The Volkswagen Group stands as arguably the greatest exponent of platform-sharing in the automotive business. In an era when the development costs of a new vehicle platform or drivetrain can run to hundreds of millions, the notion of sharing drivetrains and platforms across multiple models makes obvious business sense.
While it might be common knowledge to the learned Wheels reader, not every consumer would know, or care, that the Audi beside them at the lights carries the same beating mechanical heart and underpinnings as the VW they’re driving, or the Skoda they’re eyeing in their mirror. We could add Seat to that list, too, if they were sold here.
The latest addition to our fleet, the Skoda Superb Wagon, is one example of the plentiful fruit that springs from this highly evolved strategy, built as it is on VW’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform.
Like most modern automotive platforms, the MQB is designed for ultimate flexibility, meaning it can be delivered with stretched or shortened wheelbases, with tracks that can be widened or narrowed, and of course with myriad versions of what the designers call ‘top hats’, or bodystyles. In the case of the Superb, this equates to a liftback sedan and a generously proportioned wagon, both of which sit on a wheelbase that’s been stretched to a sizeable 2841mm.
This places the Superb at the larger end of the medium-to-large sedan/wagon category, meaning it could be considered an alternative to a Mazda 6 or a Holden Commodore, and you could just as easily include the Peugeot 508, Kia Optima, Ford Mondeo and Hyundai Sonata to the list.
And let’s not forget VW’s own Passat, even if the parent company is understandably keen to play down that comparison. The Skoda certainly has more space and sufficiently different powertrain options to be a genuinely differentiated product offering, but there’s no denying the two cars are close first cousins.
The B8-series Passat launched here in October 2015 to critical acclaim for both its dynamic and its packaging, and the Superb builds impressively on these traits. In particular, it’s bigger in practically every dimension than the Volkswagen Passat wagon, which is obviously of interest to families like mine who value boot and interior space.
Here the Superb ticks plenty of boxes, its generous wheelbase ensuring a voluminous boot and terrific legroom in the rear, where in the first weeks of ownership we’ve become accustomed to seeing the long-limbed teenage elder of the Bulmer sisters sprawled out in the limousine-like pews.
But there’s more to the Superb than just generous proportions and handsome styling. Under its bonnet lurks the same 206kW/350Nm turbo-petrol four that motivates the Golf R hot hatch. In combination with this range-topping version’s Haldex all-wheel-drive system, 19-inch wheels and quick-shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Superb is a real traffic-light sleeper.
The 4x4 wagon’s 1600kg mass makes it the heaviest model in the Superb range, adding 110kg over the front-drive 162TSI wagon, which in turn means that even the potent Golf R powerplant feels, initially, a little soft. But pull back on the transmission lever to select Sport and the engine instantly bristles with enthusiasm, the sweet-revving boosted four-pot delivering a deliciously fruity exhaust note and the odd pop and crackle on the over-run. It might seem decidedly out of place in what is otherwise an utterly sensible family wagon, but it’s deliciously good fun.
Add to this the vast cabin and boot space and the Superb shapes as a legitimate rival for not only SUVs but more dynamically adept wagons like the Commodore.
We’re looking forward to learning more about life with this decidedly different 4x4 wagon offering in the coming months.
Despite being back in the market in Australia since 2007 and now selling almost 5000 cars a year, Skoda remains something of a curiosity to many Australians. But the brand’s roots run right back to 1905 in its native Czechoslovakia while the Superb nameplate first adorned the flanks of the 5.5m-long Skoda 640 Superb way back in 1934. The current Superb traces its lineage back to 2001 when Skoda reintroduced the model to sit above its compact Octavia and small Fabia.
Our Metal Grey wagon is in the guise favoured by most car-buying punters, according to VW-Skoda PR man Paul Pottinger. This means we have metallic paint ($700), Tech Pack ($3400), Comfort Pack ($1500) and a panoramic sunroof ($1900), taking the price from $52,690 to a still tidy $60,190. Pottinger says the Tech and Comfort packs are the two most preferred options, the former bringing the undoubted benefits of adaptive dampers, which instantly switch the Superb’s ride comfort and dynamics from pillowy comfort to sporting firmness.
This article was originally published in Wheels magazine December 2016.