An F-Type rally car, the world's fastest SUV and TG telly's return.....
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£26,850 when new
The SEAT Leon what? The X-Perience, with a capital ‘X’ to help emphasise its all-wheel drive ruggedness. What’s the thinking behind it? Since SEAT had already created a pretty capable estate version of the Leon, adding some chunky plastic mouldings to the bodywork and an all-wheel drive system Volkswagen had lying around meant that the Spanish firm could produce a ‘new’ model with little in the way of R&D costs. What makes it different to a standard Leon estate?
Apart from all that extra plastic cladding stuck onto the outside to make it look beefier, there’s not a great deal of difference. The X-Perience does sit 28mm higher than a conventional Leon ST and with all that extra bodywork protection is actually 8mm longer. More pertinently, there’s the latest Haldex four-wheel drive system (same as in the Golf Alltrack and Skoda Octavia Scout) as standard. SEAT will offer two different versions of its 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, making 148bhp or 181bhp. The more powerful unit comes with the DSG automatic transmission, whereas if you plump for the 148bhp model you get a manual gearbox as standard. There’s plenty of standard spec too, including 17-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, black roof rails, tinted rear windows, parking sensors and twin exhausts. Ok, so how does it drive? Plenty tidy, especially if you go for the more powerful version. The X-Perience feels a tad taller on its springs than a normal Leon, if not quite SUV-like, but if you throw it into a series of bends the kids aren’t going to start feeling sick. The ride is on the firm side, though that combines with crisp steering to make it pleasant enough to drive. Much like the regular Leon estate really. There’s sufficient power from both engines, though if you sample the punchier 181bhp model you’ll not want to go back to the other. The four-wheel drive system comes into its own when it’s greasy underfoot, but it also keeps understeer and wheelspin in check in tighter corners, allowing you put your foot down earlier. That makes for surprisingly satisfying cross-country pace. Clever use of the XDS ‘electronic differential’ means the X-Perience can actually send 50 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels when needed, and in extreme cases 100 per cent of drive to just one wheel. So does being four-wheel drive make it thirsty? Not really, even in the case of that 181bhp version, which manages an official average of 43.4mpg despite being able to hit 62mph from rest in 7.2 seconds. Is it practical though? If you need to lug around bulky stuff on a regular basis, then yes. The boot offers 587 litres of space and when you drop the rear seats that increases to 1,470 litres, plenty of room for a couple of mountain bikes. All sounds expensive. SEAT is claiming the X-Perience as a halo model like the Cupra hot hatch, so prices start at £24,385 for the entry-level SE, which is a considerable £3,105 more than the Leon SE estate with the same engine. For an extra £1,985 you can upgrade to the SE Technology, which comes with an upgraded touchscreen infotainment system, DAB radio and satellite navigation as well as auto headlights, wipers and dimming rear view mirror. The range-topping, DSG-equipped X-Perience with the more powerful engine costs £28,870.