► CAR lives with a hot T-Roc R
► 296bhp, 4.8sec to 62mph
► A-ff-C is its keeper...
If the Golf R currently constitutes the cake-and-eat-it of the hatchback world, there's no reason to suppose the T-Roc R won't tick all the boxes with equal insouciance in the realm of the compact SUV.
Except in the styling department, wherein VW has clearly lost its way. Each element of the T-Roc's couture seems to have been carried to the clay from a separate annex of the design department, none of which have been speaking to the others.
Judging by shots of the Mk 8 Golf GTI, a lower front grille styled on Aardman Animation's Wallace sucking a leaking pen while composing a letter of complaint about the Wrong Trousers having gone wrong is to become commonplace on the bows of future VWs. It doesn't particularly suit the Golf, and on the T-Roc just looks wrong, much like the going-nowhere crease curving over the rear door handle.
Mercifully, things are much less muddled on board. From both a visual and tactile perspective, some of the plastics fall short in the context of a car costing over two grand more than the Golf R, but all is as well screwed together and intuitively operable as we've come to expect from VW.
No complaints about the driving position or the deliciously grabbable steering wheel. But it must be said that climbing behind the wheel fails to deliver that feeling of imminent immersion in the driving process promised by the Golf R; strange how sitting just a whisker more upright and a few millimetres higher can make all the difference between 'on' and 'in'.
There's just about room in the rear seats for a pair of bickering teenagers, but the evil-smelling dog fares less well astern, where a steeply raked rear screen narrows the canine head space afforded by the removal of the parcel shelf to barely acceptable limits.
Happily, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a powertrain lifted pretty much wholesale from the Golf R. To quickly recap, that constitutes a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit developing 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque; this delivered via a seven-speed DSG gearbox to all four wheels courtesy of Haldex.
Thus armed, the T-Roc R will pelt to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph – this terminal velocity, unlike that of the Golf R, ungoverned.
VW has fettled here and there to compensate for the T-Roc's extra 81mm in height and 50kg weight gain over the Golf. An aluminium front subframe (which the GTI gets but the R doesn't) adds rigidity and loses weight; the brakes are lifted from the Performance Pack version of the Golf R; and the Haldex clutches have been tweaked to offer a more rear-biased power delivery under acceleration.
There's also a titanium Akrapovic exhaust system on the options list to make those noises off a little less disappointingly humdrum. But at £3000 a snap, crackle and pop, that is where it will remain.
Unlike driving the Golf R, you'll have to engage the T-Roc's Race mode to unleash the full stabbed rat, and that's where the capacity to tailor the optional Dynamic Chassis Control's dampers separately from the engine mode comes in handy – Race for the engine, by all means, but never for the damping. The Normal setting is tuff enuff to deliver flat, hard-charging cornering without dislodging your contact lenses.
Oh, and the brakes are very much front loaded on the pedal; you get the lot with the first touch, which leaves you with the unfortunate impression that you're getting less with subsequent shoving thereafter.
All in all, after a very pleasant year spent idly wishing Mazda's CX-5 came with something a little shoutier under the bonnet, the T-Roc R has no trouble fulfilling the Sport section of the SUV brief.
On first acquaintance, though, it may struggle to deliver the levels of precision and engagement that make the Golf R such a delight. Understandable, perhaps, given the extra height, weight and lofted driving position. Nonetheless, if it can combine the undeniably sizeable chunks of entertainment on offer with just half an ounce of Utility, you'll hear no complaints from this department.
Spec details of our T-Roc R
Colour Sensitive - £1020
It isn't until you specify David Dickinson Racing Orange that you suspect the T-Roc R might be just a tad colour-sensitive. These 19-inch alloys and logo'd brake calipers are standard.
Keyless Entry - £395
And start. And locking. So the car keys can remain safely in your pocket for the duration. Or, more to the point, lost in the bottom of the missus' handbag for all eternity.
Beats Soundpack - £425
Eight-channel 400-watt digital amplifier with six speakers and a subwoofer; because the capacity to smash two small lumps of earwax together with stupefying force in the middle of your brain is what teenagers want in a car.
Dynamic Chassis Control - £695
Choice of Normal, Sport and Comfort suspension settings; includes progressive steering and driving profile selection. Race mode best twinned with Normal or even Comfort damping to spare eyeballs.
By Anthony ffrench-Constant
Logbook: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech
Price £38,450 (£42,359 as tested)
Performance 1984cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 296bhp, 4.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 32.5mpg (official) 28.1mpg (tested), 176g/km CO2
Energy cost 19.3p per mile
Miles this month 1007
Total miles 1071