The fact SEAT’s Leon Cupra R is a culmination of the sum of its parts has probably done it more harm than good, because the expectation for such a car is extremely high. In isolation, the front-driver is a brilliant machine, rapid thanks to that 310hp and 280lb ft-producing EA888 motor and sharp due to top-spec MQB adaptive damping. But place it head-to-head with the Civic Type R, as PH did last year, and it falls short of the very best for ultimate interaction with the driver. Perhaps now, however, the introduction of an R ST, which comes with all-wheel drive in a roomier body, will promote Seat’s top performance model appropriately.
Promising to meld the hottest hardware of the platform with the practicality of an ST body, the potent estate uses the same specification turbocharged four-cylinder TSI as its hatch sibling, albeit in post-WLTP 300hp form, and drives through a Haldex-clutch all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed DSG gearbox. This added traction gives the estate a healthy advantage over its sibling, with the zero to 62mph dash taking just 4.9 seconds – nine tenths better than the hatch. It is, of course, identical to the technically very (very) similar VW Golf R estate's time.
The R ST’s chassis utilises the same dynamic damping as the five-door hatch and gets camber set to negative two degrees both front and rear. The car rides on 19-inch wheels painted in Cupra copper and there are Brembo calipers to slow things down, as with the hatch. Actually, most of the car’s styling and features are identical or very nearly that to the ‘regular’ R, including the carbon fibre front splitter, door mirror covers and diffuser. There’s a new rear spoiler, because the tailgate’s different, but the Cupra seats inside are identical. And the rest is, well, as you’d expect – familiar VW Group with a sprinkling of Latin flair.
SEAT only made 799 R hatches, with 24 heading to the UK. The brand's yet to reveal the build numbers for the estate, although deliveries are due to begin in March. More will be revealed when PH gets to drive the R ST in the coming days…