Cupra Formentor VZ5 Is the Audi RS3’s Spanish Crossover Cousin

The stand-alone performance brand is part of the VW Group, and its latest offering is so attractive, it’s a shame it’s not U.S. bound.

  • If you like Audi’s turbo five-cylinder, you’ll love that it’s found in this new performance crossover, the Formentor VZ5, from VW spinoff brand Cupra.
  • Cupra normally makes sportier versions of existing models from VW’s Spanish brand Seat, but the Formentor is the first Cupra-only product.
  • The all-wheel-drive Formentor crossover is also available with the 300-hp 2.0-liter turbo four from the VW Golf R.

Many engine configurations are living on borrowed time, but one of the rarest—Audi’s charismatic turbocharged five-cylinder powerplant—has just found a new home in the Cupra Formentor VZ5. This freshly launched all-wheel-drive crossover is from the relatively new, performance-oriented Cupra division of the VW Group family, and, with 384 horsepower, it’s Cupra’s most powerful vehicle yet.

The Formentor’s origin story is a bit convoluted. Cupra was first used as a model designator for the fastest performance derivatives of Seat, Volkswagen’s Spanish subsidiary, which exports to few markets outside Europe.

Three years ago, Cupra was turned into a full-fledged sub brand to create high-output versions of mainstream Seat models.

So, for instance, European buyers can choose between a Seat Leon hatchback and a faster Cupra Leon version.

But the Formentor crossover is a Cupra-only model—there is no Seat alternative. It rides on the same MQB architecture that underpins all of Volkswagen’s smaller models. That makes it a distant relative of the Volkwagen Tiguan, although with a far more exciting range of engines, including the 300-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter EA888 four-cylinder as seen in the VW Golf R.

The new five-cylinder version will sit at the top of the Formentor range, with an output of 384 horsepower, making it the most powerful Cupra or Seat model yet produced.

That’s just shy of the 400 hp that the same engine makes in the recently replaced RS3, the TT-RS, and the RS Q3, which isn’t sold in the U.S.

Like its Audi cousins, the Formentor VZ5 uses a tranversely mounted engine with power sent to each corner through a Haldex style all-wheel-drive system. A seven-speed DSG twin-clutch transmission will be standard, and Cupra claims it will be capable of a 4.2-second zero-to-62-mph time. There is no top-speed claim, but this will almost certainly be curtailed by a 155-mph speed limiter.

While the Formentor’s design is lacking outlandish originality, it certainly looks handsome in the released images, with the VZ5 getting both bigger wheel arches and 20-inch wheels to indicate its specialness, plus a pair of double exhaust tailpipes. Unlike many of VW’s fast products, Cupra says the VZ5 doesn’t get any sort of soundtrack enhancement. Standard specification includes six-pot calipers at the front, huge 18-inch brake discs, and an adaptive suspension. The cabin gets leather bucket seats, a central 12-inch touchscreen, and lots of the copper-colored detailing that seems to be a Cupra trademark.

The Formentor VZ5 will reach its first customers in late 2021. Cupra says that total production will be limited to just 7000—perhaps because of the limited life expectancy of the five-cylinder engine in the face of increasingly tough European emissions standards. The company also says the VZ5 will be produced exclusively in left-hand drive, limiting sales in right-hand-drive Britain, one of Europe’s biggest performance-car markets. While there is no official word on price, the Cupra seems likely to undercut and out-spec the Audi RS Q3.

All in all, another reason to feel jealous of some of the compelling European models that are denied us.