David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
As tow cars, four-wheel-drive estates like the Seat Leon X-Perience make a lot of sense. You get loads of boot space, with the all-weather ability of a 4x4.
But what tow car potential do we think this model has? Well, having driven the X-Perience on and off-road, I think it has the makings of a fine tow car. Certainly the engines should be up to the job. The entry-level version has a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. This comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. If you want an auto, you'll need to upgrade to the 181bhp 2.0 diesel, which comes with a six-speed DSG automatic transmission.
Having driven both back to back, the lower-powered engine is more than adequate. With 250lb ft of torque from as little as 1750rpm, it pulls cleanly and with determination.
Seat quotes a kerbweight of 1484kg for this model (including 75kg for the driver), with a legal towing limit of 2000kg. The noseweight limit is 80kg for all versions.
That gives an 85% match figure, usually recommended as a sensible maximum for stable towing, of 1261kg, although more experienced drivers could reasonably pull caravans closer to the Leon's kerbweight.
Suffice to say the entry-level engine should be capable of pulling any sensible match. However, stepping up to the 181bhp model brings more torque as well as extra power. With 280lb ft, it accelerates with real vigour. With a kerbweight of 1529kg, it's slightly heavier than the manual, which gives an 85% match figure of 1529kg. However, the legal towing limit drops to 1600kg.
The auto's extra poke is appealing, but there is a £2500 price difference. For my money, the manual is better value.
Either way, the X-Perience drives well. The ride can be a little firm at times, but it's a reasonable trade-off for firm control at speed. However badly in need of repair the road surface may be, the Leon's suspension never feels harsh.
The ride height is raised by 28mm compared with the Leon estate (which Seat badges 'ST'). It's not a huge difference, but it's enough to give the X-Perience a little more ground clearance as we found when tackling some Forestry Commission tracks. As off-roading goes it was rather tame, but the Seat coped easily. Most of the time the X-Perience sends all its power to the front wheels, but up to 50% can be directed to the back wheels if the front tyres struggle for grip.
It's certainly not a car for chasing Land Rovers up muddy slopes, but if you want to tow in all weathers or live in a remote and out of the way place, the X-Perience should keep you mobile longer than most cars.
Inside, the Seat Leon X-Perience will look familiar to anyone who has driven the current generation Leon. That's no bad thing, with a sensibly laid out dashboard, intuitive switchgear and respectable build quality.
Those in the front have plenty of space, but the rear seats are a little cramped. Headroom is fine, however a little more kneeroom would make adults much more comfortable.
There can be no complaints about the X-Perience's boot space, though. There's 587 litres to fill, even with the seats upright. Despite the car's raised ride height, the boot floor is still reasonably close to the ground and there's no load lip to speak of with the floor at its highest level. It can be lowered to make even more space, and there's a space-saver spare underneath which Seat says can safely be used if you puncture while towing a caravan.
You get plenty of equipment included in the price. The basic SE spec manual has 17-inch alloys, a five-inch colour touchscreen, a six-speaker stereo, cruise control, rear parking sensors and seven airbags. SE Technology trim adds an inch to the size of the alloys, LED headlights, two more speakers, a larger touchscreen, satellite navigation, alcantara trim and more.
Mind you, for the price you should expect lots of toys. Seat is asking £24,385 for the 148bhp SE manual, rising to £26,370 for the same car in SE Technology spec. The 181bhp DSG model is only available in SE Technology trim, and costs £28,870.
Not cheap then, but the new Seat Leon X-Perience has definite potential as a tug. We'll find out for sure at the 2015 Tow Car Awards, when testing kicks off in just a few weeks.