The Skoda Superb 4x4, with a V6 petrol engine, is the pinnacle of the range in every sense. While brands like Volvo are planning a four-cylinder future, Skoda is persisting with this four-wheel drive Laurin & Klement model, which still only costs £32,500.
For that you get a gracefully ageing cabin trimmed in soft, expensive brown leather, all the standard equipment you could possibly need and essentially the same engine as the old (and now extinct) VW Passat R36.
The big 3.6-litre naturally-aspirated V6 engine sends a healthy 256bhp to all four wheels via the tougher six-speed version of the DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Although it might not be the most modern way of extracting performance it does give the Superb a real injection of character.
Hushed and refined at low speeds, it’s deceptively quick. It revs cleanly and smoothly through the gears, and offers a surprisingly broad spread of torque even though the 350Nm overall figure is identical to the top-spec 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI.
You only really notice the extra performance in the first few gears and the 0-62mph dash takes 6.4 seconds putting the V6 Superb in roughly the same performance league as hot hatches like the Ford Focus ST. However there is none of the added aggression you get from most fast hatchbacks, with only a low-key burble from the quad-exhausts.
The handling is safe and predictable, with plenty of grip from the Haldex four-wheel drive system and well-weighted steering that provides a reassuring amount of feedback. Despite the standard 18-inch alloys the ride is no firmer than on any other model in the Superb range. In fact the only real drawback of the V6 is hefty CO2 emissions and mid-twenties economy - to be expected perhaps, but that makes it roughly as dirty as monstrous super saloons like the Jaguar XFR and BMW M5.
Passengers in the back are treated to a truly palatial amount of rear legroom and the 1,700-litre boot only further enhances its credentials as a discreet executive express. The interior is starting to show its age in places, with no USB connectivity for charging your smartphone, and no gearshift paddles on wheel for keener drivers, but the build quality remains exceptional considering the modest asking price.
The only downsides are that the awkward proportions of the saloon body and, and to our eyes, the design of the facelift isn’t as clean or attractive as the old model. So if you can afford to run it the V6 flagship is a hidden gem - although depreciation is likely to be steep.