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Volkswagen T-Roc — long-term review
How does the T-Roc compare to VW's poshest SUV?
While I’m running the eye-searing T-Roc, it seems apposite to have an internet-chat with TG’s Adam Waddell, who’s the custodian of our Touareg. So, here goes a VW SUV in-fight…
Wook: I’ll throw a really random one out there here: JATO (a big automotive industry intelligence company) recorded that in October of ’19, 40 per cent of all cars sold in Europe were SUVs of one sort or another. That’s 484,400 vehicles that are probably a bit taller-slash-more-bulky than they probably need to be, and a bit of a salute to all of us ‘enthusiast’ drivers who seem to moan about them. The sales figures indicate that people really like ‘em. The relevance here is that one in ten of all those SUVs sold… was a Volkswagen. So you and I, Mr.Waddell, are very fashionable. In car terms, at least.
Adam: Yes – funny how SUVs are the norm these days and you don’t find folk talking disparagingly about ‘Chelsea Tractors’ so much anymore. Unless you’ve got a Range Rover Sport SVR that is. The thing is, with traffic and speed controls being what they are, I think the handling benefit that comes with a low centre of gravity is over-rated and its rather nice to survey the world around you from a little higher up. But it’s amazing to think that VW has 10 per cent of the SUV market – a sector it only joined in 2002.
Wook: True, VW hasn’t messed about. I’ll make a couple of points though: not living in town, I’m not so bothered by the traffic calming issues, but do have to deal with a lot of rough lanes where I live, and sitting up a bit higher does have advantages. Plus, not sure the T-Roc actually suffers that much in the handling stakes for everyday driving. We’re coming from different ends of the scale, mind. In the brand walk-up of ’T’-cars, there’s T-Cross, T-Roc (like mine), Tiguan (and Allspace), and then your full-on SUV Touareg at the top. That’s if you ignore the Touran MPV - which you probably should. But I just wanted to see what you thought - because the more I drive the T-Roc, the more I wonder about VW’s strategy.
Adam: In the sense that they’re all just scaled versions of each other? I know what you mean – they should just be called ‘Small’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’. I often find myself mistaking Tiguans for Touaregs and vice versa and given that my Touareg is white – a classic Tiguan colour – it’s an easy mistake to make.
Wook: And at my end, the overriding feeling I’m getting is that the T-Roc is lovely, but just a bit… hard to pin down? I think the word I’m looking for here is vanilla. It’s genuinely good at lots of the things I need to do. It looks expensive enough - I even like the radioactive child vomit ‘Tumeric Yellow’ our car is painted in - and it’s got a solid case for being stylish. The interior is well made, thought out and just a touch funky with the body colour slab inside, and the driving experience is all pleasantly competent. It’s all good. Excellent, even. But it’s just a bit middling for me - I don’t look back longingly when I park it.
Saying that, my partner - who is significantly shorter than me - loves driving it. Loves the fact that it’s not much bigger than a Golf but offers a better view, loves the way a VW feels. She even thinks the handling is ‘very sporty’. Is this a car for the people that know what they like in a car, but aren’t really those heavily into cars?
Adam: You’re not wrong. T-Roc, Tiguan and Touareg aren’t statement cars – and that suits me down to the ground. I think the T-Roc could have got away with some even funkier design but once you get into big SUV territory, brash styling doesn’t play well. Sorry to go on about the Range Rover Sport SVR, but when one of those blasts past in a lairy spec and growling 560bhp 5.0-litre V8, it’s hard to think of a car that’s less in touch with the real world right now. If I’m driving a big, heavy SUV, I don’t want to be effectively flicking the Vs at the outside world as I do so. See what I mean about the benefit of understatement in cars like these? So, no, I don’t take one last look out at my Touareg from the bedroom window at night but I’d rather be seen in this than the Lamborghini Urus with which it shares a platform.
It delivers everything you’d expect and more from a driving and practicality point of view – but it’s the interior where the Touareg really stands out. There’s a lot of tech going on and a real sense of sophistication that wasn’t quite there with the previous generation model.
Wook: So you’re saying go understated on the outside and keep the showing off for the people on the inside? That Vee-dub has played these cars the right way?
Adam: Well, it works for me. And the added benefit of styling that isn’t too faddy is that it doesn’t date. A 10 year old Tiguan in R-Line spec still looks quite contemporary today – I wonder if I’ll feel the same way about my Touareg in 2029?