Cobra is accelerating. On all levels, in sales, in the (virtual) race, and in the metaverse, a digital space is about to open. And of course with his street models. The Spaniards performed beyond all expectations. An important reason for this: Formentor, which is built on the MQB Evo platform and is therefore closely related to the group’s sibling, but still looks like an illegitimate child. Since 2019, it embodies the DNA of the Spaniard, which is clearly mathematical. Sell like a warm Weggli. It lays the foundations for the future.
However, the Cupra depends on the Seat and on the range in general. Leon, Attica and Bourne are twins that are fairly close in company. And because the goal is purely electric, you have to build largely on what comes from the parent company, there are only liberties in design and coordination. This is partly why the transition phase is so important for the brand, which is still quite young, and the current image subsequently ensures the correct association with the customer. And because combustion engines are perfect for conveying feelings, you bring the best from the bunch to the best from your company. Voila: Formentor VZ5.
It is a feat worthy of respect, almost an honor, that Audi ever launched the legendary five-cylinder engine. Volkswagen also toyed with the idea of the new Golf R, but Ingolstadt refused because the Golf would have come dangerously close to the Audi RS3. Things are a little different with the Formentor, they are targeting customers different from the RS Q3 (from CHF83,700) in terms of price (from CHF73,600), appearance and prestige, and poaching in their territory is almost possible. . However, to be on the safe side, Audi will not release more than 7,000 engines.
The Cobra Formentor VZ5 is crazy, stubborn, fast. For once, which is likely to also convince a customer or another customer who does not think much about crossover SUVs. Above all, it provides a topic of conversation. However, it’s what the VZ5 doesn’t stand for, or a little: wild. This is mainly due to the tuning of the 2.5-liter engine with a power of 287 kW (390 hp) and 480 Nm.
Because of the design, the five-cylinder music plays a major role. Once on Audi in the 1976 Audi 100, one was somewhat surprised by the unfamiliar sound, but it quickly developed into a trademark. Today, since its return in 2009, the transversely mounted engine is increasingly suffering from ever stricter regulations. The unique chime of 2.5 ignitions per revolution and ignition sequence (1-2-4-5-3) is still there, and it sounds good, but it feels very muted. As if the VZ5 couldn’t breathe properly and was a bit hoarse due to the twin stacked exhaust pipes. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the very early days and pre-OPF times, but the current five-cylinder sounds less serious than its four-cylinder fellow.
Regardless, the turbocharged five-cylinder is a distinctly sportier engine and therefore a lot of fuel, 8.2 liters per 100 km on the standard lap AR. Not much happens in the speed range, it is a pleasure to see how greedy it gets on the gas at high speeds. The power output is even, the running smoothness is perfect, and the excessive vibrations of the motor cannot be determined. A respectable ten-horsepower margin for Audi is maintained, but by being lighter than the RS Q3 and almost as heavy as the RS3, the VZ5 moves closer to the performance of a compact sedan. We measured 4.2 seconds, which is exactly in line with factory specifications, for the 0-100 km/h sprint. Traction is never a problem, unless it is intentional.
In addition to components such as MacPherson struts in the front, a multi-link axle in the rear, an adaptive chassis that can be adjusted up to 15 stages, and 18-inch disc brakes with six-piston calipers, the VZ5 exclusively receives two electronically controlled multi-plate clutches on the rear axle. As with its sporty siblings from Audi and VW, the system enables fully variable and active torque distribution, depending on the selected driving mode. This increases driving torque to the outer rear wheel as wheel load increases, which greatly reduces the tendency to limit steering. A nice side effect of that is the drift mode, where the ESP is turned off completely, which can be set in three stages directly via a button on the center console anyway. The gimmick allows almost comically simple drifts, if you can or might need them somewhere. Above all, this mode is an insider’s tip for a more active driving experience. On the long curves, you can feel how the back becomes light and the Formentor runs well. What seems too planted even in Cupra mode becomes more exciting, funnier, and more dynamic. Be aware, however, that the rear end tends to come off, especially when accelerating hard from tight corners, so a little bit of rebellion is beneficial to the VZ5’s smooth character.
In normal mode, on the other hand, it’s surprisingly comfortable to glide along the Spanish, as the dampers allow for a slight swing, and the springs take out bumps appropriately. The engine moves completely in the background, it is almost squeaky, the dual-clutch transmission works harmoniously. In Cupra mode, everything becomes tighter, bumps hit the passengers, some of which are clearly noticeable. The front axle makes its way to the asphalt in a perfect way, and the rear axle pulls with it without hesitation thanks to the optimal distribution of torque.
The fact that gradual orientation always remains very lenient is a common disease. Likewise, the gearbox introduces a moment of revival that can be felt when it suddenly slips. Other than that, the overall concept is coherent, there is hardly anything to complain about and nothing to do with the program and the process, it remains an ordeal. Unlike other Formentors, the seating position is lower thanks to the cool bucket seats, but the Spaniard still retains a certain SUV character, especially when you look over the surrounding hood. Space is OK, and the rear is better than it looks given the slightly sloping roofline and the shells. The materials have been carefully selected and the workmanship is of high quality. The copper-colored decorative elements are purposefully placed, and the two additional buttons on the steering wheel provide a sporty look. However, why the detour via Sport mode when the Cupra button is pressed still has to be a mystery.
As in the fact that the Cupra hasn’t drastically tuned the VZ5. There will definitely be buyers for it. With the distinctive look, the legendary five-cylinder and the promising torque distributor on the rear axle, there could have been more autonomy and differentiation, especially with tuning, which would have brought Formentor even more fame. But the moments with the Cupra Formentor VZ5 remain great, but also relatively fleeting.
The test result
Total marks 83.5/ 100
The best of company and company make a sharp blend. One can’t complain, but even a little more sharpness would have come in handy for the VZ5 on this unique occasion.
From mild gentle to rock hard, it’s all there. It’s all effective and fast but not particularly amazing. Drift mode offers some relief, although it’s probably meant for something else.
Fine materials, fine workmanship, and attractive accents ensure a proper feel-good factor. However, the VZ5 is no different from other Cupra models, and the software is still an ordeal.
The brakes operate confidently, and the measured braking distance gives a false impression due to the combination of high temperatures and winter tires. The assistants struggle with known imbalances from the group.
The 17,000 francs you pay more for the base VZ5 compared to the 310 hp four-cylinder is money well spent. Because of the extra equipment and because there will never be anything like her again.
Basically, the VZ5 does everything right. Five cylinders and torque vectoring turn a good car into a very good car. The price is more than reasonable compared to Audi. Perhaps the enthusiasts wished for a bit more toughness.
Our technical data and measured values for this model can be found in the print version and in the electronic sheet of AUTOMOBIL REVUE.