Euan Doig

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For a luxurious, practical and powerful tow car on a budget, how about a 2008-2015 Škoda Superb? Our expert looks at what this clever model offers

New Škodas have recently performed very well in our regular tow tests and at our annual Tow Car Awards.

But if you don’t have the funds to buy new, what tow car potential does the 2008-2015 Škoda Superb offer caravanners?

Let’s find out!

Superb by name and nature?

There’s a number of words most people use to describe the second-generation Škoda Superb: ‘big’, ‘huge’, ‘roomy’, ‘spacious’, ‘cavernous’... you get the picture.

To do so, however, is to do it a bit of a disservice, because it comes across as a bit of a one-trick pony, and it is a long way from being that.

For a start, the Superb is actually three cars in one.

The Hatch has a clever tailgate arrangement that means it’s both a four-door saloon and a five-door hatchback, and there’s also a separate estate model.

And we know what tow car ability the second-gen model has, regularly receiving strong ratings at our Tow Car Awards testing, in standard Superb, 4x4 and Estate guises.

The 2008-2015 Škoda Superb range

When the car was launched it had a comprehensive offering of petrol and diesel engines.

The petrols started with a 125bhp, 1.4-litre TSI, carried on through a 160bhp, 1.8-litre turbo (and later a 197bhp 2.0) and up to a 3.6-litre V6.

Caravanners are likely to be more interested in the diesel side of things, which was equally comprehensive.

The range kicked off with 1.9- and 2.0-litre TDI PD (pümpe-duse) engines, which were first seen powering the ark.

These were consigned to the scrapheap in 2010, and along came a much smoother, quieter and more efficient 2.0 TDI CR (common-rail) engine in 138bhp and 168bhp forms, along with a super-efficient 1.6-litre TDI for the new Greenline model.

Model history

Škoda laid out its stall pretty clearly with the first Superb, which was in essence a stretched VW Passat Mk5 – it provided a vast amount of rear-seat space, a comfortable ride and plenty of kit for a bargain price.

It was part of Škoda’s plan at the time to offer a premium experience for a common-or-garden cost.

The job the second version had to do was to offer all that space and luxury, while distancing itself and the Škoda brand from its parent company.

It was time for Škoda to cast off the image of selling VW hand-me-downs and become a premium car maker in its own right.

Prestige motoring for less?

To that end, the Superb Mk2 offered both luxury and innovation.

Every model had climate control, alloys, electric windows and mirrors, and more airbags than a balloon factory.

The second rung of the trim ladder was SE, which added rear parking sensors, cruise control, larger alloys and an umbrella hidden in the driver’s door – this trim definitely offers the best balance of comfort and cost for tow car buyers on a budget.

Innovation came in the form of the ‘Twindoor’ tailgate, which was both a conventional boot and a huge hatchback.

This allowed owners to open it as a boot when there were only a few shopping bags to be placed in the luggage area, or as a hatchback when a larger item had to be carried.

Checking out the engines

If you’re a petrol fan, we’d advise you to avoid the 1.4 TSI, which will struggle with a large caravan.

The 1.8- or 2.0-litre TSI are the ones to go for, because they are seriously punchy.

You’ll still have to rev them pretty hard, though, so be prepared for fairly frequent fuel stops. As for the 3.6 V6... don’t be silly.

Diesel is the way forward. The economy-focused 1.6-litre will cope with a trailer, but pace will be gentle.

The 2.0 TDI 140 is a great option, offering both strength and economy.

The Škoda Superb has either a light, easy-shifting manual gearbox or a slick six-speed DSG automatic, both of which are equally good.

Cabin space is vast, particularly in the rear, and the boot is big enough to play five-a-side in.

Trouble spots

The second-generation Superb has been subject to four recalls during its life.

Early cars were recalled for a faulty earth connection in the heater. This carried a risk of fire, so make sure the work has been done on the car you’re looking at.

The DSG auto was the cause of the second recall, because the clutch would occasionally register a temperature that was too high and then disengage, causing the car to coast to a halt.

The 2.0-litre TDI engine was the source of the third, because a faulty batch of common-rail fuel pipes could fail and cause fuel to leak all over the engine bay.

The final recall concerned an incorrectly attached lead at the fuse box, which could cause some electronic items to fail, and render the boot-opening mechanism inoperative.

Keep on the right track!

There have also been reports of the car’s ‘Columbus’ sat-nav system failing, plus heavy oil consumption from the petrol engines.

Check that the sat-nav works exactly as it should, because it’ll be costly to replace.

Look at oil level and condition, and make sure there are no signs of ‘mayonnaise’ under the oil filler cap, indicating possible head-gasket failure. Check the exhaust gases for blue oil smoke.

Timing chains are also a weak spot on petrol engines, so study the history to make sure any change has been done on time.

Verdict

The Škoda Superb makes a fine tow car: strong, stable at speed and able to stop smoothly.

It’s also roomy enough to carry a family and all their luggage, and full of luxury accoutrements.

Škoda has also repeatedly topped ownership satisfaction surveys.

Be warned, though, that many Superbs have led hard lives as taxis, so it’s worth getting a proper mechanical inspection before you buy.

Our pick of the Škoda Superb Mk2 range is the 2.0 TDI CR 140 SE. The engine is strong enough for towing, keeps itself to itself and sips diesel, and SE trim comes with all the kit you could need.

On the other hand, we would avoid the 3.6 V6 Elegance automatic, because while the V6 puts out 260bhp, so towing a heavy caravan won’t be an issue, it’s thirsty – and you’ll also pay £295 a year in road tax.

What you need to know

So, what can you expect to pay for one of these cars?

Early examples are almost a decade old now, and as we’ve mentioned already are popular with the private-hire business, so tread carefully at the bottom end of the market.

Prices start from around £2500, but such cars will have high six-figure mileages.

Upping the budget to around £6k will get you a well-appointed SE or Elegance in fair nick, but it’ll still have a mileage of more than 75,000.

If you can spend £10k you’ll get a lightly used, high-spec example with sensible miles, while £15k will land you a much newer one-owner car.

Here are some useful figures (for a 2014 Škoda Superb 2.0 TDI 140):

  • Kerbweight 1740kg
  • 85% match 1480kg
  • Towing limit 1800kg
  • Towball limit 75kg
      

According to quotes we have obtained from PF Jones, if you wanted to fit a Westfalia swan-neck towbar it would cost you £110.16 and it would cost £209.52 to fit a Westfalia detachable towbar (fitting extra).

And looking at servicing costs, an interim service for a Škoda Superb 2.0 TDI would be £193.00 or £293.35 for a full service (figures from Servicing Stop).

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