Time for preconceptions to be set aside... - Veterinary Practice
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Time for preconceptions to be set aside…

ROBBIE TIFFIN tries out the new Skoda Superb and reports that it lives up to its name

CAN you imagine Katie Price winning the Man Booker prize for literature? How about George W. Bush winning the Nobel Peace Prize?

Of course not. While Katie Price is famous for the quote, “All I’ve ever really done is page 3 in The Sun, and not every man reads that.”, most decent books have more than three pages and George Dubbelya would have declared war on his own foot if he’d been able to find it without help.

Thankfully, the world remains vaguely sane and most things are what they seem; the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to Martti Ahtisaari for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won the 2008 Man Booker prize for literature. That’s a relief, but the good news doesn’t stop there.

If another prize were available for the most improved brand it should, without doubt, be awarded to Skoda for the deployment of Faustian dealings and a dalliance with necromancy in the achievement of the seemingly impossible in bringing about the most absolute reversal of its brand values.

Duckling to swan

What was once, quite frankly, a central European Eurovision hopeful has transformed itself from duckling to swan within a decade. A brand which was once a joke has become a jewel and a label which sees you as disparate rather than desperate.

Why are we so fascinated with labels? My recent holiday in South Africa left me having to spend four hours at Cairo airport awaiting my connecting flight back home to Heathrow. Normally, the concept of having to do this would be about as appreciated as having to spend a long car journey with only Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Mugabe for company. However, despite my initial protestations, this interlude actually provided a fascinating insight into how today’s aspirationals conduct themselves.

Anyone who has been to Cairo airport will testify that it is hardly funfilled and action-packed, unless you enjoy the concept of maxing out your Platinum card at any one of the multitude of watchmakers or jewellers. Therefore, the only sensible course of action (for the sensible and impoverished) is to take solace in the business lounge and do some serious people watching.

This was a fascinating experience as I had a cross section of modern professionals of all nationalities to base my aspersions on as they proceeded to parade around the seating areas.

The common activity seemed to be to twitter loudly on one’s BlackBerry, pausing only to re-arrange the oversize Bulgari sunglasses from one’s perfectly coiffeured hair and to dust the pastry flakes from one’s immaculate Dolce and Gabbana suit.

In the meantime, I was content in the knowledge that I was perhaps more sensibly attired for a 25-hour journey home.

I think it is now time for all preconceptions to be set aside. Skoda is now a well-established car manufacturer, and one which makes quite excellent cars. Being part of the VAG group, it has the combined knowledge and expertise, not to mention a common parts bin, which enjoys the experience and skill of VW and Audi engineers and designers.

The blindfold test

There was a time when happiness for Mercedes Benz was the knowledge that it provided all the high-class taxis in the free world. Wherever you were, you were never far from an E Class but now that crown has been lost to Skoda and the really quite excellent Superb.

If you get the chance, get someone close to you to try the blindfold test. Sit them in a Skoda Superb but don’t let them see what it is.

Then, after 10 minutes, ask them to name the car. Chances are they will be so impressed with the sepulchral quiet and the amazing leg-room in the back that they will name an up-market German marque. For anyone familiar with Audi, the dashboard, the switchgear, the door handles, the damped grab handles and the overall quality and familiarity with the design of these fittings will seduce them into seeing it as an Audi and, of course, they’d be right – up to a point.

When VW made the Phaeton, it set out to prove that it might be a humble household name but it could make cars as good as anything else on the planet. Not only that but it succeeded – completely. The Phaeton is utterly excellent and has been held back only by the price tag which normal people think is too steep for a VW.

Why spend all that on a stretched Passat when you could have a fatcat BMW for the price? If that was their logic, then their own vanity and our 21st century obsession with labels will have cheated them out of the most complete and exhilarating big saloon available at any price.

Quiet engine

The six litre W12 makes a Rolls Royce seem raucous and some of these engines found their way into the current stable of Bentleys and Lamborghinis, while the build quality knowledge has filtered down through the Audi and VW ranks to today’s Skoda Superb.

Like everything from VAG group , there are several engines to choose from but with the 3.6 litre V6 engine, Skoda has catapulted this model into the rarified extremes of the bigger cars with real muscle. With a full load of extras, this Skoda might set you back around £30,000 but it would be easy to think that it might even be worth it.

It’s never going to be overtly sporty but it will sprint from standstill to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds and tops out at a limited 155mph, but Skoda hasn’t been tempted to make the Superb sporty. If, instead, you think entry level 7 series BMW rather than Quattroporte, you’ll be closer to the truth.

No, it isn’t a fire eater but it is quick and hugely comfortable. It’s refined and reliable and, above all, it’s ludicrously cheap for such an accomplished vehicle. The question isn’t, “Is it car enough for me?” The real question is, “Am I man enough to drive a Skoda which is utterly superb?”

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