Good for Business
feature volkswagen phaeton vs skoda superb
With fears of a financial meltdown growing, Keith Adams discovers whether the MD's luxury motor really needs to cost the earth
Economists constantly tell us that the world is heading for a financial meltdown - and belt tightening will be the order of the day for everyone, come the big day the balloon goes up. Of course, that flash company director's motor is going to have to go in a new world where discretion is a positive corporate selling point.
That means a more sensible approach will be needed when choosing the new car for the MD's reserved space - but does trading down mean losing all those creature comforts he's come to take for granted? To see for ourselves, we tested two VAG cars which do largely the same job: ferrying businessmen over long distances in comfort and refinement. One costs 20,000; the other nearer 50,000...
In business class, Volkswagen's mightily impressive, if slow- selling Phaeton - a car that represents the pinnacle of a money-no- object VW, engineered to take on the big boys and establish the maker of the "People's Car" as a premium brand to take on the might of BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.
Facing it down is the pile-'em-high Skoda Superb, a car that in recent years has become the thinking minicab driver's wheels of choice. Based closely on the Chinese version of the VW Passat, and sporting an extended wheelbase, it's a car that offers more inches of legroom per pound than any of its opposition.
It is apt that it is a Skoda that is going for a prize plutocrat car scalp - we're talking about value alternatives here and as recently as 1990, the company's products were readily associated with the cheap and nasty Communist built fodder from the bottom end of the UK price lists. VW's takeover and ultimate turnaround of the Czech company is a lesson of hope, although it's now not possible to buy a genuinely cheap Skoda.
However, lined up alongside the Phaeton, it's a bargain. To put it into context, the Superb 2.0TDI is 2,000 less than the area manager's Golf TDI Sport.
In discreet silver, sitting on 17-inch alloys, with a spacious wood and leather interior, and Xenon headlamps, it ticks all the standard business class credentials, and won't look out of place locked in the outside lane. Under the bonnet, the 138bhp, 236lb/ft TDI allows this amply sized saloon to hustle along at a fair old pace, too.
It respects our downsizing brief, too: 40mpg on the domestic airport run, and nearer 50mpg when heading for the all-important board meeting at the other end of the country. Meetings in the Corporate Head Office in Germany will see the Superb cruise at 120mph, without seriously denting that excellent consumption figure.
However, pampered bosses might feel that their downgrade to economy class is a little too much. Engine refinement on the Skoda isn't the greatest, with the high-pressure, Pumpe Dse injection system creating more noise than expected. However, on the motorway loping along in sixth gear, you'll be hard pressed to hear it - and that's what counts.
Where the Superb really does impress - even compared with the Phaeton - is in the sheer size of its interior. It's huge - the first time you open the massive rear doors and climb in, you'll be struck by how much sprawling room there is, even for the portliest of company directors. Compared with the Phaeton, it's massive...
That lengthy wheelbase also results in a pretty settled ride - it's no class-leader for the keen driver, but with all that interior room and the healthy company purchase ledger you'll get from running a Superb, will you really care?
Although it's not the traditional choice for your average company director, the VW Phaeton is typical of the type of motor he'll be using as part of his business. …