Usually when you shell out for the most powerful model in the range, you’re treated to a whole host of aesthetic upgrades; think aggressive bumpers, big alloys and a sporty interior. Not so with the new Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 4x4 DSG.
Despite the fact there's a 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, this top-of-the-range model looks almost identical to any other Superb. Granted, for a number of potential buyers this will be something of a disappointment, but for others, the idea of a covert yet seriously quick estate will be a deeply compelling prospect.
The cheapest version is the £32,795 SE L Executive, which sounds quite expensive when you consider that a range-topping BMW 330i M Sport Touring auto is only £3650 more. But the 280 is well appointed with xenon headlights, heated front seats (including electric adjustment for the driver’s seat), dual-zone climate and adaptive cruise controls all fitted as standard.
What is the Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 4x4 DSG like to drive?
Any concerns that the more powerful engine might have corrupted the day-to-day ability of the Superb are quashed within the first few hundred yards of city driving. With plenty of low-rev power, the 280 glides effortlessly around town.
It’s only when you bury your right foot that the extra performance really becomes apparent. The permanent four-wheel drive system enables the big Skoda to simply grip and lurch forward, dispensing with the 0-62mph dash in just 5.8sec. For a car with such an ordinary demeanour, the sudden turn of pace feels all the more impressive.
Unfortunately, that straight-line pace doesn’t translate into a brilliant dynamic package. On tight and twisty country roads, the Superb 280 has a propensity to pitch and roll about, and the artificially weighted steering gives little in the way of feedback. Selecting Sport mode on the optional switchable adaptive suspension helps to firm things up, but the 280 still never feels as agile or as fun to drive as the BMW 330i M Sport Touring or even an Audi A4 Avant TFSI 2.0 252 Quattro.
That said, the Superb 280 is an incredible all-weather machine. A rear-wheel-drive 330i would genuinely struggle to keep up with a Skoda on a greasy British B-road.
Of course, the 280’s impressive straight-line performance comes at a cost – quite literally. In isolation, the average fuel economy of 39.2mpg looks moderately acceptable, but when you compare it to the 42.2mpg of the 330i Touring and the 44.8mpg of the A4 Avant, you can’t help but conclude Superb is a bit thirsty.
If you’re planning to run a Superb 280 as a company car, it’s also worth noting that its relatively high CO2 emissions place it four benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bands higher than the Audi, and five bands higher than the BMW.
What is the Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 4x4 DSG like inside?
The interior is essentially the same as any other Superb Estate's. The driving position is excellent, the comfortable leather seats offer plenty of adjustability and there’s good all-round visibility.
Up front, there's plenty of space for anyone tall, and in the back the Superb is truly vast. Across the second row of seats the 280 is wider than both the 3 Series Touring and A4 Avant, and the boot is, officially, at least, even bigger than that of a BMW 5 Series Touring. If space is important to you, there’s nothing more accommodating in the class.
The only real downside is that the Superb’s interior doesn’t feel as special as that of an Audi A4 or a BMW 3 Series, and both of those rivals have much more advanced and user-friendly infotainment systems. It’s hard to fault the logical layout of the dashboard, though.
Should I buy one?
With its unique blend of everyday practicality and hot hatch-rivalling performance, the Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI 280 is certainly a compelling package. But for the majority of buyers, the cheaper 2.0 TDI 150 is a vastly better buy. It offers the same level of practicality as the 280, yet is significantly cheaper to run and the engine is strong enough for most situations.
However, if outright performance is high on your agenda, both the BMW 330i M Sport Touring and Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI 252 Quattro offer better handling. Factor in stronger residuals and more economical engines, and they’ll be cheaper to own as well.
By Neil Winn
What Car? says...
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
2016 Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 4x4 DSG
Engine size 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from £33,995
Torque 258lb ft
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 39.2mpg
CO2/BIK band 162g/km, 32%