One of the occupational hazards of testing new cars is that, as a rule, we have them for just one week.
With several hundred kilometres of varied driving, a car will show its significant virtues and vices. The highs and lows of ownership, though, don’t have enough time or distance to reveal themselves. Having tested thousands of new cars, we can often tease their medium/long term prospects out to a limited extent and make suggestions as to what an owner might expect, but most are returned still with a few known unknowns, as they say in Washington.
Melbourne’s current lockdown has seen many car companies hibernate their press fleets until things get back to normal. So I’ve still got the test car I picked up in early August. It’s a Skoda Superb Scout, and after living with it for two months, I reckon if my hard-earned was on it, I’d be a happy owner, too.
Skoda’s Scout moniker denotes modifications to an existing model, in this case the Superb wagon, that give it an extra measure of off-bitumen ability. The Scout sends drive, in high range only, to all four wheels, has an unsealed surface traction control mode on the Drive selection menu, 15mm greater ground clearance and extra underbody protection.
So it’s by no means an adventurer, but it will work nicely on dirt roads.
It uses Volkswagen’s 200kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder matched to a dual-clutch transmission, now with a petrol particulate filter. This necessitates running on at least 95 octane premium — 91 cannot be used at all, because it will damage the filter.
Priced at $63,990 drive-away, the Scout is great value against Audi’s 45 TDI A6 allroad ($109,500) and Mercedes’ E220d All-Terrain ($114,888) wagons.
It gives nothing away to either in terms of standard equipment, with a luxo list that includes adaptive suspension, heated front and rear seats, leather/Alcantara upholstery, a digital display in front of the driver, satnav, wireless phone charging, Canton audio (plus a CD player for the Luddites), LED matrix headlights, a power tailgate, three-zone aircon and 18-inch alloys.
You sit on rather than in the wide, firm driver’s seat, and while the customisable digital instruments take some learning, once mastered they’re informative, intuitive and easy to read at a glance. Voice-activated commands work well, so eyes off the road time is minimal.
There’s limo-like legroom in the back, a firm, elevated bench and enough width for three adults.
Adaptive suspension delivers a smooth, comfortable ride in Comfort and Normal modes; Sport is firmer, but still acceptably compliant and plenty of travel allows it to easily cope with rough roads at speed.
It’s a big family freighter and — typical of Skoda — has a number of intelligent, practical touches that make life easy, safe and enjoyable for parents and kids.
There are rear side window sunblinds, a removable torch, a powered tailgate, chilled centre console and glovebox, a rear seat tablet/phone holder, a rubbish bag holder in the driver’s door bin and even a brolly in each front door.
It has a bigger boot than all but a few monster-sized SUVs: 660 litres in five-seater mode and a massive 1950 litres with the back seats folded, though the extended floor is not flat. The power tailgate can be operated by swiping your foot under the rear bumper.
No options required. Adaptive cruise is standard. Emergency assist will sound a warning and initiate a short swerve to get your attention, then ultimately stop the car if it senses you’re no longer in control.
The 2.0-litre force-fed four has no problem shifting the Scout’s relatively light (by SUV standards) 1638kg. There’s a moment of lag from low revs, amplified when moving off from rest by the hesitation of the twin-clutch auto, but your right foot does adapt to these characteristics.
Sport mode ups the willing factor and responsiveness. A claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds is quick.
It’s frugal, too, easily able to achieve single figures around town.
Light weight, all-wheel drive, adaptive suspension and precise steering give the Scout agility, balance and roadholding more akin to a luxury car than an SUV. In Sport mode it will hold its own with any luxury wagon and offers a level of driving enjoyment well beyond mere transport and most SUVs.
I like to go outside the mainstream in search of different, interesting things. Skoda does different, interesting cars.
I want a genuine luxury wagon but I’m not willing to pay through the nose for a “prestige” badge.
4/5 For about the same money as a mid-spec SUV you get a better drive and more equipment, technology, safety and space. A — pun intended — superb family wagon.
Click here to read the full review.