Well, I needn’t have worried, as the DCC and adaptive driving modes took care of this quite nicely. On the motorway in ‘eco’ or ‘comfort’ mode, the Superb glides over any minor undulations or imperfections in the road without so much as furrowing its brow. The adaptive suspension also meant that when more engaging roads were discovered, the chassis could be stiffened and weight added to the steering, providing a more enjoyable driving experience and allowing me to exploit the power of the 2.0-litre TSi engine. 

Interestingly, the Škoda Superb hides its power well, and hides its speed with ease. Whilst the 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds is nothing short of impressive for a car of this size. It doesn’t feel that fast in the real world, thanks to the near-imperceptible shifts from the DSG gearbox and the remarkable composure from the chassis – blink and you’ll miss it!

Around town and in daily life, the Superb Sportline Plus is wonderfully easy to live with. Whilst the economy isn’t the best (more on that in a moment), features such as front-and-rear sensors, a reversing camera, lightweight steering and impressive visibility make urban environments a doddle, whilst the DSG gearbox is quite happy shifting up-and-down without making a fuss.

Any major criticisms:

Whilst overall very impressive visually and on the road, there are a few minor issues and problems with the Superb that blighted an otherwise perfect week of ownership.

The start/stop system, for example, is far too over-sensitive and would often activate when it was unwanted, such as during a ‘rolling stop’ at a give-way sign or roundabout, meaning it was immediately turned off as soon as the car was started. 

Similarly, the other major issue I had with the vehicle was electronic, being the speed warning beep. Activated when exceeding the limit even by 1mph, despite showing as being disabled in the settings, it continued to blight me for the entire time I spent with the car – if a setting is shown as being ‘off’, it should be off, no ifs or buts. 

Otherwise, the infotainment system, virtual cockpit and wireless CarPlay all performed faultlessly, as did the hands-free tailgate, parking sensors and other convenience features. Hence, it seems a shame an otherwise excellent car would succumb to such minor – yet irritating – issues.

My only other minor criticism would be the 4×4 system, which significantly impacted the car’s fuel economy. Whilst the additional grip was certainly welcome from both a performance and safety point of view, the recorded fuel economy of circa 30mpg even on a long motorway run was hard to swallow, especially given that in day-to-day life, the performance difference was near imperceptible compared to that of the more frugal TDi engines, with the additional power only being noted when really pushing hard or accelerating away from a stop.

Conclusion:

Overall, I was very impressed by the Škoda Superb Sportline Plus. Effortlessly quick, wonderfully practical and a joy to live within daily life, a few minor electrical system updates and it would be nigh-on perfect. Very impressive indeed, and able to handle everything from an engaging B-road run to a long-distance, fully-laden holiday journey. Simply clever? I’d say very clever!

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