Hotter 335bhp SEAT Leon ST Cupra R on the way

An even faster, four-wheel-drive SEAT Leon ST Cupra R could launch as soon as next year, with up to 335bhp from its tuned turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

SEAT’s sales and marketing boss Wayne Griffiths told Auto Express he’s currently running a bespoke Leon ST with extra power, an ABT aftermarket exhaust and 20-inch wheels. The stealthy prototype is painted black with subtle copper accents, while also featuring an upgraded sound system and other interior tweaks.

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Griffiths told us that he sees a gap in the market for “cool, fast cars”. He said many people who buy Audi RS or BMW M models “have something to prove” – but Cupra customers prefer to exercise restraint in the pursuit of performance and handling.

He insisted that despite his upgraded ST estate acting only as a mule for the time being, his engineers were happy with the tweaks and were looking to roll them out to customers in due course. While the upcoming front-drive Cupra R hatchback produces only 306bhp, by running the Cupra ST’s 4×4 system and DSG gearbox the 335bhp flagship Leon requires no mechanical renovations.

The reaction has been very positive, apparently. Griffiths told us: “People see it in the street and just jump on it”. The car will reach showrooms some point in 2018.

Speaking from the launch of the Spanish maker’s new Arona SUV, Griffiths told us he’s looking forward to implementing his experience from the German giant as he lays the foundations for a rejuvenated SEAT brand. The separation of Cupra will be a big part of the Brit’s strategy – as he looks to add more depth across the product range.

But despite wanting Cupra to find its own identity, he appeared keen to stretch its appeal in a similar fashion to Audi’s S line and BMW’s M Sport models. A “Cupra Line” could therefore appear on everything from the latest Ibiza and Ateca, to the forthcoming large SUV – whose name is set for reveal in the coming days.

Cupra Line could build on, or indeed replace, FR and FR Sport trims, with subtle styling additions, racy personalisation options and more engaging handling. It’s unlikely these cars would offer any more power for fear of diluting the flagship full-fat Cupra models, however.

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