Is this love? – SEAT Leon Cupra R

Those of you who are (un)fortunate enough to be classed as my followers, friends, network connections or within my inner circle (think that’s all the social media covered) will know by now that I do not pray at the altar of Steve Jobs. Under all my posts, tweets, status updates etc will be the little line “sent from Android”. The reason for this is simple. Bar a brief flirtation with a second generation 32GB iPod I have never taken to Apple products. My musings are transcribed on a dinosaur spec Dell laptop not the latest Power iMac book Pro or whatever its called, my positively ancient and frankly huge iPod still plays music so I have never seen a need to upgrade it to the latest variants and as previously mentioned the electronic masterpiece that doubles as my personal office is powered by Google’s Android operating system and not the latest Lion OSX or whatever the hell it is called.

 

The phone is the crux of my whole anti-Apple leanings. Maybe it is because of the years I spent immersed in the community surrounding Modified Motors but I don’t like ‘normal’. In my eyes everything should be capable of being tweaked and tuned to my personal tastes and not locked into what somebody sitting inSilicon Valleydecides. I have a handful of friends who have the same phone as me and none and I mean none of them are the same. The look, the feel everything has been changed to the point where the physical shell the phone comes in is the only similarity. Compare that to a handful of iPhone users – yes the apps will be different depending on personal preference but everything else will be the way Mr. Jobs designed. Same menus, same functions same everything and that just annoys me. However the fruit based phone does have one trump card – its flawless integration with the ubiquitous iTunes.

I know the software is huge and flawed at its core but my ancient iPod doesn’t like talking to any other systems so I am stuck with it! Recently I decided I wanted to sync my smart phone with iTunes but it was akin to introducing a Martian to that idiot Catherine Tate – an utterly frustrating waste of time. Thankfully after a bit of hunting I found some software that would emulate iTunes and not only talk to my Droid but synch with it once they come within range of each other – the jobs a good’un.

 

One of my many idiosyncrasies (and there are many) is that when I am first testing out music programs I always play the same song. It was the first song that I played when I got my first record player many years ago and I now use it to highlight any problems as I know it so well. When I finally got my phone and my music collection to become one I did not play that default song though. Overcome with emotion I instead plumbed for Whitesnake’s “Is this love?” The choice of song had nothing to do with the fact that Mrs. Healy and I recently celebrated our anniversary, that evenings soundtrack was the dulcet tones of Marvin Gaye singing ‘Lets get it on’, instead it was brought on by a brief fling with an Iberian Goddess. Like most holiday romances it was over before it truly got started but that just made it all the more exciting. Every time we were together I was left breathless, exhilarated and yearning for more. When we were apart there was a horrible twisting in the pit of my stomach that only disappeared when we met up again.

 

Don’t worry you don’t all have to rush off and call my wife to tell her I am cheating on  her with some Spanish floozy – I am talking about my short in the presence of the sublime SEAT Leon Cupra R or Coop as I have come to affectionately refer to her.

The Cupra R is SEAT’s entry into the new breed of ‘Hyper Hatches’ where it competes against the likes of the VW Golf R, the Ford Focus RS and the Opel Astra OPC. Entry to this exclusive club is limited to a minimum power output of 240bhp and with the 2.0 turbocharged engine, which is borrowed from the Audi S3 and Golf R, producing 265bhp theLeonis a full card carrying member and like its competitors it is absolutely mental!

 

The Leon shape is nothing new, having been with us since 2005, but its quasi-coupe styling is still fresh especially when parked beside the VW Golf it is based upon on my driveway. The Cupra R adds aerodynamic tweaks such as a revised front bumper and rear spoiler, 19’ alloy wheels, Cupra specific suspension and oversized brakes with red calipers and the R model needs those brakes! Fire up the engine and you are greeted with the kind of snarl you get from a mildly annoyed dog that you have just roused from a particularly deep slumber. Take the revs past 4,000rpm though and the snarl turns into a full on teeth bared, foam at the mouth growl. The kind of growl that Cerberus, the three headed bastion of Hades, would let out if you snuck up behind him and kicked him square in the gentleman’s area while he was busy having his way with Mrs. Cerberus. It is biblical and when my wife experienced the full bellows for the first time she did something I have not seen her do in over a decade of being my designated passenger – she reached for the ‘oh shit’ handle. Cause when you reach that point all 350Nm of torque are unleashed and the surrounding scenery soon becomes a blur. The benchmark 0-100kmh run is completed in 6.2 seconds and the Cupra R has to be electronically held back at 250km/h. Something figures are difficult to comprehend so lets break it down into something tangible – on my favoured test route there are three legitimate (broken whit lines) overtaking points. The first is a mile long straight that even an asthmatic Fiat Uno could use to overtake a vintage Massey Ferguson. The second is a little bit trickier in that you have to know its coming as you have to have started a potential overtaking manoeuvre two corners in advance. It’s a short run that kinks to the left at its midpoint but if you are in the right gear, at the right revs and have a free run it is useable if normally ill advised. The final overtaking point is a mixture of the two – it’s long but narrow and has a left kink as you near the end of it. On one particular run I easily and without fuss or drama overtook an articulated truck on each one. It was that easy – mirror, signal manoeuvre and its done. That is what 265bhp under your right foot can do – gaps that you would have himmed and hawed about until they disappeared are more than you will ever need – it’s great!

Normally that kind of power being transmitted through the front wheels will lead to spinning tyres and insufferable torque steer but thanks to the XDS system that mimics mechanical LSD everything remains remarkably composed. The flat bottomed steering wheel is a little over assisted but theLeonturns in well and grips the road like a child clutching their favourite toy. Only during a torrential downpour did the car become unruly and even then only because I had gone looking for the limits – and all that happened was the traction control light blinked, the super computer behind the dash cut power monetarily and then I carried on. I would imagine you would have to take this car to a track to push it beyond its limits because in the dry I couldn’t find them and I was looking!

This car is not just a rocket ship on wheels though it is also remarkably practical. During my time with the Cupra R I made the brave decision to introduce my mistress to the family and together my wife, a three year old and a 6 month old agus mise took a daytrip out to Portmarnock and the 341 litre boot swallowed buggy, picnic, towels and all the other junk you bring to the beach with plenty of room to spare. With the next generation of the Healy clan in the rear seats it was time to drive reasonably and the Cupra showed that it can be quiet and restrained when needs be, comfortably sitting at 2,500 revs on the motorway with the cruise control set and despite the sports suspension none of us needed a trip to the dentist afterwards.

Bar the alacantara bucket seats there is little to separate the interior of the Cupra R from is lower powered siblings and some of the interior plastics are not on par with its rivals but at €39,650 it is also a lot cheaper. Cars like this are not everybody’s cup of tea – the €630 annual motor tax and fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km will put many off but those in the market for a Hyper Hatch would do well to pay a visit to their local SEAT dealer – you too could find your heart falling for a Spanish beauty.