What is it?
It’s not often that the Golf R has company, but it’s a fairly apt sign of the times that the newest member of the loftiest order of Volkswagen’s high-performance family is SUV shaped. This is the T-Roc R and it joins the likes of the Audi SQ2, Cupra Ateca and BMW X2 M35i in the ever expanding performance crossover sphere.
Like its SQ2 and Ateca relatives (not to mention the Golf R), the T-Roc R is based on Volkswagen’s MQB architecture and makes use of the now ubiquitous EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor. It develops the same 296bhp and 295lb ft as in its cousins and it's all deployed via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and Haldex clutch-based four-wheel drive system.
A new aluminium subframe helps facilitate a far sportier suspension calibration and the uprated 17in performance brakes that are optional on the Golf R are thrown in as standard. Unlike the SQ2, adaptive dampers are available as a £695 option, while an Akrapovic exhaust can also be specified for an additional £3000. Our test car had both, as well as the 19in ’Pretoria’ alloy wheels and 8.0in Discover Media infotainment system that are standard fit on UK-spec cars.
What's it like?
On Nice’s congested inner-city roads, the T-Roc’s sporting pretensions are reasonably well masked, but still a long way from inconspicuous. With the dampers in their midway setting, vertical body movements are kept tightly in check over lumps, bumps and sleeping policemen, but not to such an extreme extent that compressions force the wind from your lungs. The T-Roc is a little more compliant in Comfort mode, although it seems there’s no escaping the often violently loud thumps from the suspension as the wheels pass over smaller ruts and expansion joints. It’s certainly more liveable with than an SQ2 or a X2 M35i, though.
Breaking out of Nice and the midday traffic, we begin a hard charge up the technical mountain roads that lead to Col de Vence. With everything set to Race mode, the T-Roc R proves brutally effective. The DSG gearbox’s tendency to be caught out is minimised and the EA888 motor is as heavy-hitting as ever. More than anything, though, it’s the levels of lateral grip the T-Roc is capable of generating that impress most.
It corners incredibly neutrally, with its 4Motion four-wheel drive capable of effectively eliminating understeer entirely. Turn the wonderfully weighted, precise steering wheel and the front end bites in towards the apex hard, before the rear end digs in to slingshot you out the other end. Any meaningful hip wriggling is clinically choreographed out of its cornering routine, but the tenacity with which it clings to Tarmac has an appeal all of its own. And although you’re aware of a heightened level of body roll through fast sweeping bends, it’s not so prevalent as to detract from the otherwise highly enjoyable process of driving this car fast on a fantastic road.