How I fared with the 'luxury' Skoda that thinks it's a Merc
In focus: Skoda Superb L&K
I'm not daft enough - yet anyway - to expect you to believe that a Skoda can live with a Beemer or a Merc. Preposterous. It just doesn't happen, does it?
By sheer chance I happened to take the 'luxury' Skoda Superb version, called Laurin & Klement, for a few days recently and could not keep at bay comparisons - for the money - with the posh stars of the mid-size executive market.
Others, more scientific and energetic than I, have broken down the equipment, power, room and performance figures etc for comparison.
The Skoda fares well in some areas such as rear room and equipment, but obviously is shaded in others such as performance, especially when the 150bhp output is pitted against more powerful opponents.
Yet the mere fact I am mentioning the L&K in the same breath as some of the more illustrious cars does say something about it, surely?
We are talking about the likes of the new Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Jaguar XF to mention a few.
In truth, I'm a bit self-conscious about all this because I don't want anyone to think I'm promoting Skoda in the face of ridiculous odds.
Yet I'm prompted to do so on the basis that there was something about the car I drove hard and long to the midlands (twice), laden to the gills to Kilkenny and back to Dublin.
I couldn't and still can't put my finger on it but there was a connection. I hit on a few words to describe it: 'The Skoda that thinks it's a Merc'. That brought an energetic round of nodded approvals as we hurried to consume our bulging large brown bag meal of burgers and chips in the cousin's kitchen.
There is nothing to touch it on cabin space and rear legroom - not to mention a boot that's enormous (up 30 litres) and larger than the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. And it's so accessible - the Superb is a 5dr hatch, not a saloon, so getting heavy stuff into the boot was ultra easy.
Rear-seat passengers get their own air-con functions thanks to three-zone climate control. We also loved the Ambiente lighting (yes, the others have it too).
The 7spd automatic DSG gearbox was seamless and the engine was posh-quiet, only it really was a bit slow on the pick-up. That's where it loses most to the traditional execs.
Yet, take away the branding and ask the rear-seat passengers what they were in and I think they'd be hard-pressed to say when they looked at the room and leather and dash.
And then to a few negatives - relatively speaking. I'm impressed with the cabin and quality of the new Audi A6 - it and the Mercedes E-Class are well ahead of the lot. The Jaguar XF has never been strong on that department. However, it and the 5 Series shade the dynamics, which is where the Superb fared better than I expected.
Of course there is the one battle it can't win: it can't put a prestige emblem on the bonnet or boot lid.
For all that, I am convinced it is an exceptional piece of work for not much more than €40,000 - the price of a well-equipped Volkswagen Tiguan.
It's a car I'd find hard to ignore if I was in the market for a value for money motor with most of the bells and whistles you get on a Merc or a Beemer.
The really weird thing is it appeals on a number of levels: financial, comfort, quiet dynamics.
I'm glad I got the chance to try it out. I'm not saying it's the greatest thing since the sliced pan. but it ticks an awful of boxes.
I still like my BMW and Merc etc but . . .