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Simply Superb: The Skoda that's a little like a Rolls-Royce


SKODA has at least one thing in common with Rolls-Royce. Like the fabled English carmaker, the Czech brand has its roots in a company founded by two men, one an engineer and the other a businessman.

Both men shared the first name Vaclav, while their surnames live on in the "Laurin & Klement" label that Skoda reserves for its top-spec cars.

Laurin and Klement, incidentally, were respectively counterparts to Henry Royce (who provided engineering expertise) and Charles Stewart Rolls (who supplied financial acumen).

In Singapore, the only model on sale with Laurin & Klement status is the Superb. The flagship of the Skoda brand, the Superb can trace its roots to a stately limousine from 1934.

The poshest version, the Superb 4000 from 1939, was as long as today's Rolls-Royce Phantom and, at 2.5 tonnes, just as heavy. It was powered by a dipsomaniac V8 engine that guzzled 35 litres of petrol every 100km.

It cost 3,600 Czech koruna at a time when 4,000 koruna could buy a grand country house, while the average worker took home 50 koruna a month. (Today, 3,600 koruna is equivalent to S$220.)

In contrast, today's Skoda Superb looks downright affordable. Even the 2.0 TSI Laurin & Klement version costs S$160,900 (with COE), which is far more within reach than a house.

Although it's based on Volkswagen's Passat, the Superb does feel like a different car inside. While the Passat's styling is more contemporary, the Superb relies on a more traditional interpretation of luxury. Its dashboard is slathered in chrome highlights, and its wheelbase is 50mm longer than that of a Passat, which helps create enormous amounts of room for the towkay in the back.

A brief drive in a 1.8-litre version over the country roads outside of Skoda's factory town of Mlada Boleslav revealed a properly luxurious car.

The suspension dealt smoothly with what seemed like crumbling and potholed Soviet-era tarmac, and the engine felt nicely isolated from the cabin, more so than in other Skoda models.

The controls were easy to use and the steering required minimal effort, and those characteristics help the Superb to create the kind of relaxing experience that premium cars ought to deliver.

Skoda prides itself on injecting its cars with clever features, and it shows in the Superb with ideas such as an umbrella holder built into the driver's door. It's similar to the one in the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Perhaps the two brands have more than one thing in common.

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