The 306bhp version of the Formentor isn’t quite quick enough to really surprise or excite. That task is likely to be left to the five-cylinder version that’s coming later.
However, it has a very muscular performance level that is more than serious enough to keep you interested in the driving experience and that, thanks to the car’s unbreachable traction and pragmatic chassis tuning, can be fully (if judiciously) deployed on the public road even in less than perfect driving conditions without making its driver feel boorish, profligate or antisocial. This is the kind of car that a ‘real-world performance’ billing was coined to describe.
The flexibility and linearity on offer from the VW Group’s EA888 2.0-litre motor here are typically great. We noted the merest flat spot from it under load when spinning at less than 2500rpm, and a sudden rush of torque immediately thereafter – but it’s the kind of weakness that only a road tester doing in-gear acceleration tests would be likely to find.
It spins from middling revs up to beyond 6000rpm with real vigour and freedom and the noise it makes inside the cabin, although quite clearly digitally augmented when you pay it close heed, doesn’t grate on the ear. From the outside, as one tester noted, the Formentor sounds surprisingly ordinary, and an engine with more than four cylinders might well have needed less enhancement. But it’s to the benefit of the car’s dynamic versatility that it can be so quiet in Comfort driving mode, and perhaps attract little of the wrong kind of attention when driven quickly, and yet still sound lively and enticing to its driver.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox does a first-class job here, too. You don’t feel the need always to manage it with the paddles in Sport mode. It tends to be in a useful gear for responsive roll-on acceleration in give-and-take motoring when operating in ‘S’ mode, and then calms down nicely in ‘D’ for around-town mooching and heavy-traffic plodding.
Unlike other torque-vectoring four-wheel drive systems, Cupra’s 4Drive system doesn’t seem to be able to put quite as much torque at the Formentor’s rear axle as the car could use during limit handling (which we’ll expand on shortly) and we did note some perceptible snatches of wheel slip at the front axle before torque was sent rearwards during full-bore launches on slippery Tarmac. That’s not something that happens in typical driving, though, when the car’s hold on the road always seems strong.