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You may or may not be familiar with the term ‘sleeper’. It refers to car that looks relatively unassuming. It goes about its business quietly, and doesn’t sing and shout from rooftops. But deep within it hides a secret. More often than not this is a powerful engine, resulting in unexpected performance capabilities.
One of the best cars I’ve ever tested
For the most part sleeper cars are built by enthusiasts in their sheds. But not this one. I have found the ultimate example and, fittingly, it comes from an unexpected source: Skoda. This is the Superb SportLine Plus Estate. And it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever tested.
In many ways, the Skoda doesn’t look that unassuming. The SportLine Plus looks rather sporty. It has black mirrors, window surrounds and roof rails. Two-tone 19-inch alloy wheels boost kerb appeal, and there is a subtle roof spoiler and twin exhausts at the back.
It’s an even better offering inside. The front seats are heavily bolstered and finished in leather and alcantara. With a fixed headrest they have a sculpted, sporty shape. There’s a perforated leather flat-bottomed steering wheel, more alcantara on the door cards and some faux carbon fibre finisher. Best of all it feels high quality and well put together.
LED ambient lighting features on the dashboard and door cards. You can adjust the colour and brightness to suit your mood. There is now the option of a Virtual Cockpit. Although not fitted to our test car, this is a must-have option. It lifts the cabin aesthetics significantly, and is a neat feature to show off down the pub.
So why is the Superb SportLine Plus the pinnacle of sleeper cars? Well despite looking nice, the word ‘Line’ in a model designation usually means a style-over-substance offering. A ‘looks great but has a 1.0-litre engine’ type car. So if I proceeded to tell you this Skoda has a 2.0-litre diesel with 150PS, you wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.
And it can have. Or there’s a 1.5 litre TSI petrol with 150PS. But the car you see in these pictures has neither. It actually has the same 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine found in the Volkswagen Golf R. It’s slightly de-tuned – for emissions and economy reasons – so it puts out 272PS and 350Nm of torque.
With a seven-speed DSG gearbox and four-wheel drive, this enormous estate car can put every last ounce of power to good use. Use the launch control feature (as it’s all too tempting to do) and the Superb takes off like a scalded cat. 0-62mph takes just 5.6 seconds and the top speed is a limited 155mph. That acceleration figure is reasonably cautious too: we timed it closer to 5 seconds with just the driver on board.
It’s not just quick in a straight line too. Steering is nicely weighted and direct. For a big car the Superb feels surprisingly agile; darting to corners and hunting the apex. The 4×4 system works brilliantly. It never seems to break traction, even under full acceleration on damp and greasy roads.
Our test car had Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) fitted at a cost of £760. This works in conjunction with the selectable drive modes. In ‘comfort’ setting the damping is softer and more forgiving, making the Superb a perfect companion for a long motorway slog. In ‘dynamic’ mode the damping firms up to better control body roll and improve cornering. You can really tell the difference; the Skoda never feels like a compromised setup.
It may only be a 2.0-litre engine but this is a sizeable car with blistering performance
The only thing that does feel compromised is the rather drab soundtrack. Strangely the engine sounds a little harsh at higher revs, and there is no anti-social exhaust dishing out pops and bangs. Now I get that subtlety is the name of the game for the Superb, but with the different drive modes there could have been a loud button.
Perhaps the most compromised aspect of the Superb SportLine Plus, with this engine at least, comes with economy. It may only be a 2.0-litre engine but this is a sizeable car with blistering performance. As such the combined fuel consumption is quoted as 30.1mpg under WLTP testing. That’s a realisticallyachievable figure for the most part. Over-exuberance with the accelerator will understandably dent the figures into the mid-to-high 20s.
Importantly though, this highperformance Superb costs under £40,000, subject to how many options are chosen. So there is no VED surcharge to pay. After the £530 payable when the car is registered, its £145 a year. That could be significant if you’re also considering cars like the Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-Class; both of which will be difficult to keep under £40k.
And then we come to the Skoda Superb’s party piece: spaciousness. This is a car that doesn’t shy away from its vastness, opting instead to embrace it and all the advantages it brings. The boot is enormous – 660 litres with the rear seats up and a whopping 1,950 litres when you fold them down. Cabin space is equally generous. There’s plenty of headroom throughout, and the copious rear leg room has to be seen to be believed. You even get an umbrella hidden in each of the front doors!
The SportLine comes well equipped, with privacy glass, LED interior lighting, electricallyadjustable driver’s seat with memory, 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and keyless entry and go as standard. The SportLine ‘Plus’ adds heated front seats, an electric tailgate, blind spot monitoring, a 9.2-inch touchscreen and progressive dynamic steering.
The Superb SportLine Plus Estate 2.0 TSI 272 4×4 DSG has a starting price of £37,460 There aren’t many options required on it. Virtual Cockpit adds £450. DCC is £760. Other than that it’s about the creature comforts you’d like – heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and the like.
The Skoda Superb SportLine Plus Estate is an immensely practical family car, with a hidden dose of electrifying performance guaranteed to make you smile. And remember: next time you pull up at the lights next to a Superb, beware…