It would be fair to say that the Cupra Formentor VZ5 was met with a favourable reception on PH when first teased a couple of weeks ago - no mean feat for a compact SUV. "Excellent. Exactly the sort of out of the box thinking that Cupra will need to distinguish itself", read one comment; "That's pretty interesting. Wasn't expecting that", said another. Well, here's the VZ5 in all its glory, and it would seem those eagerly anticipating the car have plenty to be happy about.
Chiefly, of course, they'll be encouraged by what's under the bonnet. We were worried that the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo might be strangled to protect the place of fast Audis in the group hierarchy, but in fact the Formentor produces 390hp - just 10hp less than the outgoing RS3. With 354lb ft as well, Cupra claims the VZ5 can reach 62mph in just 4.2 seconds. The seven-speed DSG is the only transmission option, as in other installations of the engine. Cupra claims the five-cylinder sound emanating from the quad exhausts - stacked diagonally, Lexus RC-F style - is "without the need for any artificial enhancement."
The VZ5's chassis has been overhauled compared to the regular Formentor's to better handle the power. It's 10mm lower than the 310hp model, for starters, with wider tracks and huge 18-inch brake discs - clasped by six-piston Akebono calipers - fitted as well. The 4Drive all-wheel drive remains standard fit - albeit without the torque vectoring technology seen in cars like the Golf R - in addition to Adaptive Chassis Control with 15 levels of damping adjustment. The five drive modes from the regular Formentor - Comfort, Sport, Individual, Offroad and Cupra - can also be found in the VZ5, with what's being called an "optimised" chassis controller to focus on the Formentor's "precise driving dynamics". Given the 310hp Formentor already handles pretty smartly, there should be little reason to doubt Cupra's claim, though the bigger engine will surely add some more weight over the nose.
This being the flagship Formentor - as well as the most powerful Cupra or SEAT yet produced - Cupra has ensured the VZ5 stands out. There are flared arches to accommodate the wider tracks, chunkier front intakes, a carbon splitter, a newly sculpted bonnet, those four distinctive exhaust pipes and a rear diffuser, the latter also in carbon. Plus, of course, a smattering of copper accents, including on the 20-inch wheels, as well as black chrome Cupra details. The colour seen here is Taiga Grey, unique to the VZ5 (and rather smart, we'd say), which is to be offered alongside Midnight Black, Magnetic Tech Matte and Petrol Blue Matte.
An interior spec has been designed to complement the Taiga Grey option, the upholstery described as "graduating graphics in Dinamica Black... perforated with a copper spot design"; fortunately, the pics make that look better than it sounds. Your other choices will be petrol blue leather or black leather with brown accents. Presumably Petrol Blue with matching interior leather - surely the double denim of car specs - won't be possible for a brand as style conscious as Cupra, but let's see. All VZ5s get 'CUPBucket' seats that are unique to the model; Cupra says they are "mounted low in the cabin... and deliver a sportier seating position", which sounds like good news. Whether they'll make operating the fiddly 12-inch infotainment touchscreen any easier remains to be seen.
All in all, though, the VZ5 is shaping up rather nicely. It looks good, it's been blessed with stacks of performance and it'll likely drive well if the 2.0-litre variant is anything to go by. There's one teeny tiny issue: Cupra will only build 7,000 examples. And then there's the rather more significant problem: they're all left-hand drive. Quite why this is happening Cupra doesn't elaborate on, but it looks an especially bizarre move given the UK's voracious appetite for a performance SUV. The only justification for the move at the moment is that it "ensures exclusivity"; perhaps if this VZ5 is received well then series production (and right-hand drive) might happen, since its position at the top of the Formentor range looks entirely logical. Cupra says it'll be accepting orders from Q4 this year, albeit without clarity yet on the status of the UK - we'll keep you posted.
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