Fast, capacious and very good value, the flagship Superb is just as smart a used purchase as it was new
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 22 May 2022 / Loading comments
- Available for £13,500 or less if you’re lucky
- 2.0-litre inline four petrol turbo, all-wheel drive
- Easy five-second 0-62 times
- Estate massively spacious, hatch not much smaller
- What it lacks in premium it makes up for in almost everything else
- Ideal PH one-car garage choice?
On one level, using cheery adjectives for car names sounds like an obvious thing to do. Who wouldn’t want a Ford Fabuloso or a Bentley Bazzing? You’d need to be careful though. Clarkson’s Excellent clearly wasn’t, and manufacturers would potentially be lining themselves up for all sorts of legal botheration if they overnamed a car, e.g., a Honda Hedonistic that was no fun at all, or a Suzuki Stonking that turned out to be eighteen kinds of terrible.
As car name adjectives go, however, ‘superb’ was quite a clever one. It suggested excellence without being overly shouty about it. Better yet, when it was applied to Skoda’s new range-topper back in 2001, it really wasn’t that far from the truth.
The gen-one Superb’s recipe of near-freakish internal enormity – irrespective of whether it was the hatch or the humungous estate – along with a purchase price and running costs that were far from enormous proved attractive to savvy buyers. Over time it seemed that used Superbs were as reliable as any other German-inspired or sourced alternative. As such they looked like fine value for the family motorist with no brand-based axes to grind and lots of gear to shift, or for the minicab driver who wanted more cab than mini.
For those who wanted to do fare- or stuff-shifting quickly, a 190hp 2.8 V6 petrol version offered 147mph and near-seven second 0-62 times, but the running costs part of the equation wasn’t so convincing. The gen-two B6 Superb of 2008 moved the ‘hot’ Superb game on nicely by using the 260hp EA390 3.6 FSI VR6 engine. If you manage to find one of them on the used market today you might want to pin down a supply of cheap fuel while you’re at it because the price for 6.4sec 0-62 performance and a 155mph top speed in a car weighing 1,725kg in hatchback form was 28mpg combined, dropping to 19mpg in town.
The VR6’s all-wheel drive chassis was another interesting step forward for the Superb so it was good news when, at the 2015 Geneva show launch of the gen-three MQB-platformed B8 model, Skoda confirmed that they would be building an AWD 2.0 turbo four Superb that would be both lighter (at 1,615kg) and more powerful (by 20hp) than the gen-two VR6. The limited top speed of 155mph was unchanged but the new 2.0 TSI 4×4’s 280hp motor (the EA888 twin-scroller as previously seen in the SEAT Leon Cupra) along with a six-speed DQ250 DSG gearbox gave you a 0-62 time in the mid-to high five second bracket allied to much better economy, with a combined mpg figure of nearly 40mpg. Small wonder that the estate in particular was a popular choice by the Old Bill for stealthy traffic work.
The gen-three 280s started off in two specs, both of which were rich in equipment: the ‘basic’ SE L Executive, and the even more luxurious version which as usual was saddled with Skoda’s uninspiring, tiresomely long-winded and almost wilfully UK-unfriendly Laurin & Klement badge. Sport Line variants were announced at the 2016 Frankfurt show. These came with Anthracite Vega 19in wheels, a 15mm lower ride height, bi-xenon headlights and an XDS electronic differential lock.
In 2018 a Superb facelift was released. To avoid possible criticism we’ll rephrase that to ‘a facelift for the Superb was released’. On top of the usual front end restyle a new Sport Line Plus spec was added. This received the lovely 9.2-inch Columbus touchscreen plus integrated wi-fi, heated front seats, blind spot detectors, progressive dynamic steering and an electronic tailgate. To create some space in the brochure and allow Skoda to drop its price by just under £500 the non-Plus Sport Line was slightly despecced, with the touchscreen going back to the old eight-inch Amundsen unit.
Other top line Superbs had matrix LED headlights, LED rear lights, ’animated’ indicators, new seat fabrics, a new phone cubby with inductive charging, predictive cruise (which worked brilliantly with the DSG gearbox) and Emergency Assist which monitored driver behaviour and stopped the vehicle if it seemed like you weren’t responding quickly enough to events, as might happen after a massive curry. The L&K model had a heated steering wheel, ventilated seats and a reversing camera as standard.
In the same year (2018) a WLTP-mandated particulate filter reduced the engine rating from 280hp to 272hp and the VW Group’s seven-speed DQ381 DSG transmission (the all-wheel drive version of the DQ380) replaced the six-speeder. By the end of 2020 the power rating had gone back up to 280PS in the UK with extra economy and lower emissions thrown in, so in the interests of reducing confusion and based on there not being much performance difference between the two anyway we’re going to refer to all the cars under scrutiny here as 280s from now on.
The 2018 facelift model is sometimes referred to in ads as the ‘IV’, which as you know is posh for four, but the actual gen-four Superb isn’t due until 2024. It will very likely be bigger than the current gen-three and a PHEV to boot, so if you want a taste of traditional Superbness with a high-performance twist the gen-three TSI 4×4 will be your best bet. Unlike many diesel Superbs, a used gen-three 280 is unlikely to have reached its second or third owners via a taxi rank, so that’s the model we’ll be looking at here in this guide.
Costs? In the course of our research we did see a 143,000-mile saloon going for under £11,000 and an early 2015 estate with less than 60,000 miles on the clock for £13,500. It must be said though that these were exceptional prices. Read on to discover why finding a 280 at a sharp price might be harder than you think.
SPECIFICATION | SKODA SUPERB 2.0 TSI 4X4 DSG (2015-on)
Engine: 1,984cc four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6/7-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500-6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-4,400rpm
0-62mph (secs): 5.8
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,615
MPG (official combined): 39.8
CO2 (g/km): 159
Wheels (in): 17
On sale: 2015 – now
Price new: from £31,400 (hatch), £32,745 (estate)
Price now: from £11,000 (sort of)
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
There are few things in life quite as funny as out-dragging the local fancy-pants hot hatch merchant while sitting behind the wheel of a Superb 280. Ideally an estate with a sideboard in the back, but arguably even more hilariously in the stately hatch. Thanks to the powerful motor, fast-changing six-speed DSG gearbox and Haldex-type all-wheel drive, the gen-three 280’s acceleration from a dead stop to 62mph was on a par with that of a Renaultsport Megane Cup S. No special attributes were required for this stunt other than the possession of a heavy right foot and the willingness to use it. There was no badging anywhere to explain what you’d just done to your unfortunate victim, who would really need to know their Skodas to appreciate that the twin exhausts were pretty much the only giveaway. The only other distinguisher, the ‘4×4’ badge, could just as easily have been on a diesel Superb.
The later seven-speed DSG was slightly higher geared (in top) than the six-speeder, needing 2,000rpm for 70mph. No manual gearbox was ever offered on the 280. A service advisory was put out in 2017 for DSG boxes that were squealing on changeups from lower gears. Quite a few owners of VW Group cars fitted with either of the DQ boxes have experienced problems with abrupt or indecisive shifting, juddering, worn bearings and Mechatronic module failure which would put the car into limp mode, and camshaft position sensors have been known to play up, but complaints of this nature seem less prevalent among Skoda owners. Admittedly there are fewer of them about than there are VW or Audi owners. Or maybe they’re just more accepting.
The 280 was very well suited for long haul trips as long as you were happy with low 30s fuel consumption while using the performance. In isolation that was actually very good for something so big and so quick. Most Superbs were diesels, so the range mpg expectation is inevitably somewhat higher than 30 something. Anecdotal evidence tells us that at least one city-based 280 owner who had had both the 6-speed and the 7-speed was returning 27mpg and 29mpg respectively, based on 80 per cent urban driving with plenty of start/stop stuff going on.
On servicing, the interim oil (full synthetic) and filter service was every 12 months/10,000 miles and cost around £150, with the major (add new fuel and air filters) every 24 months or 20,000 miles at about £180, which is not bad. The first brake fluid change should be at three years, and every two years thereafter. On top of that you needed to have the spark plugs and DSG fluid changed every 40,000 miles and the Haldex fluid changed every three years. The Haldex V system on this car didn’t have a replaceable filter but it did get dirty after about 30,000 miles, leading to the possibility of drive loss to the rear wheels, so the strainer in the pump was very much worth checking and cleaning. To do that you’d need to remove the pump and ideally fit new O rings on reassembly.
There have been instances of cars experiencing issues with the Haldex’s clutch plates, and it appears that there was a bad batch of batteries manufactured between January and April 2017 which affected some cars built after that period. Engine start/stop buttons have failed. In terms of tuning, a simple remap would unleash an additional 45-65hp, taking peak power to at least 320hp with around 320lb ft of torque.
As mentioned a few paras ago, the Superb 280’s party trick of leaving your fellow motorists behind never got old. Once you reached a corner however you had to hope that you’d built up a healthy lead over anything even vaguely sporty that you’d vanquished on the previous straight because in non-Sport Line models at least you’d be clenching your buttocks in a world of noticeable roll, rubber-scrubbing understeer and feel-free steering that needed to be in Sport mode to deliver any sort of meaningful weight. That was the point at which you understood that a strong drivetrain only got you so far in a big vehicle that was designed more for comfort than speed. It was cushy, though. In Comfort mode the optional DCC adaptive dampers provided a great blend of plushness and control. Fitted to the 15mm lower-riding and tidier handling Sport Line variant they nullified any additional harshness that you might have expected from the fitment of 19-inch wheel.
The Front Assist system with integrated city emergency brake was meant to cut in and stop the car in the event of an imminent impact, but on some cars the calibration went haywire and fixing it out of warranty could be expensive. Make sure that there are no dash warnings on any car you’re looking at.
Rear discs seemed to wear quite quickly, not just on 280s but on Superbs generally. Noisy suspension on bumpy roads was not unknown. Sometimes suspension delivery blocks were accidentally left installed by the dealerships. Not quite as bad as leaving the cement bricks in your new washing machine, but less than optimal.
Alloys could corrode beneath the lacquer that was supposed to be protecting them. Wheel bearing housings on some cars built exclusively in the month of August 2017 were insufficiently hardened and could shatter.
Estates are often better looking than the hatches on which they’re based but the difference between the two bodystyles was quite pronounced in the Superb. The estate was as handsome as the saloon was ungainly, though things did improve slightly with each new iteration.
The relative ugliness of the hatchback from a rear three-quarters view brought other compensations however, like a gigantic 625 litre boot which increased to a warehouse-like 1,760 litres with the rear bench folded down. The equivalent litreages for the estate were 660 and 1,950.
Some owners have reported wind whistle from around the doors, usually to do with faulty door seals although loose chrome trim at the B pillars has also been pointed at. Short ‘dip’ pattern on non-xenon headlights has been mentioned, as have dying electric tailgate struts. The anti-trap software for the sunroof might not work that well on early (pre-April 2016) cars.
The 280’s stealthy approach to life in the outside lane was mirrored by its interior trim which had all the glitz and razzamataz of a Grimsby undertakers on a wet Tuesday in November. That’s not meant as an insult, more a gentle reminder that not everyone wants seat stitching in a primary colour or Top Gun-style ignition buttons. Sometimes, subtle is good.
It’s thought that the ‘sitting on top’ feeling some folk got behind the wheel of one of these was down to the older buying demographic of cars like Superbs. Old folk struggle to get in and out of low-seated motors, so if you’re not as limber as you used to be you should literally fit right in with a Superb. Whichever one you chose, hatch or estate, you were never going to be complaining about a lack of interior space. The rear legroom is ridiculous, giving passengers a genuine sense of limousine travel.
Adding further feelgoodness were quality materials like Alcantara and leather, decent switchgear (much of it pinched from the latest Passat) and that very nice 9.2-inch touchscreen with ‘performance’ readouts on things like g-force. Along with the sports wheel and sports front seats this may have seemed slightly at odds with the Superb’s core proposition, but it nonetheless added some welcome extra premium feel. You’d lose some of that if the glovebox lid popped open when you hit a bump though, or if you couldn’t always close it when you wanted to.
The 280’s 10-speaker Canton audio was impressive, but there have been instances of rear speaker, subwoofer and amplifier failure. Two airbag/seatbelt rectifications should have been carried out on cars built between May and December 2016 and between early January and late February of 2018.
Want to get yourself a performance estate, the choice of which is rapidly dwindling in the wake of the SUV’s relentless march? A gen-three Superb 280 could be the only car for you. The fastest Superb – and indeed the fastest Skoda – has a lot going for it. It is very practical, very comfortable, and in estate guise at least rather handsome.
More than one magazine compared the Superb 280 to BMW’s 330i, a slightly odd comparison in some ways as conceptually they were chalk and cheese (lounge on wheels vs driver’s car). Only the most poverty-specced BMW would get anywhere near the well-equipped Skoda on price, and to all intents and purposes pov-spec 330s didn’t really exist. On top of all that, of course, was the size difference. In the real world, with real people and real cargo to move, a 3 Series couldn’t hold a candle to a Superb, but of course many would still buy the BMW because, well, BMW innit. A Volvo V90 T5 is more premium but it won’t be as quick as the Skoda and it’s also a lot more expensive.
Range-wise the Superb has fared well in reliability surveys, usually finishing in the top ten of cars on sale in the UK. That, along with the attributes just mentioned, means that it won’t be child’s play finding one that simultaneously suits your desires and your budget. Those who were up for one of these when they came out but would only buy one when it was a few years old will, as noted at the beginning of this piece, struggle to find 2015/2016 cars with decent mileages going for under £13,500. In fact cars below £15,000 are rare on the secondhand market. The 280 accounted for just one in fifty Superb sales in the UK and owners are clearly hanging on to them, which is a good sign.
Being totally open about it, PH Classifieds is not the most obvious advertising ground for cheap 280s. Outside of PH we did find a 2015 estate with 57,000 miles at £13,495 and a 2017 hatch with 143,000 miles at just £10,990, both of them SE L spec. The most affordable 280 on PH at the time of writing was this 37,000-mile 2016 Sport Line hatch at £19,999. For £741 more you could be in this slightly tatty 54,000-mile 2017 SE L estate while £24k will get you into this 45,000-mile 2018 Sport Line estate.
Search for a used Skoda Superb 280 here
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