Ultimate how? Seat Leon Ultimate, first drive, CAR+ December 2015

Published: 15 November 2015

► We drive the Seat Leon Ultimate
► Ultimate how, though? Not the quickest
► Is it worth the extra pennies?  

Brave, using the word ‘Ultimate’ – especially when you then go and announce an even more powerful Cupra 290 model. And at a glance it’s hard to see exactly what’s ultimate about this particular 276bhp Cupra 280; though the (optional) orange alloys admittedly attract a surprising amount of positive attention, there’s not so much as a bespoke decal on the outside, and the inside doesn’t even get racier seats. But then, nor does it have air conditioning…

Ah-ha. So this is the closest buyers can get to the Leon that achieved a 7min 58sec Nürburgring lap and thus – briefly – became front-wheel-drive record-holder, the missing refrigeration part of a 19.4kg weight reduction programme that also includes binning four speakers, the centre armrest, rear air vents and under-seat storage. Following the Porsche precedent, Seat naturally charges more for less, and going Ultimate is a £4250 special order preference. That’s double the price of the regular ‘Sub8’ pack, which already provides stonking Brembo brakes and 19in wheels. Super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres remain a £460 extra, in either case.

Has the weight-loss surgery made a difference? Maybe. Maybe the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine spools a touch faster without the drag of the air-con compressor, maybe the chassis is a tad fleeter of foot – but these are tiny detail changes over a car that’s superb as standard, and already verging on the spectacular in ordinary Sub8 guise. Ultimately (ha ha) it still remains softer-edged than the razor-raw Renaultsport Megane Trophy-R. No bad thing if you’re after a scorching fast point-to-point front-driver that can do docile well enough to take grandma shopping, but tricky to justify when it’s cheaper to buy a Golf R.

If you must have a Leon and you’ve money to burn, it’s the Brembos and those Michelins that are worthy – you’ll stop later and turn-in harder than you’d ever previously thought wise, helping the electronically controlled diff make understeer seem like an ugly rumour from the distant past. Spend the change on track days and fuel.

The ultra-sticky Michelin tyres coupled with the Brembos give you a new found confidence on turn in

The spec: Seat Leon SC Cupra 280 Ultimate Sub8 Performance Pack with Orange Line

Price: £32,160
On sale: Now, by special order 
Engine: 1964cc 16v 4-cyl turbo petrol, 276bhp @ 5600rpm, 258lb ft @ 1700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive with electronic limited slip diff
Performance: 5.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 42.2mpg, 156g/km CO2
Weight: 1376kg

Love: Super-fast, super-friendly, pseudo-hardcore 

Hate: Waiting for the windscreen to demist in the morning

Verdict: Just buy a regular Cupra Sub8, and enjoy

Rating: ****

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count