Seat gains all-wheel-drive X-Perience


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This week saw Seat launch the Leon X-Perience in Ireland. Offering all-wheel drive and a slightly raised body, it’s a rugged looking estate car that’s a direct rival for Skoda’s Octavia Scout. The arrival of the X-Perience completes the Leon family, joining the three door SC, the five door hatch and the ST estate. One spec is offered with a choice of two power outputs both powered by a 2.0 TDI diesel engine, a 150PS version with six-speed manual gearbox for €32,495, and a 184PS option with DSG gearbox which retails for €35,495.

A positive January saw Seat Ireland achieve record sales of 828 units representing a 30% year on year growth and giving an overall market share of 2.8%. New Brand Director Niall Phillips noted that the challenge for the brand in increasing market share was that it doesn’t have offerings in all sectors, though this will change in the coming years. Acknowledging that Seat didn’t currently have a major impact with fleet buyers, he said that this was an area the company was keen to focus on in 2015, particularly with the Leon ST estate.

Head of Aftersales, John Cunningham added that there was a strong focus from the company on this aspect of the business, with the introduction of a national fixed price maintenance package and a comprehensive three year service mobility package that can be extended into years four and five.

Although a niche model, the X-Perience marks an important development for Seat in that it is the Spanish brand’s first all-wheel drive model, heralding the arrival of further SUV models in 2016 and 2017. It uses a fifth generation of the Haldex intelligent 4WD system that in normal conditions supplies power to the front wheels only but can divert up to 90% to one wheel if and when required.

Sitting 30mm higher than the regular estate, the Leon X-Perience isn’t intended as a serious off-roader, but should have enough ability to get you out of a muddy field. Differentiating it from the regular ST estate are new bumpers front and rear, unique wheels, body mouldings and black roof rails. Inside there are special trims and detailing on the steering wheel, gearstick and door sills. Combined with the already good looks of the ST, the overall impression is of a stylish yet rugged car with more presence than the regular estate.

Rather depressingly if you believe that these types of cars should have the ability to match their off-road looks with off-road capabilities, a front wheel drive only version of the Leon X-Perience with 110PS engine is due in July, and Seat anticipates that this will be the volume seller.

Off-road driving wasn’t on the agenda at the launch this week but we tried the new Leon X-Perience out over some suitably challenging Wicklow tarmac. Particularly noteworthy was the lack of body roll despite the extra body height, the Seat proving adept at changing direction over sweeping switchback roads. Both 150PS and 184PS units offer torquey performance, with pleasingly few gear changes necessary from the manual gearbox model thanks to plenty of power from low down the rev range.

The Leon X-Perience should also be a very capable tower with an impressive towing capacity of 2000KG. All cars come prewired with tow bar connectivity as standard, meaning that if a Seat detachable tow bar is fitted (at a rather reasonable €560 inc VAT), a preinstalled ECU will be activated allowing the vehicle to know when a trailer is attached, and modifying the braking system, four wheel drive, reversing sensors and multiple other systems to take account of the extra unit and weight.

It could be said that cars like this are the thinking person’s Crossover, offering decent off-road and towing performance without compromising on handling. In the Leon X-Perience, Seat has a worthy challenger in the segment.

2015 seat  Leon Xperience PMcG-16 2015 seat  Leon Xperience PMcG-29