Cupra’s stunted growth after its ambitious launch is now being put behind it, with the brand poised to release its first bespoke model, the Formentor coupe SUV, as well as a new range of high-performance Leons. It has also been confirmed that SEAT’s El-born electric car will become a Cupra, but at the same time the fledgling marque has been spotted testing a model with a less electrified heart.
Rumours have been persisting of a higher-level performance range from Cupra, and this Formentor prototype spotted lapping the Nürburgring might just be the start of it, with tell-tale signs suggesting there’s a more intense powertrain underneath its crossover body.
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The most significant clue is in the accompanying video, where the sound emanating from the prototype’s four exhaust outlets can clearly be distinguished as a five-cylinder warble, not the more prosaic note of the four-cylinder EA888 found in the current hottest Formentor. Audi, which is part of the same VW Group as Cupra, is just about the only manufacturer still making a five-cylinder engine in 2020, and the Formentor is based on the same MQB component set as the RS3 and RS Q3, so it’s not difficult to deduce what’s under the Cupra’s bonnet.
In the current RS Q3, the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine produces 394bhp, which is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch ’box. While it’s impossible to know at this stage how much power a five-cylinder Formentor would produce in a production form, the complexities of emissions regulations and the work Audi Sport has already done to certify this powertrain should allude to a similar figure for the Cupra.
The current Formentor flagship is powered by a 306bhp four-cylinder, which when augmented by the approved dealer-fit Abt kit rises to 345bhp, so it also makes little sense for Cupra to launch a five-cylinder version to sit above this unless it has close to the RS Q3’s 394bhp figure.
The rest of the package will no doubt be upgraded to accommodate the extra performance and weight associated with the five-cylinder engine. On this prototype we can see upsized brakes with the trademark copper finish to the Cupra-branded calipers. There’s also a big wheel and tyre package.
While this powertrain is certainly exciting news for any Cupra fan, we can’t help but wonder what the same engine would do in the lighter, smaller Leon – perhaps with a bit of further weight shedding and maybe even the revival of a Sub8-style special edition. Now that would be an exciting and dramatic statement from a new brand keen to ingratiate itself within the hearts and minds of performance car types.