Published on Wednesday 23 April 2014 10:43
Ten Second Review
Skoda's Superb Outdoor offers all-wheel drive grip, three great engines and modestly handsome styling with an SUV-style twist. Is it worth the £2,500 mark up over a normal Superb 4x4 Estate? You be the judge.
Everyone's at it. The gentle suggestion, via plastic cladding and a mildly raised ride height, that a car might just have all-wheel drive isn't a novelty. In fact, car manufacturers have been at it for years, in many cases without actually completing the job by building in drive to all four wheels. Those with longer memories might remember the rather brazen Talbot Matra Rancho of the mid-Seventies, while in more recent times, we've seen cars like the Rover Streetwise, the Volkswagen Polo Dune, the Citroen C3 XTR and, to bring us right up to date, the Dacia Sandero Stepway.
So where does Skoda stand with the model we're going to look at here, the Superb Outdoor estate? The answer is that they haven't skimped. This is the real deal, with drive going to all four corners. As, to be fair, you would expect given that this car isn't an affordable hatchback with an SUV-style bodykit, like those already mentioned, but instead aims to compete with much pricier large luxury estates amongst buyers who prioritise all weather abilities and are interested in brand quality rather than brand image.
It's a cool, understated approach, but if you've an eye on value and like that sort of thing, then the Outdoor could be right up your street. Especially if that street happens to be on an icy hill.
Skoda offers a choice of three engines under the bonnet of the Superb Outdoor. The entry-level unit is the petrol-powered 160PS 1.8-litre TSI. This turbocharged unit is one of the mainstays of the Volkswagen Group and it's no surprise that in a market where diesels are the big sellers, it still remains a popular choice in the UK. The Outdoor is a big car to lug around though and with 250Nm of torque available, you might want something a little gutsier if you're frequently travelling fully loaded.
In that case, you'll turn to one of the two versions of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel available. Here you choose between a 140PS and a 170PS version. Sounds simple but actually, things aren't quite so straightforward as that. The 140PS car comes with the excellent DSG twin-clutch sequential gearbox, so there's no clutch pedal, and it'll do a reasonable impression of a 'proper' automatic if you want - or you can take control yourself and flick it up and down the six-speed box. As a result, it's the priciest Outdoor, but those looking for more muscle will be drawn to the 170PS car. With 350Nm of torque at just 1750rpm and the ability to get to 60mph in less than 9 seconds from rest, it'll only run out of steam at 135mph. The all-wheel drive system offers reassurance in poor weather conditions and this Outdoor will be all but unstoppable if also shod with a set of winter tyres.
Design and Build
Skoda could have really gone to town on this one with loads of cladding, auxiliary lights, big mud flaps and gnarly tyres but the Outdoor is, in fact, remarkably restrained. In fact, you'll probably have to double take to check exactly what's changed from a styling perspective. The wheel arches are now dressed with subtle plastic spats, and this theme extends to the base of the doors and the bumpers. It's a little more obvious if you specify the car in a pale paint finish, but darker Outdoor models are very low key indeed. The 18-inch Luxon alloys are a very nice touch, although perhaps a bit big if you're really intent on bumping up dirt tracks.
The Estate version of the Superb might not have the clever tailgate arrangement of the saloon model but beneath its conventional lifting hatch is a luggage area of epic proportions. Volvo's V70, Audi's A6 Avant, BMW's 5 Series Touring: these are big cars, but they can't equal the capacity of this Skoda. There's 633-litres of room with all of the seats in place and when they're folded, that figure rises to 1,865-litres, larger than some studio flats. When owners are hoisting all that cargo inside, they'll be glad of the low loading lip at 600mm and of the lighting system Skoda has integrated into the tailgate.
Market and Model
The Outdoor is loosely based on the specification of the Superb SE but adds a few extra items of equipment. Over and above standard SE trim, there's a four-spoke leather multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth for hands-free connectivity, 'Sunset Glass' behind the B-pillar, Hill-Hold Control, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, heated windscreen washer nozzles and integrated front headlight washers. The range starts at around £26,500 for the 1.8TSI version, around £2,500 more than you'll pay for this all-wheel drive Skoda estate without its 'Outdoor' trim.
Is that a fair mark-up for a bit of extra equipment and the Outdoor's punchier looks? Value-led Skoda buyers may not think so. Those who do decide to go ahead will most likely be drawn to what for us is the pick of the range, the manual 2.0 TDI 170 version, for which list pricing suggests you'll need a budget of just under £28,000.
Cost of Ownership
As we've touched on, the Skoda Superb Outdoor is an extremely big car and this just makes the fuel economy figures all the more impressive. Even the petrol-engined model has a quoted average of 34.5mpg, although (as is usually the case with most manufacturer fuel figures) if you plan on achieving the urban fuel consumption - around 26mpg- as a real-world average, you shouldn't be too far off. The combined figure for the diesels, whether you choose the 140PS DSG-equipped car or the 170PS manual, is an identical 44.8mpg.
Emissions are rated at 191g/km for the 1.8 TSI, with the 140PS diesel netting 166g/km and the 170PS car pipping it at 165g/km. Somewhat remarkably, that puts it into a lower tax bracket, which is well worth considering.
The Superb Outdoor is a handsome and genuinely useful estate car that offers all-weather abilities. Unfortunately perhaps for Skoda, the same can also be said for the standard Superb estate 4x4 variant which retails at around £2,500 less, model for model. Yes, you do get more equipment in this Outdoor, but whether it's worth around ten per cent of the entire price of the car is a question buyers will need to carefully consider. After all, the styling changes you get are relatively subtle and the whole package still doesn't include a specialised air suspension system such as Audi offer in the A6 Allroad.
This Superb Outdoor deserves to do well as it's a welcome addition to the range. But if it's to compete against models from prestige brands like Audi, then Skoda dealers will need to sell it with great awareness of the fact that their buyers typically have very different spending patterns and will want a very sharp bottom line. If this car can be delivered to them with exactly that, it might well do decent business for its Czech masters.