► Only open-topped SUV on sale in UK
► Roof opens in 9sec, closes in 11sec
► £3750 price hike over standard model
Volkswagen has no plans to make another Golf Cabriolet, so, for the foreseeable future, this is the only open-topped car maintaining the company’s 70 year heritage of wind-in-the-hair models.
More to the point, with Range Rover’s pricey Evoque Convertible now consigned to the circular filing tray and the rear seats of smaller soft-tops such as the MINI and BMW 2 Series fit for only babes in arms and Douglas Bader, you’ll have to widen your wallet to the tune of a Mercedes’ C-Class to find a comparable open offering in the respectable-seating-for-four-market place. And even the latter won’t trouble the T-Roc Cabriolet’s status as the only extant open-topped SUV on sale in the UK.
So, just a T-Roc with the top lopped off?
Not quite. What we have here is a T-Roc shorn of a tin lid, two doors, rear hatchback practicality, 161 litres of loadspace and that evergreen marketing fib of a third, middle seat in the rear.
To the plus column we must add 40mm of wheelbase length, a steeper windscreen rake, a fabric roof that opens in just nine seconds and closes in 11 at speeds of up to 19mph, the entirely less welcome addition of getting on for 200kg in overall weight and a price-tag hike of some £3750 over the equivalent hard top.
The Cabriolet is available with a choice of two trim levels, which offer the identical meld of hard plastics, high-quality ergonomics and hot-to-trot infotainment you’ll find in the standard car. There seems to be something of a beef circulating about the hard plastics element to the equation but, in truth, only motoring writers scritch about on the top of the dashboard – everything else is bang on the mark, including a first class driving position and fine ergonomics.
And how good is the soft-top?
Given its fundamentally fabric construction, about as good as it could be… Lid on, isolation from the outside world is modest at best. The fact that the front panel is solid and canvas-clad – Boxster-style – making life in the front a tad more peaceful, but that does leave you with the disconcerting feeling that more external road, wind and traffic noise is entering the cabin behind you than it oughter, as if you’d left a rear window ajar.
The lid folds quickly and smoothly on top of itself, and looks fairly tidy when stowed, despite the absence of a final, rear-hinged panel cover to seal the lot in. Moreover, despite the loss of loadspace on paper, there’s still a respectable luggage cavern aft.
There is a demountable wind deflector to fiddle and curse into place over the rear seats but, windows up, front seat occupants are well enough protected from the worst of the slipstream without the faff. Windows down, front seat over-tousling of the barnet is a given at cruising speeds, whilst, at anything but a snail’s pace, lowering the windows puts those in the back in very real danger of being lashed to death by their own quiff.
So we won’t be lid-off lashing down the autobahn any time soon?
Well, not for any length of time, or, for that matter, at any great velocity, which is probably a blessing. Under-bonnet variants come in the form of just two petrol powerplants – a three-pot, 1.0 litre, 113bhp engine or a four-cylinder, 1.5 litre, 148bhp unit.
We sampled the 1.5 litre unit perfectly paired with VW’s optional, oleaginous seven-speed DSG gearbox. With just enough oomph to shift the car’s extra heft at an adequate rate, this powertrain comprises easily the smoothest ingredient of the Cabrio’s forward motion.
And that’s because the R-Line trim level visited upon this example makes the mistake of lowering and toughening the suspension… This, allied to the perceptible loss of bodyshell torsional stiffness attendant to roof removal is not a Good Idea…
The reinforcement that’s responsible for the Cabrio’s extra 200kg struggles to shackle the bodyshell shudders elicited from all but the smoothest of road surfaces. You do acclimatise quite rapidly, true, but the shimmy is ever present, and its testament to how well the thing’s screwed together that it doesn’t creak off down the road like a galleon in a gale.
Handling not on a par with the standard T-Roc, then?
Definitely not. Though tin lid removal has lowered the centre of gravity, that extra weight does make itself felt through bends, dollops of body roll adding further imprecision to the cornering process.
Amongst the eight grand’s worth of extras bolted to our specimen lurks Dynamic Chassis Control. Pointless, really, when all you need is a button marked ‘The Most Comfortable Ride Possible, Please’. The Cabrio will, of course, go round corners far faster than you want it to but, truth be told, the best variant available is undoubtedly the cheapest and, roof down, the slowest.
VW T-Roc Cabriolet: verdict
It has always struck me that the joy of open-topped motoring is in slowing down, turning off the blather on the radio, soaking up a few rays and enjoying the view on which ever day it is that summer falls. And in that respect, the T-Roc Cabriolet ticks all the boxes. Ask any more of it, however, and its shortcomings in relation to the standard car all to readily surface.
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