The Skoda Superb is one of the cornerstones of the brand’s recent success – and after undergoing a significant mid-life face-lift in 2013 it’s now available in rugged Outdoor trim for the first time.
Based on SE trim, the Superb Outdoor is available only as an estate, and comes with matt grey body panels and grey 18-inch alloys to set it apart from the rest of the range. There are two versions – the Outdoor and the Outdoor Plus – with the latter version that we're testing here adding leather seats and sat-nav.
There are two engines to choose between – both are 2.0-litre diesels with either 138bhp or 168bhp. Both engines have four-wheel-drive as standard, but the more powerful model features a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox, while the entry-level car gets a six-speed manual.
What is the 2014 Skoda Superb Estate Outdoor Plus like to drive?
Very pleasant indeed. The Superb is getting on a bit now, but its major strengths remain unchanged. Larger imperfections are dealt with well, and the Skoda positively wafts over speed bumps and other traffic furniture, although the ride is a little choppy over scruffy surfaces (which sends small shudders through the steering wheel).
We tested the 138bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel. It's noisier than the 148bhp engine in the latest Octavia, but pulls strongly from 1500rpm, and provides more than enough mid-range clout so that you rarely have to change down to maintain momentum.
The previous Outdoor was available with a much wider choice of engines, but this strong diesel is ideal for most buyers – even if you want to take your Superb off-road on a regular basis.
The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and precise, and all the major controls feel positively weighted and reassuringly responsive.
It grips well in tight corners, body roll is minimal (the ride height is unchanged compared with the standard Superb Estate's), and the steering gives you a good idea of what the front wheels are up to, which boosts your confidence when driving in slippery conditions.
Motorway refinement is another area where the Superb shines. Once you shift up through the gears to quiet down the distant grumble of the engine, there isn't much wind noise to disturb the peace, although the tyres do kick up a tad more road noise than you'll find in the standard car.
What is the 2014 Skoda Superb Estate Outdoor Plus like inside?
There are few cars in this class that beat the Superb Estate when it comes to space – it has a huge amount of legroom whether you're sitting in the front or the back. A tall rear passenger can easily fit behind a tall driver with room to spare, but the central transmission tunnel does encroach on foot room.
The centre console has a logical layout and is easy to use, with clearly marked shortcut buttons and a central touch-screen display. The whole cabin feels sturdily built, standard equipment includes hill hold control, privacy glass, headlamp washers and a tyre pressure-monitoring system, over and above what you'd get with SE trim. We tested the Outdoor Plus which also adds leather seats and sat-nav.
The model we drove came fitted with the optional £1070 panoramic sunroof, which eats into the amount of rear headroom available, and for that reason we'd avoid choosing it. Fortunately, even without a glass roof the Superb has excellent all-round visibility. For a car this size it never feels unwieldy on the road, so it's easy enough to park or thread through narrow, congested streets.
Carrying capacity is the other ace up the big Skoda's sleeve. With the rear seats in place in can carry 633 litres of luggage. The boot may not be particularly clever or flexible, but it is seriously huge – with the seats folded down it can hold more than any of its rivals – most of which are more expensive.
Should I buy one?
Unless the tougher styling is especially to your liking, then probably not. The Outdoor Plus is a very expensive version of the Superb Estate that is no better off-road than the regular 4x4 model.
If you want a well-equipped Superb Estate with four-wheel drive, then you can get the 138bhp engine in Elegance trim for £290 less than this Outdoor Plus model, and you'll get a more sophisticated sat-nav system. You'll still be spending less than you would on a VW Passat Alltrack or a Subaru Outback, and be getting a bigger car to boot.
However, the Superb Outdoor's toughest competition probably comes from lower down in the Skoda range. The Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 4x4 is nearly as practical, more refined and cheaper to buy and run. It's not quite as well equipped, but is plusher inside.
What Car? says...
2.0 TDI 140 4x4 Outdoor Plus
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £28,000
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 129mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg
CO2 output 139g/km
2.0 TDI 170 DSG 4x4 Outdoor Plus
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £30,240
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 8.8 seconds
Top speed 136mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
CO2 output 147g/km