To lightly paraphrase the words of the late Jimi Hendrix – Are you X-Perienced? Well I am, as I’ve driven the Leon X-Perience, the first 4×4 ever produced by Spanish firm, SEAT.
The Leon is now their best selling model, so it makes sense to start from here, although we’re told that this particular model is only the first of a number of four wheel drive cars which will come onto the market over the next few years.
The X-Perience is based on the ST or estate model and for this particular application, the looks have been suitably machoed up with more rugged bumpers, black roof rails and crucially for off-road ability, a ride height raised by 30mm.
To take advantage of the extra ground clearance, grip is enhanced by a fifth generation Haldex four wheel drive system, which normally sends all power to the front pair of wheels. As conditions dictate, though, up to 90% of torque can instantly be sent to the rear wheels, ensuring the best possible traction in difficult conditions. This latest Haldex unit needs less maintenance than before, with a requirement for an oil change only every three years. The clutch unit itself is also now a service item, easily replaced when necessary.
While nobody is pretending that this is the ultimate off-roader, it should prove very capable of dealing with the typical muddy track or wet field that these types of vehicles often have to deal with.
A typical owner, according to SEAT, will also want to tow, so every X-Perience comes with a Towing Pack as standard. A detachable tow bar costs €560, which compares very favourably with an after-market item. Thus equipped, the car has a 2,000 kg tow weight.
Speaking of typical owners, SEAT reckon the new car will appeal mainly to 46 year old males – me, in other words. The main appeal will be styling, 4wd, brand loyalty, price, value and equipment.
Every car will come with 17” alloys, climate control, rear parking sensors and LED lights. At launch, two engine variants are available, both with 4wd as standard. A 2.0 litre 150 bhp starts the range at €32,495, while another 2.0 litre diesel produces 184 bhp and comes as standard with a DSG transmission. This version is priced from €35,495 or €369 per month on a PCP plan.
In July, the range will be joined by a 1.6 litre diesel with 110 bhp and front wheel drive only. This variant is expected to become the big seller and will cost from around €28,500.
To drive, the X-Perience feels very like a standard Leon ST, although initially you can feel the extra weight of the 4wd system. This is quickly forgotten though and the car handles very securely even on the slippery roads we experienced in the Wicklow mountains.
Incidentally, more and more SEAT cars are being sold with a service plan, which costs €299 for three years of standard services. For those who don’t want to go down that road, fixed price servicing has been introduced, with a minor service costing €129 and a major one for €245. The price is the same for all SEAT models, whether petrol or diesel.
SEAT also used the launch of the X-Perience to introduce an updated Toledo, with an upgraded interior, revised suspension and standard alloy wheels.
For style conscious city drivers, the Mii by Mango is also on sale, with an Alcantara interior, 15” alloy wheels and standard air conditioning from €13,595. I don’t know much about fashion, but the new car is suitably bling to my eyes.
Motoring editor - The Clare Champion
Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association