Skoda hasn’t been the butt of car jokes for a long time, but even in its post-Berlin-Wall, Volkswagen-owned era it was difficult to not laugh at the self-applauding nameplate of its flagship model.
And while the Superb didn’t turn out to be entirely vainglorious when it arrived here in 2009, there were few superlatives from a keen driver’s perspective.
This time, though, our interest has been piqued by the $50,990 206 TSI 4x4 range-topper in the third-generation Superb, which has plonked the Volkswagen Golf R’s feisty turbo petrol into the engine bay, also uses the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system, and sits on a stretched version of the VW Group’s excellent MQB platform (topped with sharp styling).
There’s no RS badge here, and indeed the slightly muted raspiness of the 206kW EA888 under full throttle suggests the acoustics have been padded-down for a luxury, rather than a sports sedan (or wagon, had for an extra $1700).
It’s still an energetic engine in the Superb, though, with a 4000-6000rpm sweetspot, and it manages to accelerate the large sedan even when past the six-grand redline (upshifting at 6850rpm in Sport mode).
Sport mode also thickens the damper fluid if the option box is ticked for Skoda’s first-ever adaptive suspension. It’s part of a $3400 Tech Pack also including a (good but not outstanding) 610-watt Canton audio system and a bunch of useful safety driver aids.
It gives the Superb tauter body control and a semblance of agility, though the sportiest mode adds only weight, not life, to the steering.
In Normal, the steering is too light and the front end less enthusiastic about pointing towards an apex – though its ride quality is preferable over Comfort, which can be wallowy on freeways on the variant-unique 235/40 19-inch tyres.
The all-wheel drive system does its thing in tight bends and on wet roads, and in the dry seems to be the key to the 206TSI’s 1.2-second 0-100km/h advantage over the $39,990 162TSI Superb that employs the engine from the ever popular Volkswagen Golf GTI/Skoda Octavia RS.
It certainly avoids the off-the-line axle tramping of the base Superb when launching, though the 162kW engine also delivers the same 350Nm – 200rpm earlier but over a narrower rev range – and offers meaningful squirt once on a roll as it has 110kg less to worry about.
Choosing between the sedan and wagon, though, is really more about styling preferences; either way you get a cavernous boot and limo-like rear legroom.
So the Superb remains bigger on space than thrills, but we’re not being funny when we say we like Skoda’s impressive all-rounder a lot.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: Energetic grunt, traction, vast space
DISLIKE: Could be more exciting, dull steering
Engine: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 206kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1700-5600rpm