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Skoda Superb 280 Sportline Plus: Driven

Skoda has tweaked the Sportline trim to make it even more generous. We donned the wagon in appreciation

By Nic Cackett / Friday, July 27, 2018

We've fairly tenuous reasons for returning to the most powerful Superb (a new trim level, essentially) but make no apology for parking it back under your nose. Most PHers will recall that until fairly recently we ran much the same 280hp Sportline estate on the long term fleet - you might have seen it at a Sunday Service or two because the car was a constant fixture. Its reputation as a load lugger par excellence is, of course, well deserved, yet it doesn't fully describe why we all liked it so much.

One of the reasons was that it came very well equipped, and, in a nutshell, that's the kicker offered by the latest Plus version. As standard, the model now features a number of desirable items that came as cost options on our old long termer, including the heated front seats, blind spot detection, an electronically operated boot and progressive steering. You also get the top-of-the-line Columbus sat nav with a 9.2-inch touchscreen and integrated wi-fi - all for a £1500 premium over the regular Sportline.

Bundling up said items to create a trim level second only to the lesser seen Laurent and Klement range-topper is likely to mean that tick-happy buyers were often doing it for themselves anyway, which suggests that the Superb is continuing to attract customers not unaccustomed to the idea of spending £40k (or more) on a large family car. If that's the case, their interest in the Skoda is understandable: the wagon especially is enormous (its boot is almost 100 litres more capacious than an Audi A6 estate's), it's built like a bank vault, styled to appeal to a bank manager and very shrewdly fills the gap in modern, middle class life marked 'insert practical, reliable, affordable and conformist means of transport here'.

Philosophically speaking, that does rather put it at the other end of the scale from, say, an Ariel Atom with a turbocharged FK8 engine in it, and therefore not necessarily sky high in the PH order of universal importance, but the EA888's unlikely presence does serve to spice it up a bit. If the engine's appearance in the Superb still feels slightly anomalous (there was going to be a vRS version at one stage) then truthfully that's more to do with its long term association with the Volkswagen Golf R than what can be gleaned from first-hand experience of its performance.

For much of the time, the unit's potential is very well hidden under a bushel made of a very large and pleasingly unpretentious estate car. Skoda remains the last bastion of the six-speed DSG (Volkswagen and Audi having mostly migrated to the newer seven-speed version) and in the Superb both it and throttle pedal are inclined to think even the most robust inputs as requests for modestly swift progress rather than anything pulse-quickening. Occasionally its reluctance to really stretch its legs with your foot halfway to the bulkhead seems frustrating given the 258lb ft of torque apparently on offer from 1700rpm. But more often than not, you just got with the flow.

You tend to do this because even with mode selectable adaptive dampers (still a £760 option) and a self proclaimed 'sport chassis' fitted the Superb possesses almost no sporting pretensions whatsoever. In its default 'normal' setting the body control is lenient in a way that would be completely alien to any version of the aforementioned Audi A6, and switching it to 'sport' simply highlights how much of a hard time the standard 19-inch alloys are having along most B roads. Better to drive blithely through the car's tendency to lean and trust in the generous traction being laid on by the all-wheel drive system underneath if you must. But you'll rarely do that either.

Instead, if there's an ounce of mechanical sympathy in you, you'll content yourself with driving as the Superb prefers; smoothly and decisively. Do this and the car will gradually remind you of the rationale for 280hp, with its unstressed talent for making the transition between crawl and the national limit seem efficiently brief. Better still is the job it makes of a motorway, where the chassis's long, loping stride finally makes sense as it settles into the sort of relaxed headway that has your destination appearing in no time.

Considered exclusively from the outside lane, the Sportline's case is all but unarguable. The interior remains very well thought out - the latest Columbus infotainment system has just about the best 'home' screen of any car - and, ergonomically speaking, it's virtually flawless thanks to the MQB's familiar placement of the control surfaces. Thus you sit uncomplainingly for hour after hour on Alcantara sports seats, indulging in the laziest sort of overtake (the 280's autobahn-related raison d'etre), marvelling at just how much/many kit/people can be hauled in similar comfort behind you. No wonder we miss it.

1,984cc turbocharger 4 cyls
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@1,700-5,600rpm
0-62mph: 5.8sec
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,575kg
MPG: 39.2mpg
CO2: 164g/km
Price: £37,760


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