► We ride in the new T-Roc R
► Officially revealed at Genva
► Tested at the Nordschleife
'It has to be more fun to drive,' says Jost Capito, VW R boss. We’re sitting in the T-Roc R, the swirly patterned cammo outside and testing equipment inside underlining its prototype status. Capito has to justify every R model, and while it’s fairly simple for the Golf R, the case for the T-Roc R was a bit trickier, especially with internal competition from Audi.
Capito’s won that battle, as the T-Roc R has been approved, adding a second model to the R line-up alongside that popular Golf. It will be officially revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March, with sales starting later this year.
Unsurprisingly, it borrows a lot from the Golf R. The T-Roc R uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit and rides on the MQB A platform. Power from that is 300PS (296bhp), the same as the WLTP homologated version of Golf R’s engine, mated, like its hatchback relation, exclusively to a DSG automatic transmission and 4Motion four-wheel drive.
We’re at the Nurburgring, VW test driver and racer, Benny Leuchter, adding a few more laps to the development miles. We’re adding ballast alongside, the weather is miserable, Leuchter demonstrating the T-Roc R’s adjustable chassis, lifting to have the rear come into play and tuck the T-Roc R’s nose into line. Capito and Leuchter work closely, each understanding what an R should be, Capito describing it as having: 'a focus on handling, feel and sound,' admitting that chasing outright power isn’t an R goal.
The sound bit we can attest to, with the optional Akrapovic exhaust it’s got a deep, purposeful note that belies the relatively ordinary engine powering it. There’s still some synthetic sound piped into the interior, switching between the drive modes intensifying that. It is muted in Eco and Comfort, being more prominent in Sport and Race, these, as ever, altering the engine, transmission, steering and, with optional DCC dampers, chassis responses accordingly.
This prototype’s riding on the standard, passive dampers, Leuchter saying they’ve a crack team at Wolfsburg when it comes to dampers, Capito admitting that it’s so good without DCC that it’s not a must-tick option. Indeed, Capito is fairly vocal on the R’s chassis development, saying that unlike some rivals the electronics are there for safety rather than to mask deficiencies in the base chassis. 'The chassis must work well with everything off,' says Capito.
Taking his boss’s advice, Leuchter, drives around the wet circuit without traction or stability control on. The 4Motion is predominantly front-wheel drive, with 50% of power able to be diverted to the rear axle when it’s required. What’s clear is the correlation between what Leuchter’s doing at the wheel and how the R is responding, the front axle turning in quickly as Leuchter runs around the challenging track at indecent speed.
Leuchter reckons it’s about 9 seconds slower around the Nurburgring than the Golf R, that deficit down to the T-Roc’s greater height and weight, and the impact those have down the long, high speed straights here. Weight will impact the 0-62mph time, it expected to be around 5.0 seconds, with a 155mph top speed. Drag is the T-Roc R’s foe, then, Leuchter saying it’d be much closer on a tighter, shorter circuit.
The suspension is a mix of Golf and T-Roc, with the front sub frame from the GTI, a 20mm drop in ride height on springs around 20% firmer, it rides on 19-inch wheels with 235/40 R19 tyres, and uses the performance brake option from the Golf R. There’s been a huge amount of work on brake feel and response, Capito and Leuchter repeatedly mentioning feel when describing all elements of the T-Roc’s dynamic set-up. As Capito admits: 'it’s fun to drive, but it’s not extreme, you can push it, but it can still be comfortable, there should be no surprises, you have to feel like you’re in control.'
At more sedate pace on the roads around the Nurburgring, the T-Roc R pulls off the same trick of its Golf R relation, being quick and composed, the suspension being taut, but not compromised, even on the fairly poor tarmac that’s fairly typical on the country roads here.
Inside and out it’ll play that same performance subterfuge that’s an R signature, the styling and specification revisions subtle, Rs appeal being their relative stealth. Indeed, the Golf R has established itself as something of a useful, rapid tender among sports and super car buyers, Capito admitting that its understated, easy performance and ability are core to its appeal.
With the T-Roc R there’ll be another model for those buyers to choose from, R set to roll out more models in time. We rather like the idea of an Up! R or Polo R, but Capito isn’t convinced, saying the numbers don’t really add up for R models below the Golf.