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SEAT’s dynamic new Leon Cupra R rewrites the ‘hot’ hatchback rules, setting new standards not only for SEAT itself but also for the market as a whole. The new model is not just the fastest and most powerful Leon of all, but also incorporates an entirely new sporting chassis concept for ultimate driving pleasure. Among many highlights, the new Leon Cupra R:
Juxtapose the letter ‘R’ and the word ‘Cupra’ and you have the ultimate sporting expression within the SEAT range. With 180 hp on offer, the Ibiza Cupra R became the target to beat in the compact car class. Now the spotlight turns on the SEAT Leon Cupra R, which is the most powerful front-wheel drive vehicle in its market segment.
To achieve this feat, SEAT’s Martorell Technical Centre enjoyed a special collaboration with experts in the development of high performance vehicles: engineers from SEAT Sport. They have drawn on their experience in motorsport competition to create the quintessence of the Leon concept, one of the most charismatic models currently produced in Spain.
Some might suggest that the Leon Cupra R is merely an extreme evolution of the 180 hp 1.8-liter Leon Turbo, but that would be too simplistic. Although the mechanical basis of the two models is similar, the highly efficient four cylinder, 20 valve, 1,781 cc engine has been fine tuned to deliver greatly enhanced power and torque figures of 210 hp and 270 Nm (199 lb/ft of torque) respectively.
Such increases have, naturally, led to new dynamic requirements: more power leads to higher potential speeds and, therefore, to greater demands on the vehicle. It requires a chassis that rises to the occasion, capable of transmitting the horsepower to the Tarmac, of providing greater dynamic stability under all driving conditions and, of course, of promising greater braking capacity. SEAT’s Agile Chassis Concept offers all this and more. It is a truly revolutionary interpretation of what constitutes a sports chassis.
The adoption of the Agile Chassis has meant new coil spring and damper ratings, revised front suspension geometry, completely redesigned suspension mounts and more direct and responsive steering.
In addition, the Leon Cupra R features the latest generation ESP stability control as standard as well as emergency braking assistance. In fact, the vehicle has one of the most powerful braking systems in its segment, with four large ventilated discs offering greater resistance to fading. Spectacular, large diameter Brembo discs are available as an option, with red four-pot calipers highly visible through larger, more elegant wheel rims. ABS anti-lock brakes, naturally, are also standard.
That said, the new Leon Cupra R needs no flashy displays to project a powerful image. Its purposeful, sporty character is made abundantly clear by the compact look, lowered suspension, outsized intake vents, large diameter wheels and a few other exterior details.
Like a true sprinter, its interior is focused on the job in hand. Devoid of superfluous elements that might distract the drive from his task, the Leon Cupra R passenger compartment — dashboard, carpeting and upholstery — is completely decked out in black. This stylish elegance is highlighted by the white background of the instrument dials, steel colored pedals and footrests and other touches of color such as the gear shift pattern which is embossed in red on the black leather gear lever knob. The letter “R”, stitched in red on the backrests of the seats, is another reminder of the special nature of the ultimate Leon.
The apparently austere interior, however, is not reflected in the comfort or safety aspects of the car. The Leon Cupra R features, as standard, ABS anti-lock brakes, TCS traction control, ESP stability control, climate control and a powerful stereo sound system. There are also seat-belt pretensioners as well as twin front and side airbags on both the standard seats and the optional Recaro ones — the latter combining with a 2+1 back seat arrangement.
But the proof of the pudding is in the driving, and the promise of the Leon Cupra R’s performance lives up to expectations. Being some 163 kg lighter and more powerful even than the V6-powered Leon 4 Cupra (the weight/output ratio is 6.6 kg/hp), SEAT Sport’s finely honed athlete peaks at 237 km/h, sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in only 7.2 seconds and covers a standing kilometer in 27.4 seconds. There’s even the specially tuned exhaust note of a purebred sports car: call it the roar of the Leon.
Unveiled as a prototype at the 2001 Barcelona Motor Show, the Leon Cupra R has now come of age to become the sporting flagship of the SEAT range and the new point of reference in its segment for performance and driving pleasure.