Where the wild things are

Skoda dances to The Beatles and carries that weight

GED BULMER

IT MAY come about just once per year, but the Bulmer family’s annual camping trip is a thing to behold, if only for the sheer audacity of the amount of gear we manage to cram into the luggage bay of the poor chariot at our mercy.

This year the hapless victim was the Skoda Superb wagon, and what better way to put its all-wheel-drive system and cavernous cargo bay to the test than take it bush for a long weekend?

The trigger for this sojourn into the wild was a mate’s annual clarion call to join with him in an orgy of tree-felling, dubbed the ‘Merrijig Chainsaw Massacre’, nominally to restock his cabin’s dwindling wood supply.

Displaying the sort of cavity-filling ability to shame a dentist, I packed the Superb’s generous boot – all 625 litres of it – at a density no Skoda engineer ever thought possible.

Suitably laden, we set off on the three-hour drive over Aussie backroads, complete with potholes, yumps, blind crests and roadkill, with an honour guard of stout-looking red gums a constant reminder of the need to stay to alert.

The variable road quality, including a 10km stretch of corrugated dirt, was a great opportunity to sample the adaptive dampers.

These are part of the optional Tech Pack, which lists for $3400 and offers three modes accessed via the touchscreen.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the combined weight of four passengers and a boot-load of camping gear, the firmer Sport setting proved the best option. What was a little surprising, especially given the Superb’s handsome 19-inch wheels, was the fact that Sport mode manages to avoid the teeth-rattling firmness of some such systems, providing a sweet blend of ride comfort and body control.

The latter was particularly appreciated, given those imposing river red gums. In fact, the Superb maintained truly impressive handling precision and roadholding, despite the weight gain, something sorely appreciated when carving such ducking and diving backroads with a car-load of kids.

The punchy 206kW turbocharged four-pot also proved utterly unfazed by the hefty weight penalty. Like us, it seemed to relish the fresh country air, delivering brisk overtaking performance and effortless cruising.

Remarkably, when the weekend was over, I somehow managed to cram all that gear back in, plus the mandatory clumps of mud and dirt, much to the amazement of my camping neighbour, who confided that he thought I must have had a trailer stashed in the bushes nearby.

Origin of the species

Skoda’s origins as a carmaker can be traced back to the SKODA Hispano Suiza luxury saloon, launched in 1926. The SKODA industrial group from Pilsen bought the licence to produce cars by the originally Spanish company Hispano-Suiza, hence the convoluted name. The first production vehicle was completed in May 1926 and served as state limousine for the then President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk. Only 100 SKODA Hispano Suizas were produced between then and 1929.

SKODA SUPERB 206TSI 4X4 WAGON

Date acquired: September 2016 Price as tested: $60,190 This month: 1970km @ 12.2L/100km Overall: 3365km @ 10.9/100km WEEK 12 34 44 3 0 0 6 5 6 7 3 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY