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2023 Volkswagen T-Roc R review


Fun fact: Australia is one of the largest markets for Volkswagen R products outside of Europe.

So it’s no surprise the brand has fought hard to bring just about every flagship performance product available in the global portfolio to Australia. It started with the Golf R, followed by the Tiguan R, and now the T-Roc R.

The Volkswagen T-Roc R actually isn’t all that new, as it’s been around for a number of years in Europe before the nameplate’s mid-life refresh. But hey, better late than never right?

It serves as the new entry point into Volkswagen Australia’s now sprawling R line-up, which will soon also include the flagship Touareg R plug-in hybrid (PHEV) either late in 2022 or early 2023.

Priced from just under $60,000 before on-road costs, the T-Roc R dips back into a price bracket once the realm of the Mk7 and Mk7.5 Golf R, and blends the Golf R’s oily bits with the in-vogue crossover body style.

On paper, it should be a hit. Could this be the brand’s new fan favourite?

How much does the Volkswagen T-Roc R cost?

The T-Roc R is priced from $59,300 before on-road costs and options.

It’s nearly $10,000 less expensive than the larger Tiguan R (from $68,990), despite being quicker to 100km/h and offering similar levels of features and specification, and it’s more than $5000 cheaper than the Mk8 Golf R Hatch (from $65,990).

Want something even cheaper? For the 2023 model-year Volkswagen Australia is bringing the T-Roc R Grid Edition with a streamlined spec sheet for $5000 less – read more about the limited-edition model here.

2023 Volkswagen T-Roc pricing:

  • Volkswagen T-Roc Style: $36,600
  • Volkswagen T-Roc R-Line: $44,700
  • Volkswagen T-Roc R Grid Edition: $54,300
  • Volkswagen T-Roc R: $59,300

Key rivals include:

All prices exclude on-road costs

What is the Volkswagen T-Roc R like on the inside?

The T-Roc R builds on the updated interior of the core range, decking out the cabin in Nappa leather as standard and offering optional Lapiz Blue trim inserts – an extra $250.

R versions of the T-Roc also pick up the larger 9.2-inch touchscreen unavailable lower down in the range, which is a nice point of difference as well.

The R steering wheel isn’t overly different to the tiller in the R-Line, though it gets blue inserts and the plastic paddle shifters are enlarged and feel more substantial.

Up front you’re sat in comfortable Sport front seats with blue R embroidery, trimmed in Nappa leather as standard – it’s pretty much the same seat that’s an option in the R-Line.

Drivers get electric adjustment with memory presets, and as noted in our review of the standard T-Roc, these seats offer a wide range of adjustment and are very comfortable and supportive.

While we didn’t have it on test, the T-Roc R Grid Edition will have the same seats trimmed in a sports cloth and suede combination upholstery, and the electric adjustment for the driver is removed.

Being essentially an identical cabin to lower grades means build quality is solid though some materials are still a little questionable given the R’s starting price. The new soft-touch dashboard is a welcome upgrade, though the hard door tops and lower-tier plastics remind you of the T-Roc’s more budget-friendly origins.

Ahead of the driver is the 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro virtual instrument binnacle, common to a slew of current VW products from the Polo hatchback through to the Tiguan SUV. It’s quick and clear, and offers a range of views to show whatever information you want – i.e. mapping, trip computer and performance data.

Unlike other platform-sharing models within the Volkswagen Group – like the SQ2 and Karoq Sportline – there’s no sportier option in the virtual cluster for a central tacho dial to further differentiate the R from core models.

The 9.2-inch touchscreen sitting atop the dashboard is typically Volkswagen in that it’s easy to use, is well featured, and offers good graphics and load times. It’s hooked up to an optional 300W six-speaker Beats premium audio system which offers pretty punchy sound quality – though we reckon it should be standard.

Wireless Apple CarPlay worked seamlessly during our time with the T-Roc R, bolstered by the grippy, rubberised wireless smartphone charging pad beneath the centre stack.

Despite its compact dimensions (4236mm long, 1819mm wide, 2595mm wheelbase), the T-Roc’s second row is surprisingly accommodating.

At 6’1 I can comfortably fit behind my own driving position, and there’s sufficient amenities for kids and adults alike riding in the rear.

Directional air vents, rear map pockets, a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, and twin USB-C ports mean the T-Roc’s second row is well featured for the class, while ISOFIX and top-tether points mean your little ones are catered for too.

The T-Roc R quotes 392 litres of luggage capacity in five-seat configuration, which expands to 1237 litres with the rear seats folded.

Like the T-Roc R-Line, the R loses some capacity to the front-wheel drive T-Roc Style (445L/1290L) due to the added all-wheel drive hardware at the rear.

Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel.

What’s under the bonnet?

Power in the T-Roc R comes from a version of Volkswagen’s ubiquitous EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, tuned to deliver 221kW (5300-6600rpm) and 400Nm (2000-5300rpm) in this application – like the Audi SQ2 and Cupra Ateca.

Drive is sent to a 4Motion variable all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Volkswagen quotes a 0-100 time of 4.9 seconds.

The T-Roc R is fitted with a petrol particulate filter (PPF), meaning Australia gets the full-fat European drivetrain. As a result, 98 RON premium unleaded fuel is the required octane rating, to avoid costly damage to the exhaust treatment system caused by Australia’s lower-grade sulphurous fuel.

Speaking of fuel, the T-Roc R uses a claimed 8.3L/100km on the combined cycle. The fuel tank measures 55 litres.

How does the Volkswagen T-Roc R drive?

Push the start button and the T-Roc fires to life with a muted growl, much like other Volkswagen products with this engine.

This performance drivetrain breathes new life into the T-Roc, which has always felt like it’s capable of handling more grunt than the previous 140kW flagship.

Very quickly you’ll notice the added muscle from low down in the rev range – 400Nm from 2000rpm is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a vehicle weighing 1519kg (tare). It’s only 18kg heavier than the Mk8 Golf R.

In normal driving there’s effortless shove, and the racy additions of the R package haven’t necessarily compromised comfort. The engine and exhaust note are nicely subdued in Comfort and Normal settings, and the Adaptive Chassis Control (damping) offers good compliance in said modes.

The T-Roc R is obviously tuned on the firmer side, but like other R products it’s perfectly serviceable as a daily driver.

Crank up the dial a little bit, and there’s a new dimension to the T-Roc’s driving experience courtesy of the Golf R hardware underneath.

Sink your boot in and the little crossover shoots towards the horizon, and there’s a nice raspy note to the drivetrain, augmented by some software trickery through the vehicle’s audio system.

On upshifts the T-Roc R will fart or pop depending on the intensity of throttle application and drive mode, but regardless this thing is a hoot to drive in town and up a winding B-road. If only the Akrapovic titanium exhaust offered overseas was available locally, because it would only enhance the experience further.

On the topic of winding B-roads, the outskirts of Canberra had a wonderful mix of high-speed country roads that really allowed the T-Roc R to stretch its legs and show off its dynamic talents.

While the driving position is a little high – much like the Tiguan R – the T-Roc goes hard both in a straight line and in the bends. It really does feel like a raised Golf R.

There’s so much grunt across the rev band, with snappy shifts from the DSG transmission and huge grip courtesy of the 235/40 R19 Continental ContiSport Contact performance tyres and 4Motion all-wheel drive.

It’s a stack of fun to punt this thing through a series of corners regardless of the speed, and I couldn’t help but smile at how the T-Roc R conducted itself. I felt silly driving as aggressively as I could while perched high in this compact vehicle.

Like lower grades of the T-Roc, the R comes decked out with the latest active safety systems, including the nifty Travel Assist which combines adaptive cruise and lane-centring for semi-autonomous highway driving up to 210km/h. Further, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts are handy to have given the T-Roc’s thick C-pillars.

While the bulk of the drive experience is quite positive, the T-Roc R isn’t without its setbacks.

The big wheels and sports suspension tune mean that even in Normal mode the ride can be a little busy over pimpled tarmac, and can be a little terse over sharper hits – though that’s to be expected.

There’s also a bit of road noise over anything but smooth bitumen. Like the T-Roc R-Line with its low-profile Bridgestone Potenza rubber, the T-Roc R’s Continental tyres transmit a bit of roar into the cabin on the highway, particularly over the rougher stuff.

What do you get?

T-Roc R highlights:

  • 19-inch Estoril alloy wheels
  • Adaptive Chassis Control with Race mode
  • Progressive steering
  • R exterior and interior styling
  • IQ.Light Matrix LED headlights
  • Dynamic Light Assist (adaptive high-beam)
  • Premium LED tail lights with dynamic indicators
  • Exterior ambient lighting
  • Electric tailgate with Easy Open and Close
  • Premium metallic paint
  • 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Voice and Gesture control
  • Satellite navigation
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
  • Wireless phone charging
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Nappa leather-appointed upholstery
  • Heated front seats
  • Electrically-adjustable driver’s seat with memory

Options

Black Style package: $1200

  • Black door mirrors
  • Black roof line body strip
  • Black roof rails
  • Black contrast roof finish
  • Film in carbon-look, C-pillars
  • Black interior accents for vents and infotainment

Premium audio: $750

  • 600W 6-speaker Beats audio system
  • Subwoofer
  • 8-channel amplifier

Panoramic glass sunroof: $2000
Lapiz Blue matte inlays: $250

Is the Volkswagen T-Roc R safe?

While the T-Roc range wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP in 2017, the T-Roc R is not covered by this rating.

It received an adult occupant protection score of 96 per cent, a child occupant protection score of 87 per cent, a pedestrian protection score of 79 per cent, and a safety assist score of 71 per cent.

Standard safety features include:

  • 6 airbags
  • AEB with pedestrian detection
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Travel Assist
    • Adaptive cruise control
    • Active lane centring
  • Side Assist (blind-spot monitoring)*
  • Rear cross-traffic alert*
  • Proactive occupant protection system*
  • Park Assist (bay and parallel)
  • Parking sensors front, rear
  • Reversing camera

*Side Assist, Rear Traffic Alert and Proactive Occupant Protection are unavailable for MY23 T-Roc Style, R-Line and R Grid Edition models

How much does the Volkswagen T-Roc R cost to run?

The T-Roc, like all new Volkswagen models, is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres – whichever comes first.

Volkswagen offers three- and five-year Care Plans for all versions of the T-Roc, costing $1600 and $2800 respectively for the R, averaging between $530 and $560 per annum.

CarExpert’s Take on the Volkswagen T-Roc R

I won’t mince words – the T-Roc R is a bloody hoot.

Volkswagen’s latest addition to the R portfolio balances performance with fun, practicality and relative value in today’s market. In fact it’s well cheaper than a new Golf R despite genetic links.

For me it’s the Mk7 Golf R reincarnated to suit modern tastes, and fills the void left by the previous-generation Golf R from a price perspective, given the new Mk8 R is over $70,000 on the road.

The only real threat to the T-Roc R comes from within Volkswagen’s own stable, with the newer MQB Evo-based Cupra Formentor VZx priced similarly but offering more space and a better-appointed cabin. Audi’s mechanically similar but arguably more premium SQ2 also looms, asking for not much more than a fully-optioned T-Roc R.

But that’s what the Volkswagen Group do so well, offering a range of similar products all different enough to appeal to different tastes and price points.

And the T-Roc R will no doubt be a hit amongst current T-Roc owners looking for more punch, as well as fans of the Golf R and other hot hatches that want the higher hip point and perceived practicality gains of an SUV.

The incoming Grid Edition is also an interesting proposition, priced around $2000 than a high-spec Hyundai Kona N but offering more grunt and all-wheel drive traction. Performance SUVs are fairly hard to come by at this end of the market, so there’s not much else to compare the VW to.

I’ve already started seeing T-Roc Rs driving around in Melbourne, and I have no doubt they’ll soon become as common a sight on Australian roads as the Mk7 and 7.5 Golf R.

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Everything Volkswagen T-Roc





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