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Driven: Volkswagen T-Roc R. Image by Volkswagen UK.

Driven: Volkswagen T-Roc R
Hot VW T-Roc is proficient and charming, but itís pricey and some of the cabin finishing needs work.

   



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Volkswagen T-Roc R

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: oddly beguiling driving manners, smart looks, all-weather pace, super drivetrain (as usual)

Not so good: ludicrously expensive as tested, and some of the interior finishing is very poor - most notably, the buttons on the centre console

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen T-Roc R 2.0 TSI 4Motion
Price: T-Roc range from £21,440, T-Roc R from £40,735, car as tested £47,844.19; or, T-Roc R from £512.42pcm across 48-month/10,000-mile per annum contract with 10 per cent deposit and limited-time Volkswagen deposit contribution of £1,250, optional final payment of £16,332.30 (4.9% APR representative example)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, 4Motion all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door performance crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 197g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,305 in year one, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 32.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 300hp at 5,300-6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-5,200rpm
Boot space: 392-1,237 litres

Our view:

With not just its wider group, comprising the many other car-makers that it already owns, spreading the crossover-SUV love in recent years, Volkswagen itself has surged from two high-riding model lines to four in the latter half of the 2010s. And with arrivals like the funky T-Cross hoving into view, alongside excellent current examples of the longer-serving Tiguan and Touareg families, then it's sometimes hard to remember the curvy T-Roc exists at all.

This is a very unfair summation, mind, because it's one of the two newer product lines in VW Crossover-SOV World, along with the T-Cross, and we've always quite liked it. It also sells well, too, shifting 21,803 units in the UK alone during the last 'proper' year of normal trading, 2019. True, the T-Roc invites the classic 'why wouldn't you just have a Golf for less money?' question, but you could level that kind of 'insert hatchback X instead of crossover Y' argument at every single automotive company in the world. Doesn't alter the fact that these things fly out of the showrooms into the arms of an ever-eager public.

The problem with the general T-Roc range, though, and it's one which we've found again in this otherwise rather appealing high-performance R derivative, is that Volkswagen - a marque fabled for making its interiors feel a step ahead of the competition - seems to have cut some corners in putting the cabin of the crossover together, in order to maximise as much profit as it can from this lucrative vehicle. And these dud-quality spots are thrown into even starker relief when the R-specific accoutrements bring in cushy enhancements such as sporty seats, a fully digital 10.3-inch Active Info Display cluster and a racy leather-clad three-spoke steering wheel. So you are suddenly well aware that the plastics for the door cards and the dashboard frame are not Volkswagen's finest efforts in history; although the most egregious point by far is those switches to either side of the button for the hazard warning lights, because when you press one of them, all the others move too. It looks and feels cheap, and no amount of blue dashpad gimmickery (a £115 option) can detract from that issue.

A relatively minor switchgear aberration like this is something we might be tempted to let Volkswagen off for, were it not for the fact that our car as tested was a colossal £48,000, or at least close enough as makes no difference. Cheap, flexi-switches are probably acceptable with a list price in the 20s, but for almost 50 grand it's just unacceptable to find them in the T-Roc R. Shame, because it does look great inside. And outside, too. Finished in Volkswagen R's now-signature colour of Lapiz Blue (£775) with a contrast black roof and A-pillar (another £430), and with complementing black standard-fit 19-inch 'Pretorias' in the wheel arches, it's a smashing thing to behold. Subtle R details include badging, beefier lower bodywork, quad exhausts and a more prominent tailgate spoiler, but it's discreet and underplayed, rather than garishly overblown. It also makes the R easily the finest-looking T-Roc yet, which is probably as it should be given its flagship status.

So visually it's got the job licked, even if the material finishing is overtly sub-par in places. But how does a £41,000 T-Roc R become a £48,000 example? Well, in the main, it's the £3,050 Akrapovic exhaust to boost the acoustics and £695 on three-mode Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adjustable dampers, which offer up Comfort, Normal and Sport settings as a result. Admittedly, we're astonished that a £40k Volkswagen has to have extra expenditure heaped upon it to gain a rear-view camera (£190, and pretty much standard kit on most Suzukis these days, Wolfsburg), keyless entry and go (£400), and heated seats and heated windscreen washer jets as part of the £305 Winter Pack, but there we are.

Anyway, returning to the mechanical upgrades, the exhaust and the DCC bolster what is already an excellent specification. The venerable and always-solid EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol is once again cajoled into service here, doling out its usual 2020s outputs of 300hp and 400Nm through a seven-speed DSG dual-clutcher and Volkswagen's Haldex (clutch-pack) 4Motion system. Dimensionally speaking, the T-Roc R is not that different to the recently departed Mk7 Golf R with which it shares so much, as it's actually a tiny bit shorter than the hatchback and about the same width, with its height standing 97mm taller and the weight increasing from 1,483- to 1,575kg here. Nothing ruinous to good dynamics in any of those stats, especially with such robust outputs to fall back upon, and so it's no surprise that the T-Roc R lays claims to a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.

Brilliantly, it feels every inch the match of those lofty numbers in reality. This is a quick, quick machine in a straight line and the 2.0-litre turbo four exhaling through the Akrapovic serves up a corking soundtrack to match. Perhaps the better news is that not only is the T-Roc R brawny and rapid for straightforward acceleration, its whole case doesn't fall apart when you get to the corners. Masses of mechanical grip, all the unimpeachable traction of the 4Motion system and a snap-fast DSG transmission ensure the T-Roc can fire itself through and out of bends at a stunning rate of knots, even in slimy and wintry conditions. Positive, pleasant steering and strong brakes - these being the bigger Performance Pack items that used to be an option on the Golf R - further allow a driver to easily exploit the talented MQB chassis, this whole suite of kinematic tools coming together to make the T-Roc surprisingly fun to drive. Sure, you'd probably get just as much joy out of a Mk7 Golf GTI of some sort, or you could simply wait for the hotted-up versions of the unusually underwhelming Golf Mk8 to land, but actually the T-Roc R probably deserves much more credit than being viewed as nothing more than a performance stop-gap between changing generations of Volkswagen's legendary hatchback.

This is because the T-Roc R, fitted with that optional DCC switch into its Comfort mode, proved every bit as edifying as any other Volkswagen crossover-SUV to travel in on those longer journeys where all you're doing is monotonously covering ground. The ride quality and noise suppression are both superb for something this fast and powerful, and the turbocharged engine has enough strength in depth to be an adept motorway cruiser. In fact, 360 miles in the T-Roc R saw a highly creditable overall 34.6mpg economy figure, with an M1-best of 38.2mpg proving remarkable, all things considered.

Also, the T-Roc R holds a bit of a special place in the Volkswagen canon. It's the first R-badged SUV from the marque since the oddball Touareg R50 of 2008 and it will begat a range of similar high-performance variants from VW in the coming months. The T-Cross doesn't seem to be getting the go-faster treatment, but both 320hp Tiguan R and 462hp Touareg R hot models have been confirmed as being in the pipeline, so the T-Roc R will soon be in fine company. Not least because the Mk8 Golf R will shortly be along to join the party, too.

Ah, you say, but then why, out of all that rapid road-going choice, would I have the T-Roc R? Well, for one shiningly good reason: this is a cracking performance machine, no matter what its shape. Steer clear of speccing it up to £48,000 and try to ignore the flimsy switches in the cheap-feeling dashboard, and what you'll end up with is an enjoyable, stylish crossover that can go like the wind when the mood takes you. Frankly, we rather like the idea of living with that long-term.

Alternatives:

Audi SQ2: same mechanicals, different tailoring. Weirdly, you can't have adaptive dampers on the Audi like you can on the VW, and the T-Roc R is a bit more spacious within than the SQ2, as well.

Cupra Ateca Limited Edition: yep, here's the EA888 and MQB chassis, all packaged up in yet another slightly different way. The Cupra's due a facelift any day soon and you're best to avoid this overpriced, hard-riding LE for a lesser version of the Spanish crossover rocket.

MINI Clubman John Cooper Works: we could have picked the BMW X2 M35i here, or even the Countryman JCW instead, as both have the same engine as this model. But if you want something fast, attractive and practical, you could do a lot worse than a 306hp Clubman JCW.


Matt Robinson - 27 Jul 2020



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2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.

2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.2020 Volkswagen T-Roc R UK test. Image by Volkswagen UK.








 

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