How Cupra made a hot electric hatchback alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3

We recently reviewed Audi’s RS e-tron GT, a handsome four-door electric car that, while closely related to the Porsche Taycan, still feels unique to drive. As I detailed in this article, the practice of sharing common platforms or architectures has been a part of life in the automotive industry for decades.

This is especially true of the Volkswagen Group, which uses several platforms as a starting point for its collection of 10 brands. One of the newer of these platforms is known as MEB (Modular Electric Drive Kit or Modular Electrification Toolkit), and so far Ars has sampled MEB-based electric vehicles in the form of the Volkswagen ID.4 crossover and then, more recently, the ID. Minivan Buzz and the Audi Q4 e-tron crossover.

However, not all MEB-based EVs are destined for America. Volkswagen doesn’t bring the Golf-sized ID.3 sedan to this side of the Atlantic, although based on the opinions of European colleagues on this car, I’m not sure we’re missing much. It’s even sadder that American roads may never see the Cupra Born, an electric hot hatch from a brand that broke away from Seat in 2018 as a more performance-focused OEM. Ars friend Jonny Smith recently drove the Born and came away impressed, especially since he was one of the failed ID.3 reviewers.

To learn more about how it works, I spoke with Dr. Werner Tietz, Vice President of R&D at Cupra. “We can do a lot with all the components, like the steering application, the chassis, we can work on the throttle response, on the recovery behavior,” Tietz told me. “And if you combine all of that and you still have the intention to make the car precise or nimble, so if you know your goal and you force your team to come up with proposals, you end up with the result like we saw. to the Born.”

The Cupra also increased power by about 13% to 228 hp (170 kW) in the ID.3, “which is not much, but at least it gives you a little more oomph and makes it more fun,” says said Tietz. . The result? “[It] is not as convenient as an ID.3. Not that car, but that was not the intention,” he continued.

You’ll notice that many of the Cupra-specific changes aren’t in different hardware, but in different code. In fact, EV rigs like the MEB easily lend themselves to this sort of thing. “With electric cars, it’s easier. It’s easier to do things with software. If you look at the behavior of the powertrain, you can do a lot more with software, whereas with combustion cars tuning is easier,” Tietz pointed out.

Tietz even thinks there is hope that steering feel will return to cars after switching from hydraulic power steering to electric power steering. “With 100% steering by wire, so it’s a challenge, but we have some companies in the group that are sophisticated enough to develop steering feedback,” he said, referring to Porsche, another from VW . group brands.

“There are software tools and you need additional sensors to detect the forces you’re putting on the steering wheel, but then you can simulate them and you can get the right steering feel back,” Tietz told me. In fact, that’s what a driver does in the loop simulator, but as Tietz explains, “It’s a real-time reaction, and depending on the actual situation of the car…it’s important, especially if you have sports car.”

Tietz is optimistic about the future of electric vehicle performance. “What I think still needs to be improved in this new generation of batteries is the weight,” he told me. “We won the season in ETCR [an electric touring car series], and the advantage of ETCR is that you have a small battery, only doing seven, eight turns. The weight of the car is therefore low. And my dream is that in the future you can have an electric car that you accept that your range is only 300 km, but the weight is reduced, I don’t know, 1300 kg or something like that, then you have it. it, then you have a real car, then you have a lot of fun and a sporty car.”

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