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Thursday 2nd December 2010


PH FLEET: SEAT LEON CUPRA R

RacingPete welcomes a bright yellow addition to the PH car park


Twenty years ago some things would have seemed like madness: caring about 140 characters of 'txt' from a celebrity tweeter; having access to a world of knowledge via a little electronic gadget in your pocket; and putting over 250bhp through the front wheels of your shopping car.

Well the brave new world has been around for a while, and as far as the front wheel drive power race goes, several manufacturers have put forward contenders. Recently Renault gave you the Megane 250 (250bhp), Volkswagen entered the fray with a Scirroco R (261bhp), and Ford trumped the lot with the Focus RS (300bhp).

Well, with all that excitement going on we could hardly ignore it, so say hello to the latest PH acquisition - and a relatively recent manufacturer entry to the 250bhp+ cadre - in the shape of a yellow SEAT Leon Cupra R.

SEAT's most powerful road engine
SEAT's most powerful road engine
The yellow peril produces 261bhp and incorporates XDS to stop that usual inside wheel spinning up. This poses the first problem with my new ride; I am not an electronics fan, and I'll take a good old lump of engineering over an electronic differential any day. So why, in the few weeks since the car has been around, have I have yet to settle into the usual pre-drive ritual of turning off the anti-hooligan button?

This does slightly surprise me, but the truth is the XDS hasn't seem too over-rigorous as yet, and I haven't quite felt the need. There is a a flashing traction light trying to steal my attention regularly, but the system does remove some of the torque steer you would expect, without being too over-bearing.

Lovely twin pipe action
Lovely twin pipe action
There is one electronic device in the car that is starting to get wearisome though, even after a few short weeks. SEAT has built a car and engine that is pretty quiet in the cabin, and certainly a welcome break from the noise in my previous Nissan 370Z. But the engineers (or should that be 'marketeers') have decided we need help to relate this car to its racing WTCC sibling (the petrol one), and that it needs to make the appropriate noise.

This has meant the fitment of small speakers in the footwell of the car, pumping out electronic engine noises matching the revolutions of the engine. To be fair it is only really noticeable when you hold a gear at higher revs, but I am slightly worried that if I put Cher's vocoder-enhanced Believe on the stereo at the same time, a fake electronic sub-universe will be created. (Pete, you're losing it... Ed.)

I'm sure I have a coat like that
I'm sure I have a coat like that
Other elements of the cabin are growing on me. The quilted leather seats are a nice place to sit for short or long journeys, and they are positioned for a reasonable driving position too.

On the outside, the SEAT has an element of Q-car-ness in spite of the lary paint job. The frontal changes are subtle over a bog standard Leon, but the rear features more visual expressions of the power that lies beneath the skin, with centrally mounted twin exhausts. (That I am told sound lovely from the outside.)

After a string of rear wheel drive cars, this is going to be quite a different experience, and predictabley I'm spending far less time coming out of junctions sideways. But I am looking forward to spending more time in the car, and when I finally get the iPod connector in the SEAT to actually recognise my electronic phone device, I shall doubtless feel compelled to add a few txt characters of my own to the tweetosphere. Thing's probably aren't so mad after all.

Author: RacingPete
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