When the Volkswagen Group moved from six to seven-speed dual-clutch DSG (Direktschaltgetriebe) automatic gearboxes, it didn’t just add another ratio. It also switched from wet clutches, which use an oil bath to cool them, to dry clutches.
The clutches’ electronic controls mean they can operate without overheating, and thus they’re all a little less complicated and expensive. But there’s a limit to the torque loading the seven-speed units can manage – and that limit is 184lb ft, beyond which the dry clutches feel the strain, whereas the wet clutches do not.
If you look through the Leon range, you’ll note that where a car has a torque output of up to 184lb ft, it’ll come with a seven-speed DSG ’box (if one is offered). If the torque output is more than 184lb ft, it’ll get the six-speed DSG option.
Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear, while drive goes through a locking differential. It’s not simply an extension of the ESP, but neither is it a conventional mechanical limited-slip diff.
Instead, it’s an electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated multi-plate differential. Whatever the set-up, the goal, as ever, is to transfer power to the more heavily loaded outside wheel when cornering. The diff can send up to 100 per cent of power to the wheel with most grip, without, Seat says, affecting steering feel. We’ll come to that.
Both outputs of Cupra come with Dynamic Chassis Control, which functions via variably valved dampers whose stiffness is continually adjusted and whose outer limits are set through a so-called Cupra Drive Profile.
It’s one of those functions that marketeers say makes everything ‘sportier’, letting the engine rev longer in each gear, decreasing steering assistance levels, sharpening throttle response, making the diff work harder and unleashing a sound symposer’s noise into the cabin.
The design alterations between the two cars are less significant. The 290 gets a rear spoiler and prettier 19-inch alloy wheels to distinguish it, with only the bigger air intakes and diffuser-effect rear skirt, threatens to blend into the crowd a little too well.