SEAT has announced that its flagship Leon Cupra is set to become faster than ever. The latest Cupra 290 has doubtlessly been introduced in response to increasingly potent hot hatch opposition from the likes of the Honda Civic Type-R.
Hardly a slouch before, the changes to the new model help to knock a modest 0.1 seconds from the 0-62mph time. That means that when equipped with the optional dual clutch DSG automatic gearbox, the Cupra 290 will now cover the performance car benchmark in 5.7 seconds – precisely matching the Honda. Models equipped with the six-speed manual ‘box take 5.8 seconds. Top speed remains the same, limited to 155mph.
Where has SEAT found the gains?
The boost in performance is due to a bump in the 2.0-litre turbo engine’s power output from 276hp to 286hp. This increase comes courtesy of to tweaked components within the engine; a new coating for the pistons reduce friction, while more efficient heat management from the exhaust system plays a part, too. The latter has also been tweaked at the noisy end, and SEAT says it makes a more tuneful note than the model it replaces.
It isn’t just the power output that has improved though – while the 258lb ft peak torque figure is the same as before, it is now spread across a wider range of the power band, helping in-gear flexibility.
What else is new?
A little extra tech aims to sharpen up the driving experience relative to the outgoing model. Thanks to the inclusion of what SEAT calls Dynamic Chassis Control, the driver can alter the response of the dampers, enabling stiffer settings for performance driving and softer settings for a more relaxed cruise. Progressive steering is now also included as standard. This system adjusts the sensitivity of the power steering according to road speed, lightening up for parking manoeuvres and weighting up at higher speeds for a greater feeling of stability.
As before, a Sub8 performance pack is offered, as a nod to the most extreme version of the Leon which achieved a 7 minute 58 second time around the brutal Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. The Sub8 adds larger brakes and grippier sports tyres wrapped around a unique 19-inch alloy wheel design.
Exterior changes extend little further than the ‘Cupra 290′ badges and the standard fitment of full-LED lights, while a couple of bits of chrome trim perk up the interior. As before, the cabin is differentiated from lesser Leon models through the inclusion of sports seats trimmed in Alcantara, a Cupra steering wheel and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Buyers can choose from three and five door body styles, as well as an estate.
Prices and release date
SEAT hasn’t yet confirmed official prices for the Cupra 290, but don’t expect much variation from the current car’s £27,210 starting point.