Just as we turn off the M1 at junction 14, our car’s range indicator clicks around to 875 miles. That’s nearly 100 miles more than its WLTP figures predict and, in theory, means we could now schlep to Dundee and back without troubling a credit card.
You see, the Skoda Superb Estate we’re in is powered by an ultra-frugal diesel engine, aka the much-maligned, pilloried-by-the-tabloid-press, filthy, NOx-belching oil-burner that nearly brought this car’s parent company to its knees seven years ago as a result of the Dieselgate emissions scandal.
People have taken the bad press to heart, too. According to the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), diesel engines powered 50.8% of all cars bought in the UK a decade ago, thanks in part to government incentives based on CO2 emissions, which tended to favour diesels.
Last year, that figure was just 14.3%, with the SMMT predicting that by the end of next year, diesel sales will make up a mere 7.9% of the car market. In other words, Rudolf Diesel’s 130-year-old technology is on the way to being consigned to the car history books.
But bad press or not, a diesel car’s range capability is still in demand by some drivers. Before the first lockdown, an independent survey commissioned by the RAC found that business car users were driving 24,000-25,000 miles a year, and even in a period that included lockdowns (May 2020-2021), it was still around 17,000 miles. So as life – and commerce – returns to normal, 500-mile-plus working weeks will be the norm again for such drivers.
Which is why we’re in the Superb today, using it just as a busy, long-haul business driver would, plying this nation’s main artery to find out if its fitness for purpose can yet be challenged. I feel quite at home, too. Pre-lockdown, I was among the extreme commuters, with an annual mileage of around 50,000.