The Hypercar-Harassing Hot Hatch

Variety is the spice of life.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I’ve found myself in several situations this year where people have handed me the keys to their car and told me to go drive it for a while. A ‘while’, so far, has been anything from 20 minutes to two days or longer. Maybe they just want to get rid of me? Who knows…

One particular example occurred a couple of months ago, when I flew to Germany to drive a particular car. But when I got there, it turned out I couldn’t. Instead, I was offered an afternoon with this: a Seat Leon Cupra. I actually think it’s the exact opposite of what I should have been driving that day, but let’s try and stay on topic for a change.

The car was being looked after by Raeder Motorsport, but it belongs to a very polite gentleman called Thilo. I’ve never met Thilo, we have exchanged messages since, but for someone to loan their car to another person that they’ve never met is quite a generous gesture.

I love driving. My job allows me the privilege to drive cars that I could never afford nor have driven otherwise, and also forces me to drive cars that I probably would never have wanted to in the first place. It’s only by driving such a variety of cars that you really learn to appreciate what makes a good car. The most important thing that I’ve learned is to try and understand what the purpose of the car actually is. Everyone has different intentions and even manufacturers make different cars to do different things. Intended use means everything when it comes to evaluating any car. There’s another thing I prefer to do, which isn’t always possible, but that is to drive the car ‘blind’ so to speak. This means that I like to know as little about the car as possible – within reason – before driving it, so I can try and figure it out for myself. This is one of those occasions where I had absolutely no idea of what I was getting myself into.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-17

As I ran across the wet parking lot, unlocking the Leon in between strides and swear words (it was very raining heavily), it became almost immediately apparent what the car’s intended use is. It’s what most would consider as a bonafide ‘Ring car, as in a car for built for track days on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. I quickly dropped my camera backpack into the rear luggage area, fitting it snugly between the lower legs of the rear part of the rollcage.

Opening the driver’s door, I swore again, realising that there was firstly a door bar to climb over, and secondly that this was a harness-only car. I reached in to slide the driver’s seat back before adjusting the Schroth harnesses, tossing them over the shoulders of the fixed-back Recaro before finally dropping in over the roll cage and into the driver’s seat. Closing the door and finally getting out of the rain, I took a moment to take a breath and familiarise myself with the Leon’s controls. This particular generation of the Leon Cupra is based on the MQB platform which it shares with the likes of the Golf Mk7, Škoda Octavia and a plethora of other vehicles within the Volkswagen Group. I have in the past driven a Leon Cupra ST estate, so everything was vaguely familiar, even if it was on the opposite side of the car.

Sliding the seat forward and into a comfortable driving position, I tightened the harnesses to the point where I knew they were just the correct amount of tight, i.e. without cutting off blood flow. Starting the car, it almost harmlessly came to life; there was no drama or flaring of revs. Engaging ‘D’ – this is a 6-speed DSG-equipped car – I began slowly manoeuvring out of the packed Raeder carpark and onto the narrow street of the small industrial area where the facility is based.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-5

I became immediately conscious of a couple of things. The most predominant thought in my head was that the car was on Dunlop semi-slick tyres, which I just assumed were going to be hopeless in the rain, so I’d need to drive accordingly. The car was also cold in every sense, from fluids to brakes. The first 20 minutes or so were spent slowly bringing everything up to temp and getting a basic feel for the car.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-3

Navigating my way around the perimeter of probably the most famous permanent racing track in the world, I found myself following a familiar route. Each acceleration phase would be slightly more aggressive and longer than the previous, but the car continued unbothered or without input from the factory safety systems. Similarly, corners would be taken just that little bit quicker each time, and braking just a little later as I tried to bond with the car in such a short period of time.

The Leon Cupra, in general, is an interesting car. It’s a direct relative of the Golf GTI, and despite sharing the same platform Mk7 GTI is considerably quicker than the Volkswagen. It’s more powerful than the GTI, arriving at 280hp stock or 290hp for the most recent model, thanks to a larger turbocharger. It features the same electronically-controlled VAQ-type LSD that’s found in the GTI Performance Pack, but it comes as standard. It also held the front-wheel drive lap record at the Nordschleife for quite some time, until VW obviously realised it was a little embarrassing and built the GTI Clubsport to reclaim the title. Most interestingly, it’s also cheaper than a GTI here in Europe, and in my books, probably what the GTI should have been from the outset. As it turns out, it’s not available in the United States, so I’m hoping that our US readers might find the car they can’t have a little bit more interesting than usual.

Thilo’s car has of course been modified, which from a Speedhunters standpoint, makes it far more interesting. Aside from the caged interior which we’ve already covered, Thilo has focused on the car’s road-holding abilities above all. The lightweight 18-inch ATS Motorsport wheels are wrapped in 235/40R18 Dunlop Direzza 03Gs, which proved to be stubbornly sticky despite the torrential conditions, thus rendering my initial assumption as completely wrong. They frame Brembo brakes with 2-piece discs and Performance Friction brake pads.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-20

The 2.0-litre turbocharged EA888 is in a relatively mild state making around 340hp courtesy of an ABT tune, which is more than powerful enough, especially given the conditions I was faced with. The rain was definitely a limiting factor on this day, but the car felt very well balanced and no one component appeared to overpower another.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-19

Carving through the forest near Höhe Acht, the sweeping downhill turns into the occasional hairpin were taken with a considered amount of pace. There was no real indication of push, even in the tighter corners.

The car is riding on full KW 3-way Clubsport suspension, which is probably the most impressive part of the whole build. Not because of their performance, which is a given, but how easy the track day-focused setup is to drive on the street. Under normal driving situations, it’s a suspension setup that you could comfortably live with everyday; there’s no harshness to the ride and the car feels perfectly damped on the road. It also helps that the Clubsports are perfectly tuned to the car’s chassis straight out of the box, but still offer 3-way adjustability so as to fine tune the car to suit its modifications.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-2

I was quite conscious of the time, so I pulled off the road to start grabbing some candid shots of the Cupra and to compose my thoughts on the car before one last stint back to Raeder’s premises. Although short on time, I was growing more and more into the Leon. I was also trusting it more, and even when on the limit, the punishment for pushing that little bit too hard was predictable and forgiving. A little bit of understeer or the rear getting a little light were its worst moments, yet wholly forgivable given the conditions.

2016 SEAT Leon Cupra KW by Pady McGrath-18

If I got to 60 per cent of this car’s potential, I would be thoroughly impressed. Weather, roads that hadn’t seen rain in a while and consideration for other drivers were the main limiting factors, but I did get a solid appreciation for what is a very well developed car. It’s the complete package and I would be weary of adding more power to it. I’d rather rely on making the most of what’s already available. My only real gripe was struggling with the stock DSG software, which I found quite limiting coming from my own car with stage two DSG software and a proper manual mode, with no auto up or downshifts.

Thilo obviously doesn’t find this an issue, as he’s already managed a 7m30s BTG lap of the Nordschleife and seems to enjoy harassing hypercars in his spare time too.

I don’t regret a minute with this car and would absolutely love to try it on the track sometime, although maybe somewhere a little less intimidating than the Nordschleife. At the very least, it’s another car and another experience for someone who’s committed to making a career enjoying cars as best as he can.

You just can’t ever drive enough cars.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

KW Suspensions on Speedhunters



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Whoaaa... A jealous American was the first one to comment... if only we were allowed nice things :/

Gianluca FairladyZ

The potential of this chassis is truly impressing..!  Imagine that a "Seat Leon" (what here not really is something special because you see them around every corner of your city) with a good suspension, brakes and tires can outrun more expensive and "on paper" faster cars....! Impressive!


I love that, you really can't beat a properly set up track car. You don't need huge power for big smiles!


What kind of apps you running on your phone to get the lap times and i assume throttle and brake?


@Edwin  The app is called Harry's laptimer, lots of people driving at the Nordschleife are using it but of course there are other tracks integrated in the app as well.
Just check the website for further information:


the track seemed moist and wet at a lot of areas


The potential of this chassis is truly impressing..!  Imagine that a "Seat Leon" (what here not really is something special because you see them around every corner of your city) with a good suspension, brakes and tires can outrun more expensive and "on paper" faster cars....! Impressive!


Really very nice and whenever look at this i am getting think towards race. And actually likewise you are telling getting rid with our beloved car is a pleasant feel when it is in our control. Much impressive article i think

Here you can see the car... with a korean who rode his scooter from Korea to the Nordschleife in it.


I am startled that someone able to earn $8533 in 1 month on the computer


Michael Grassl Damn that guy's fast!


Love this feature! I'm an American that has always preferred hatches to sporty coupes and this car ticks all my boxes. I'm sure it was a blast to drive and it looks like Thilo is pretty handy behind the wheel.

I feel like my daily driven Fit (cold hatch, not hot) is built in a similar spirit, but to a lesser degree and budget. A lot less horsepower, but it's light and handles amazingly well on the mountain backroads around East TN. Easily keeps up with S2000's, RX8's in the tight stuff where they would blow me out of the water when the roads get straight.

Love this site and read everyday. Keep up the great work guys!


My Uncle Cooper recently got a twelve month old Chevrolet Equinox SUV by working from a laptop...


Padhmalaksh My Uncle Cooper recently got a twelve month old Chevrolet Equinox SUV by working from a laptop...


Ben Chandler Was that an intentional reference to the first Fast and Furious movie?


as Ruth answered I am blown away that a mom able to earn $8282 in 1 month on the computer .  see all


VW group products in Europe=greatness

VW group products in USA=bunch of s_it


@Sobabe Lincoln There were rumours of Seat breaking into the US market, but I guess that idea was shelved after diesel gate.


Gianluca FairladyZ Right? A good driver helps too.


Attila_UK I'm sure Thilo has a bigger smile in his Cupra than that guy who had to leave him passed in his P1 did.


karikaturisti17 #moist


jbfromsiliconvalley If you want to exchange your year round sunshine in California for the Cupra brand, I'm sure we can arrange something.


Padhmalaksh Thanks, I think.


my Aunty Maya recently got a stunning green Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback only from part-time off


Paddy McGrath jbfromsiliconvalley my Aunty Maya recently got a stunning green Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback only from part-time off


karikaturisti17 my Aunty Maya recently got a stunning green Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback only from part-time off new


Watched his videos on youtube from the time of his megane rs, wouldn't dare to challenge him at least not at the nurburgring, there, it is his world a world you can access after years and years and years on this track, and reader one of the very few nur chassis experts, so if you are at the nurburgring and no matter with wich car, and you see a leon in your mirrors with a few meganes, stay on the right side of the road and do not slow them down


Paddy McGrath can have our CARB regulations. I'm keeping the perfect weather.


So how many ideas did you get for PGti?


bluestreaksti My Uncle Michael just got a nice 12 month old Infiniti G Convertible only from part time off a computer... See it here====ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


jbfromsiliconvalley just as Joshua implied I'm alarmed that you able to earn $6083 in 4 weeks on the internet . See it here====ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


Paddy McGrath jbfromsiliconvalley My Uncle Anthony got a new blue Hyundai Genesis Coupe by working parttime off of a pc.See it here====ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


what Sara answered I am surprised that some people can earn $5336 in a few weeks on the computer .See it here====ᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵᴵ


I'm shocked that any body able to profit $9709 in four weeks on the internet


like Philip said I'm alarmed that anybody can make $6752 in one month on the internet .
see it here=====slate23­­.Comllllllll


like Eugene replied I am stunned that some one can earn $4584 in one month on the internet . see all


370 Hemi Ben Chandler Yes! haha.


Love is when the other person's happiness is more important
than your own.

<a href="">Agen



<a href="">Agen

<a href="">Bandar



The most outstanding feature of this car is its clean styling. You can tell the designer exercised quite a bit of restraint.


Ice Age They're a good looking car for sure. We don't get the 3-door in Ireland though, which is a shame.


bluestreaksti I think the thing I learned most was to grow bigger balls and drive faster.


Ice Age Agree. The styling cue seems to not limit to one VAG brand? Skoda Superb also has a bit of that styling going on. Wish we can have these choices instead of the ultra-bland US-Spec Passat in the States: (Photo is a Shanghai-FAW build car)


Wait wait wait....
Its cheaper than a GTI. Its better looking and faster?
Why are people still buying the VW?


Because a lot of people are badge whores lol they can't bring themselves to say to people "Yeah I drive a Seat."


just as Ray said I am blown away that any body can earn $9192 in 1 month on the internet .read more


DoBeriault When they're both stock, it's a little bit of a more difficult choice. The GTI is definitely the better finished car and is much nicer inside, IMO. That being said, the Cupra isn't bad by any means, but it is a little bit cheaper inside.

It's a no brainer if you want the performance though, it's the Cupra all the way.


as Melissa implied I'm in shock that some people can earn $5453 in four weeks on the computer . 


my Aunty Alice just got an awesome white Infiniti QX50 SUV by part time working online at home


Anybody liking this theme, should look up Tipo Overheat Meeting"s Honda Today kei car. It's a 3 cylinder lunchbox, and it holds its own against high dollar sports cars. Long live the hot hatch!


The modern Clio Cup!


My Uncle  recently got Audi S3 by working part time from a home computer. read this       (after open click on Economy, Tech etc...)


limits of Grip..


my neighbor just got an awesome Kia Cadenza Sedan just by part-time work from a home pc.


I'm sure James May loves this car, through and through.


My Uncle Hunter got an almost new silver Mercedes C-Class Coupe from only working   part-time on a pc..