We’ve driven this car before, in the sunny south of France; waterlogged Welsh roads feel a more representative test of its capabilities.
First, though, you can tell an R-spec T-Roc by the new rear diffuser, skirts and wheelarch extensions, as well as additional daytime running lights at the front that sit within a new bumper. British cars also get 19in alloy wheels as standard to go with the 20mm drop in ride height. Then there are the quad exhausts, straight from the Golf R playbook; if you opt for the Akrapovič option, the tips are perforated.
So, it doesn’t go under the radar like the Golf R Estate will, but it’s still reasonably subtle, especially in blue.
The interior is more disappointing. The Alcantara-trimmed seats are comfortable and easy to slide into but fail to impart much in the way of occasion, while the quality of plastics below elbow height fails to live up to the £38,450 asking price. Typically for Volkswagen, the switchgear and infotainment are very well executed, but you can’t get away from the ergonomics and the practical ambience. In lesser T-Roc variants, the high ceiling and low transmission tunnel generate a welcome feeling of space, but for an R-branded product, it’s all a bit van-like. Except for the steering wheel, which is beautifully thin-rimmed and lovely to hold.
The T-Roc R moves well, though. Not, it must be said, as sweetly or smartly as the Golf R, despite the shorter wheelbase, but well enough to be considered more fluid on the move than either the Audi SQ2 or Cupra Ateca, which are its direct rivals (and, strangely, its corporate cousins).
The stand-out strength is wheel control. Our car’s optional adaptive dampers (£695; don’t even think twice) allow the suspension to move generously, but rarely does it ever become out of sync with the road very rapidly scrolling backwards beneath it, and roll is truly minimal. That’s a proper R trick, and the added bonus is that the T-Roc R can deliver an enviably plush ride in Comfort mode if you back off and catch your breath.
What’s lacking is an element of involvement. To some degree, this is true of the Golf R, whose steering is accurate and very nicely geared but low on feel. However, the Golf's traditional hatchback driving position puts you that much closer to the action, making it more fun and engaging to chase the throttle anywhere and everywhere, whatever the weather or camber.
You will still want to chase the throttle in the T-Roc R. We know how good the EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is and all about its ability to hit you with torque from practicality anywhere in the rev range. The exhaust pops are overdone in Race mode, but it’s a smooth, potent engine, and the dual-clutch automatic gearbox pairing is almost impossible to fault in objective terms.
Volkswagen has also redeployed its Haldex-developed four-wheel-drive system, which can channel half of the available torque to the back axle via a multi-plate clutch, and it can do so faster than ever before. Traction is never an issue, although this is very much a car to drive within the limits of grip. Push too hard and it feels frustratingly front-driven, while the stability control never really gives you free reign.