Drawn to T-Roc R? VW might have a less trendy, less costly option to consider.
You cannot blame carmakers from wanting to make a buck, states Iain Robertson, but trendiness carries invariably a premium and, with T-Roc R running just shy of £40k (inc. options), an identically spec’d Golf might be a fairer, less costly choice.
Perfect for both private buyers and business users alike, the Volkswagen brand underscores its relevance, as the world’s largest car manufacturer, without making compromises…normally. While the T-Roc R is, without a hint of irony, a Golf R on mini-stilts, as a single male in his second childhood, I ought to be champing at the SUV bit, yet I find myself being affected by perfectly sensible environmental considerations, which also lean towards lower list prices.
Although T-Roc R is massively competent, raising the road height and, thus, the centre of gravity of a sporting hatchback could be termed myopic. Yet, VW performs a sterling task with T-Roc. It is inevitable that its corner vectoring, in-built with the now customary box of chassis electronics, will rein-in any potential waywardness. However, you would need to be tackling on-the-limit track days to venture anywhere close to the car’s dynamic limits. In fact, the tarmac hugging Golf feels slightly leaden alongside its T-Roc nemesis, which benefits from slightly softer suspension settings, with only minimal detriment to its 4WD stability and agility, the hardware of which happens to rob more than 50-litres of its practical boot space (392 vs 445-litres, before dropping the rear seatbacks).
Naturally, the other benefit of the SUV vs hatchback argument is the more upright seating position, which promotes better space utilisation. For a chap of my 2.0m tall dimensions, I am grateful for the extra interior height, which means that, although tight, there is space for another six-footer to sit behind me. However, I have zero issues with the Golf’s packaging and being closer to terra firma gives more than a psychological connection to pushing on a bit. It is worth highlighting that the T-Roc has not received the latest Golf ‘minimalist’ interior but I have no complaints about the familiarity of the layout, which has been a VW staple for the past two decades at least.
Just as the driving position in T-Roc R is multi-adjustable, so, too, is the dashboard layout, well, the screens are. The big touchscreen in the dash centre is easy to operate; easier, in fact, than in the Golf, where its more ‘sudden’ suspension can divert a finger’s accuracy most wilfully. The sat-nav is especially good. However, the optional fully digitised instrument binnacle, ahead of the driver, can be tailored through several layouts to suit the his demands. Although it is preferable to have dials to review at a glance, being able to place the map just below the line of eyesight does have its uses. The application of hard plastics for the T-Roc R’s dashboard mouldings is slightly disappointing for a car of this price range.
Powering the T-Roc R is the bombproof 2.0-litre TSi engine that provides a turbo-petrol spine to the entire Group’s existence. Kicking-out a wholesome 296bhp and almost the same numerical torque value (295lbs ft) highlights its performance potential to perfection. Even driving through a 7-speed DSG, automated manual transmission, the T-Roc R can blast consistently from 0-60mph in a supercar-teasing 4.8s, before racing onwards to a restricted 155mph. However, it never feels as rapid as the Golf R, which is also slightly lighter but not enough to create the impression.
To be fair, it is a delightful combination. Stab at the accelerator pedal and the response is instant, aided by the constant stability of the Haldex all-wheel drive system, which ensures that histrionics are negligible and that grip levels are optimised. It is worth pointing out that it can stop with equal vigour. Although the rear seats are shapely, they do not hug the driver’s or front passenger’s hips with as much ease, when pedalling around your favourite back-doubles. The most notable change is with the steering, which is wonderfully direct in the Golf but seems to lack feedback in the T-Roc, a factor not helped a single jot by the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, which beefs-up the steering in ‘Race’ mode but also makes it most uninspiring.
There is a trade-off for Porsche-grade performance. An official combined fuel return of 32.5mpg, although attainable, is easy to drop into the low-20s, if you dip regularly into the car’s potency pool. It is not exactly cheap on the CO2/road tax front either, being rated at 176g/km. However, if your T-Roc R is acquired for its urge credentials, the extra overheads are probably a budgeted consideration. If not, enjoy the kicks but trade downwards soon.
Part of the options list on the test car is the £300 extra heated seats and screenwash nozzles feature and, while not appreciating the latter, the extra early-morning warmth in the lower lumbar region was truly excellent. Apart from the boy-racer, four Akropovic exhaust tail-pipes that provide subtle popping at the rear of the car, its wider wheel-arches and overall fussiness, not least with the LED lighting signature fore and aft, fall into the ‘do they have to’ classification. Personally, I prefer the less blingy look of the Golf R.
While justifying the list price of the Golf R can be tough enough, with the T-Roc R carrying around £2,400 premium, accepting that this is a niche performance model, may lead to a domestic argument, if not one with your company accountant. While VeeDub build quality is solid, the use of cheaper materials, even than in the Golf, is a sad indictment of VW wanting to eke out every extra penny of profit that it can. To be frank, I am not a fan of T-Roc. Factoring-in the R pack does not improve the core product by enough of a margin to make it the compelling option. As stated earlier, the Golf R is the more tolerable choice.
Conclusion: Quick and practical are terms that I have attached to the Golf R in the past. They remain true. The T-Roc R is a fashionable alternative but it is not the better car. Save some ackers and stick with Golf.