We have all driven the Seat Leon Cupra and in fact it sat top of our leader board with a time of 105.33 set around Mondello Parks National Circuit for quite some time. Now the Coupé and 5-door hatchback version have been joined by the versatile ST version and all have even more power. The Leon Cupra has been given a power boost and now delivers a maximum of 290 PS. The Cupra 290 with optional DSG transmission catapults from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds, and in 5.8 seconds with the manual gearbox. Top speed is limited, electronically to 250km/h. The maximum torque of 350 Newton meters is now available across an even broader rev range from 1,700 to 5,800 rpm but against this, the new Leon Cupra 290 is astonishingly efficient. The average fuel consumption for both power variants is just 6.6 litres with DSG and 6.7 litres with the Leon SC manual gearbox. This equates to CO2 figures of just 149 and 156 grams (Leon SC). The performance of the Leon Cupra 290 can be raised even further with the optional Performance pack, which includes a set of Brembo brake calipers, an exclusive wheel design and special tyres. From the outside, the new model at the top of the SEAT line-up is recognisable only from the Cupra 290 lettering on the rear end. Inside, it boasts chromed trim elements, with high-gloss black available as an option. And the new, increased power output is audible, too – a retuned exhaust system gives the sports engine an even more refined tone. With the DCC dynamic chassis control, front-axle differential lock and progressive steering all fitted as standard, the new Leon achieves considerably faster laps on the track than its already impressive predecessor. At the same time, it is significantly more relaxed to drive, with a surprisingly refined level of comfort even on long motorway journeys. Safe and reliable deceleration comes courtesy of the Cupra-specific, high-performance brake system, recognisable by its red callipers.
The new generation of the DCC dynamic chassis control developed specifically for the Cupra is even more sensitive and responsive, adapting the chassis characteristics to the prevailing conditions in a matter of milliseconds. The same applies to the driver’s preferences – the Cupra Drive Profile permits extensive individualisation of the ride. The new front-axle differential lock significantly improves the traction and handling of this front-wheel drive car. The system uses a multi-plate package that is hydraulically actuated and electronically controlled. The maximum locking force is 1,600 Newton metres and, in extreme cases, 100 percent of the drive can be sent to one wheel. The differential lock is integrated into all the handling systems like ESP and EDS. It improves not only the traction, but also reduces torque steer. Furthermore, its sensitive control has no negative impact on steering feel. Also included as standard equipment, the progressive steering improves the agile handling of the new Leon Cupra. The driver experiences a precise and relaxed steering feel, less steering movement is required, reducing the number of grip changes, especially in cornering or parking manoeuvres. The steering in the new Leon Cupra works with a progressive ratio through variable toothing on the rack. The ESP handling system has been further developed specifically for the Leon Cupra and enables a very sporty driving style with full retention of safety functionality. For extremely dynamic use, such as on a race track, it can also be deactivated in two stages – the first stage deactivates the traction control and puts the ESP into sport mode, permitting greater yaw angles. The second stage deactivates the ESP completely.
The Cupra Drive Profile enables the characteristics of the Leon Cupra to be adapted across a very wide range to meet the individual preferences of the driver. Alongside the Comfort and Sport modes, the Cupra mode was, of course, a focal point for the engineers in Martorell. Throttle response is particularly sensitive in this setting, while the DSG operates in its sportiest shifting mode and the sound actuator supports the full tone of the turbocharged engine. DCC dynamic chassis control, progressive steering and the front-axle differential lock also operate at their sportiest settings. Emotional design is a great strength of the Leon family. For the Cupra, this has been developed one step further. The new front end with its large air intakes and full-LED headlamps ensures a powerful look, as do the rear skirt with its diffuser effect and the two oval end pipes. The alloy wheels are exclusive to the Cupra, while the red brake callipers and tinted side and rear windshields underscore its individuality. The focus of the interior is on the Cupra sports steering wheel in its own unique design complete with shifting paddles for the optional DSG transmission, as well as the top sports seats in Alcantara finished with white stitching. Black full-leather upholstery, likewise with white stitching, is also available. For extreme lateral grip, there are optional bucket seats. The pedals and entry sills are made from aluminium. The Cupra 290 is visually differentiated by its unique 19-inch wheels with a titanium paint finish, the Aerodynamic Pack with the spoiler on the rear roof edge, Cupra lettering on the brake callipers and black exterior mirror housings. The trim elements in the cockpit of this top sporty variant are in gleaming chrome or optional black. The Leon Cupra also states its position as the top model in the SEAT range through the progressive steering, dynamic chassis control, front-axle differential lock, Cupra Drive Profile and high-performance brake system with 19-inch wheels (Cupra 290). Also standard equipment, are the full-LED headlamps and the LED rear lights. Alongside their distinctive design, LED headlamps have many further benefits – they illuminate the road ahead at a colour temperature of 5,300 Kelvin. Because this is very similar to daylight, it places very little strain on the eyes. When it comes to efficiency, the LEDs consume minimal energy – dipped beam, for instance, draws just 20 watts per unit.
The top sports seats in Alcantara, the Cupra steering wheel and the Media System Plus with a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen are all among the standard interior features in addition to the extensive base equipment of the Leon FR. One particular feature in the Cupra interior is the ambient lighting. LEDs in the door panels emphasise the contours of the interior design and add to the premium feel of the passenger compartment. At the same time, the ambient lighting offers occupants improved orientation and an even greater sense of spaciousness. The colour of the LEDs can be adapted via the Cupra Drive Profile – they glow red in Cupra mode, with the standard setting being white. The SEAT Leon Cupra 290 arrives in Ireland in January 2016 priced at €36,495 for the 5D version and €37,495 for the ST.