Cupra makes DarkRebel real for Munich motor show

Tom Barnard

3 Sep 2023

Spanish SEAT spin-off Cupra has turned its striking DarkRebel from a computer-generated concept into a physical car, revealed at the Munich motor show this week.

The ‘shooting break’ hatchback supercar was originally shown in April as a virtual concept and was designed entirely online, partly using public input from 270,000 people who played with the colour and trim options on the ‘Hyper Configurator’. This apparently included CUPRA brand ambassadors such as FC Barcelona players Alexia Putellas, Marc ter Stegen and Ansu Fati, and the actor Daniel Brühl. 

Data collected from the online portal was injected into the final design, which has now moved from the virtual to the real world. Although it’s too late to influence the concept, you can still play with the configurator here.

The resulting concept is a 100% electric two-seat sports car which has more than a passing resemblance to the Batmobile. The DarkRebel is 4.5 metres in length and 1.3 metres in height – almost identical to the current Porsche 911. It’s wider than a Range Rover though, at 2.2 metres.

Although there is no word on a production version of the DarkRebel, there are certain elements which point the way to future features for Cupra models.  

The vehicle’s radical sharp front look is very different to the usual smooth noses of other electric cars and is designed to channel air to cool the powertrain if needed, but otherwise it will be directed under and around the car to improve aerodynamic efficiency and downforce at speed. 

There is also a central spine, made of a transparent material which appears to run from the front to the rear of the car, through the interior.

The Cupra is almost identical to a Porsche 911 in length and height

Lighting is a key part of the design too. The CUPRA’s triangular illuminations are becoming its trademark, and on the DarkRebel the shape is used on the badge itself, in addition to the daytime running lights and tail lamps. 

The paint is also special – it has the visual texture of liquid mercury, with a dark violet tone which changes depending on how light hits it. 

Flip up the scissor doors and the CUPRA DarkRebel certainly doesn’t have the open and airy feeling interior of other electric cars. 

The central spine separates the driver and passenger in the strict two seat interior. Produced using 3D metal printing technology, it provides structural performance with maximum lightness, emerging from between the base of the seats and extends forward to the facia. It houses the gear selector, which is in the central spine and made of an illuminated crystal material.

The steering wheel combines elements of racing and gaming technology. Its adjustment is synchronised with sliding pedals to provide the ideal position for sporty driving. 

Another key element in the interior are the bucket seats, with headrests covered with knitted fabric and supported by a structure made from a transparent material with copper inserts. 

As the battery pack is mounted behind and between the driver, these seats are mounted low and have bases which are much longer than normal, offering lateral support for the entire leg. ​

A transparent 'spine' runs from the front to the back of the car

On the roof, a thermal camera monitors the condition of the cabin, and the intelligent climate control system adjusts the temperature and airflows accordingly, with the air flowing through vents under the windscreen. These are lined with the sort of breathable stretch fabric used in gym wear and have backlighting which changes colour depending on if the air is warm or cool.

The instruments and display continue the ultra-modern gamer theme. There are three options to choose from, all selected from the steering wheel. These adapt the exterior, interior, lighting and sound in addition to bringing special functions. 

The first, called Exponential Square, is the most futuristic looking, with space-age graphics as well as a customisable ‘human’ avatar which appears on the display to help with functions.

‘Exponential Cube’ has more of a racing feel, taking inspiration from the gaming world by offering real-time racetrack positioning, lap timing, and performance data. 

Finally, the ‘Exponential Infinite’ setting is designed to be used while the DarkRebel is parked and charging, offering users the opportunity to interact with the CUPRA Tribe in the virtual world through games and interactive activities. 

Wayne Griffiths, CEO of CUPRA, said: "Thanks to the passion and creativity of the CUPRA Tribe, we have been able to turn one of our most powerful obsessions into a real show car. The CUPRA DarkRebel is the maximum provocation of CUPRA design. It is a rebel with a purpose: to prove that electric cars in the future can be sporty, sexy, and emotional”.

Unusually, Cupra has not made any mention of powertrain in the DarkRebel other than to say it is 100% electric. The other ‘Rebel’ concept, originally called the UrbanRebel, will go into production in 2025 using the name ‘Raval’. It uses the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen ID.2, including the GTI version which is also revealed at the Munich show this week.

A 3D virtual assistant pops up on the display to help you master the controls and features

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