Future Ride: CUPRA DarkRebel

The sleek new CUPRA DarkRebel concept car is showcased in this photo, embodying innovation and elegance.

Could this be the caped crusader’s kind of CUPRA?

If you’ve designed a car that looks like it belongs in a DC comic, then you really must give it a name that sounds like it’s ready to lock horns with Batman. In that sense, at least, CUPRA’s DarkRebel is already a success. They’ve got the marketing right.

And this vehicle is really all about the marketing. The concept car is a pure-electric, two-seat, shooting brake sports car which CUPRA says, “condenses all the brand’s DNA and values”.

“The CUPRA DarkRebel is designed to enter a new dimension where desire, emotion and pushing without limits are our obsession,” CUPRA Design Director Jorge Diez says. 

A new dimension? Do they perhaps mean DC’s infamous “Multiverse Control Room”? We have no idea. It doesn’t matter. It’s just marketing. The important thing is it looks cool. But that in itself is no small miracle, because CUPRA designed the DarkRebel with input from 270,000 (yes, really) CUPRA fans, who provided suggestions on how the vehicle should look via an online poll hosted on the company’s Metaverse platform. (Its “Metaverse Control Room”, if you will—although CUPRA calls it their virtual Hyper Configurator… which definitely sounds like a Batman gadget). There’s an old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. It’s hard to imagine a design process that takes into account the wishes of nearly 300,000 car lovers, including—as CUPRA’s marketing will repeatedly tell you—famous footballers and actors.

Yet here it is.

CUPRA DarkRebel: A sleek and powerful car with a dark and rebellious vibe.

So, what is it?

Well, it’s the most powerful show car CUPRA has ever made—with more than 450 horsepower (peak power) and the ability to accelerate from zero to 100 kmh in under four seconds.

“It is a rebel with a purpose: to prove that electric cars in the future can be sporty, sexy, and emotional,” says CUPRA CEO Wayne Griffiths.

Beyond that, there’s precious little detail about the battery, performance or range available at all. It’s a concept car, after all. (It does seem like the kind of thing a caped crusader might need to know, though.)

But we know it’s 4.5 metres in length, 2.2 metres in width, and 1.3 metres in height, and its doors open to a height of 2.2 metres. And we know that when CUPRA unveiled the physical concept car at the Munich motor show last year, the design turned heads.

It is aggressively aerodynamic.

One writer in Autocar wrote: “The central cell of the car is modelled on that of a speedboat, and wrapped around it are vast wings, diffusers, spoilers, and cooling and aerodynamic features.”

Another journalist, in the UK’s Car Magazine, wrote: “It’s a sexy project to crown the line-up and, hopefully, generate a little more desirability for (CUPRA’s) cars. Desirability is everything for (Griffiths), too—he’s even willing to sacrifice some profitability to achieve it.”

The cab is pushed to the rear, giving the DarkRebel an old GT feel (or, dare we say it, a Batmobile vibe).

Or, as CUPRA’s marketing puts it: “Sensual surfaces with a strong combination of sharp lines create tension in the design, expressing a concentration of energy and purpose. All underscored by the enigmatic liquid body colour.”

The key element of the cabin, according to CUPRA, is the central spine with its asymmetrical shapes, lightness, and sculptural appearance.

“Produced using the latest 3D metal printing technology, it provides structural performance with maximum lightness, emerging from between the base of the seats and extending forward to embrace the driver,” the company says.

From there, things get even more wild. “Once sat in the Supersport bucket seats, with headrests made from glass and copper inserts and covered with 3D knitting fabric, the driver sees the steering wheel, which combines geometries from the world of racing with the interactivity of the world of gaming,” the company says. “The gear shifter is located in the central spine and made of exquisite glass that illuminates and invites touch.”

Putting glass in the headrest and gearstick certainly does seem to agree with the claim they designed the car “without limits”. If the DarkRebel does eventually go into production, as Griffiths says it will, it’ll be interesting to see which of these kinds of “without limits” features make it onto the showroom floor.

For the past five years or so, Volkswagen (which owns SEAT and, therefore, CUPRA) has been steadily building the CUPRA brand. It’s SEAT’s performance brand. At the same Munich motor show where the DarkRebel was unveiled, VW chairman Thomas Schafer announced that the SEAT brand is going to be retired, to be replaced by CUPRA. So, the DarkRebel is the end of an era as much as it’s the dawn of a new one.

Which is good news if you’re Batman, because it’s much cooler to be seen fighting crime in a CUPRA DarkRebel than a SEAT Leon. And that’s not marketing. That’s just facts.

A sleek CUPRA DarkRebel concept car shining in the dark, exuding an air of mystery and sophistication.

This article was published 09/02/2024 and the content is current as at the date of publication.