That makes any other wagon available for the same money look tiny. On paper, it even eclipses the carrying capacity of the estates that spring to mind as the most capacious and most useful available at any money – Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1855 litres) included.
Read the full Skoda Superb review
Doesn’t that make this new Skoda the best estate in the world, then? In order to answer that question, you need an all-time load-lugging great to compare it with, such as the latest Mercedes E220 Bluetec – as well as a tape measure. You’ll need some props, too. Bald statistics seldom reveal where real-world brilliance is to be found, after all. And parting a two-year-old from her trike, as it turns out, is relatively easy on a rainy afternoon.
Before we get our hands dirty, an admission. We’re aware that the number of Mercedes brand devotees willing to defect to Skoda on the strength of Autocar’s say-so will be low. There will be a gulf between the average UK transaction prices of the E-Class and Superb estates, and the fact that we’ve managed to raise versions that are quite closely matched on power and performance level, and separated by less than £5000 on list price, suggests the cars are closer rivals than they really are.
Yet the Skoda wastes few opportunities to confound the inferiority that the badge snobs will expect of it. The vast load bay we already know about, but the Superb is also shorter and lighter than the E-Class, as well as more powerful and faster-accelerating. More capable, too, thanks to the availability of Haldex-type four-wheel drive, whereas the Benz remains rear-wheel drive only.
The E-Class counters meekly on paper, with slightly lower CO2 emissions and better claimed fuel economy. But the vitals more important to estate regulars, from maximum allowable towing weight on a braked trailer to maximum payload weight in the boot, are all on the Superb’s side.
Credit to Skoda, too, for keeping the Superb’s costs of ownership low. Our market sources suggest that even this top-of-the-range Superb will retain 43% of its showroom value after three years and 36,000 miles – impressive considering that the E-Class is rated at only 45.2%. The Skoda also charts 11 insurance groups lower than the Mercedes – a difference of hundreds of pounds a year for a typical renewal premium.
So far, so good for the Skoda. Tougher territory now, though. Attractiveness is a facet so tightly bound up with desirability and brand allure that it seems impossible to discuss the Superb’s styling in isolation. It’s a handsome car, sure enough – to these eyes, better looking than the E-Class, whose boxy rear end and high roofline both seem relatively awkward. Handsome enough that you wouldn’t care about turning down a Benz for a Skoda, though? I doubt it.
The Superb’s cabin, as well as being large, is rich, solid and very pleasant indeed. Nonetheless, it’s on cabin quality that the E-Class distinguishes itself. The difference between the two isn’t huge. Both have lined storage bins and smooth, carefully stitched leathers. Both are cars of apparent quality.
The Skoda has bigger oddment cubbies. But the E-Class’s fixtures and fittings feel that little bit more substantial in your hands than the Skoda’s and its cabin is, by a nose, the nicer place to be.
Time to measure up and get loading. I had hoped that this bit would be straightforward – that the car with the bigger real-world load bay would swallow the golf clubs, stepladder, baby buggy and toddler’s trike, while the other one would refuse. In fact, with the smaller section of the split-fold rear seats folded in both cases, both cars surmounted the challenge. There is little, it seems, that a Superb Estate will carry that an E220 Estate won’t. If only we’d had a washing machine, a 70in flatscreen TV and an enormous cuddly toy.