From £21,4408
High-riding T-Roc R offers impressive pace and poise and is arguably the best performance crossover yet
Simon Davis
18 October 2019

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.

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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.

That said, the driving environment itself is a bit of a let-down. The hard interior plastics that were acceptable in lower-grade versions of the T-Roc feel drab and out of place in £38,450 performance model. An X2 M35i feels far classier in this regard, as does an SQ2 - albeit to a lesser extent.

Practicality is good, though. There’s enough room for taller passengers to sit in reasonable comfort in the second row, while its 392-litre boot betters the Audi’s (355 litres), if not the BMW’s (470 litres).

Should I buy one?

Based on our brief test drive in France, it seems fair to conclude that, as an overall package, the T-Roc R trumps both the SQ2 and X2 M35i. 

A UK drive will provide the acid test, but this VW seems to ride considerably better on its adaptive dampers than its Audi and BMW rivals and it gives nothing away for sheer cross-country pace or engagement. Dare I say it: this might even be the first time where the adage of ‘just buy a Golf R instead’ doesn’t apply.

Volkswagen T-Roc R specification

Where Nice, France Price £38,450 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 296bhp at 5300-6500rpm  Torque 295lb ft at 2000-5200rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic  Kerb weight 1575kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 4.8sec Fuel economy 33.6mpg CO2 No WLTP data Rivals Audi SQ2, BMW X2 M35i

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dickieb 19 October 2019

Give it a break

Could we have just a couple of weeks off from Autocar banging on about yet more tedious and irrelevant versions of the Golf R - which was launched 5 years ago and we’ve seen many many times before.  We all know you’re being sponsored by VAG...but sorry £43k for a ugly jacked up piece of crap like this...no one is buying it anymore...

Dilly 19 October 2019

isnt it funny

How so many British commenters on here constantly slate the germans efforts to make afforable cars for everyone. The British car industry is a very exclusive club which has no interest in making cars which your average person can afford. But you constantly slate the Germans (specifically VW) for doing so. It screams of jealousy!

si73 20 October 2019

Dilly wrote:

Dilly wrote:

How so many British commenters on here constantly slate the germans efforts to make afforable cars for everyone. The British car industry is a very exclusive club which has no interest in making cars which your average person can afford. But you constantly slate the Germans (specifically VW) for doing so. It screams of jealousy!

I don't see those types of comments here, all I see is people disliking the high price of this car, the fact it's an SUV, and a hot one, and that the golf equivalent would be better, no one is slating the Germans in any jealous way for attempting to make an affordable car, this clearly at £40k+ is not affordable anyway.
My view, I don't like it but then I am not an SUV/xover fan, the performance is unnecessary in something like this, if I wanted this level of performance along with the apparant practicality SUVs bring I'd go for the golf estate R.

catnip 18 October 2019

I'm not obsessive about soft

I'm not obsessive about soft touch plastics, but I'm amazed that for a £40 K car VW haven't upgraded the hard plastics that feel cheap even in the standard versions. Still, the motoring press don't seem very concerned about it....

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