Don't turn your nose up
I will probably get into trouble for saying this but I believe there is still awful snobbery out there when it comes to cars. You'd think the recession would have made us far more realistic -- should I say respectful? -- in our outlook.
I was quite taken aback at the reaction to this tour-de-force, the Skoda Superb Combi (estate) 4x4.
Oh yeah, they were all impressed at the size of it, the amount of rear-seat space and the capacity of the boot. I reckoned there was enough room there to carry the national debt in 10-euro notes. And that's saying something.
It also had four-wheel drive ("great for the big freeze we're going to get", they chimed).
But when I mentioned it cost in the 'high 30s', there was a communal intake of breath, turning up of noses in snobbery and eyebrows in disdain.
"For a Skoda?" they queried.
Yes, for a Skoda. A huge, powerful, massively equipped 'executive' estate with four-wheel drive so you don't get stuck in a physical as well as a mental rut.
And then silence would settle. They'd say no more, but they had their minds locked into old default mode. And then, worst of all, the faint praise of 'grand car'.
My test version, of course, was something of a flagship, a monument to what can be achieved with a lot of techno/comfort bells and whistles that nudged the price into heady heights -- for a Skoda.
You can, of course, buy one without the 4x4 and the 2-litre diesel engine for €26,025. And I know from experience their eyes would light up with that sort of money for this sort of car. So it would appear Skoda, and several potential buyers, have a bit to go before anything bearing its logo priced in the 'high 30s' meets with more universal acceptance.
Thankfully, I did not need the assistance of the 4x4 over the course of my lengthy sojourn behind the wheel. It spanned a couple of long country journeys and a fair bit of M50 driving, as well as a lot of in-and-out-of-town trips.
There were no snowy inclines to test the 4x4, no stretches of icy roads to feel the extra traction.
You see, the system really works when something isn't working.
Most of the time it just needs to give most of the power to the front wheels. But it nips in to give any wheel -- front or back -- a bit of a boost if it's needed, depending on conditions.
The 2-litre diesel engine packed a lot of punch (170bhp) but was a tad thirstier than I'd expected. And no, I didn't push it that hard.
There's a huge boot in the Skoda Superb Combi with helpful ways to carry and secure bits and pieces; it's a great car for a long journey with the whole family.
There are few cars to compare with the sort of cabin space this affords. That, and the level of equipment, sets it apart as something notable.
I have no difficulty comparing this with motors that massage the snobbish egos in those of us honest enough to admit to having them.
Those cars include the BMW 5-series Touring, Audi A6 Avant, Mercedes E-Class Touring; not to mention well-equipped estate versions of less roomy motors such as the Volkswagen Passat and Peugeot 508 estates, both of which are excellent in their own right but don't have the Superb's awesome room.
Several of these cars have more verve and vroom and that is something I missed in the Skoda. We are all spoilt these days but the Superb is, maybe, too big to give you that 'drive me' feel that I have experienced in particular with the Audi A6 Avant and, in the smaller car segment, the Peugeot 508 estate.
As well as that, the Superb could do with looking a bit snazzier.
Overall, I was a little disappointed with my drive in it. I never got beyond admiration for what it represents: a huge, well-equipped car for the money. A little bit more pzazz would work wonders.
And that would stop the snobs in their tracks.
In the meantime, for those who want a really big, hugely comfortable motor and are not bothered about badges, you have to give this a serious drive.