James Brodie 2019-08-13 23:01
New Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet spells end for convertible Golf and will try to succeed where Range Rover Evoque Convertible did not
This is the brand new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet, and in a world of ever more niche SUVs this could be the peak of the genre, being a drop-top compact crossover intended to make the T-Roc line-up one of the more versatile model lines in the VW stable.
It joins the new 302bhp T-Roc R as an offcut of the standard SUV, and it’s ready to make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, alongside the all-important, all-electric ID.3 hatchback.
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It’s a car with few direct ancestors to look back upon, the ill-fated Range Rover Evoque Convertible is the only recent compact SUV to go topless. However, while that car was a totally radical departure for Land Rover, the T-Roc Cabriolet can hang a little of its image and purpose on the likes of the Karmann Ghia, Mk1 Beetle Cabriolet and Golf Cabriolet. To that end, it’ll be produced at the same Osnabruck factory as those cars, continuing 70 years of convertible production at the facility.
It’s also a segment below the Evoque in size, something Volkswagen marketing and sales boss Jurgen Stackmann believes is vital to this car’s chances of mainstream acceptance – he thinks buyers won’t see this as a convertible SUV specifically, but simply, just a compact convertible car.
The T-Roc Cabriolet loses two side doors and the B-pillar makes way in order to make the folding fabric hood possible. The electrically folding arms and brackets for the roof are positioned in the bodywork either side of the second row of seats, squeezing the back bench down to just two spaces and turning the car into a strict four-seater.
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At the press of a button the roof will fold away or reappear in nine seconds, and it can do this at speeds of up to 19mph. The mechanicals for the roof have been taken from the old Golf convertible, and the T-Roc uses the same platform as that car, called MQB.
To deal with enormous loss of stiffness due to the absent roof and B-pillar, the chassis has been strengthened with new crossbeams, and the A-pillar has been strengthened too. VW has not revealed how much heavier the newcomer is, but convention would suggest a few hundred kilogrammes has been added.
Every piece of bodywork from the front wheel arch onwards is new, and the T-Roc Cabriolet actually grows in size compared to the five-door SUV. The wheelbase is up 40mm to 2,630mm, while the body grows in length too, to 4,268mm. Of course, the folding roof mechanism means that boot space takes a hit to 284-litres, and the opening is more a chute than a wide hatch. The rear bench folds almost flat at the pull of a lever, however.
The roof will only be available in black fabric and it arches high and almost to the very end of the bootlid, to create as much headroom as possible. While the rear bench has been modified, up front the cabin environment does not change from the normal T-Roc, with an eight-inch touchscreen placed centrally. The module itself is the latest ‘MIB3’ unit, brought over from the latest Passat and including an integrated eSIM for online services. VW’s 11.7-inch Active Info Display digital instrument panel will be an optional extra.
As for engines, the entry level car will use a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI petrol engine developing 113bhp and 200Nm torque, with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. A level up will be a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 148bhp and 250Nm, again linked to a six-speed manual transmission but with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic optional.
Volkswagen has not issued any performance or fuel economy figures, but given the additional weight the T-Roc Cabriolet carries, anticipate a hit to both.
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Two versions have been confirmed. In the UK, the base model will inherit the mid-spec Design trim level of the regular T-Roc, riding on 17-inch wheels as standard and with partial leather upholstery optional. An R-Line car has also been readied, with a sporty bodykit, newly minted 17-inch wheels, sports seats, lowered sports suspension and progressive steering equipped as standard too. Both will receive driver aids such as city emergency braking and lane keep assist by default.
The T-Roc Cabriolet will be on UK roads in spring 2020 with both Design trimline cars and sporty R-Line versions coming to Britain. The former should start from around £25,000, but final UK specifications will be outlined a little closer to launch.
Q&A with Jurgen Stackmann
Member of the Board of Management Volkswagen Brand for Sales, Marketing & After Sales
Who are you targeting with this car?
The car itself has very few natural competitors in the market. So it lends to customers who want to express themselves, people who don’t have to make pure, rational choices. They want something very unique.
Could competitors join you or do you think this is a segment you could be alone in?
I think so. You have to make three big decisions: do you want to invest in the cabriolet segment? Which is, a very small segment. Do you have a base car that actually allows you to create a cabriolet? We’ve seen one example where it didn’t really work. And thirdly, can it be affordable enough to sell it to a sufficient amount of people?
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Could you look to build another convertible SUV?
There is no plan to do this with another SUV. We don’t have an SUV cabriolet range in our head. And I don’t think people will detect this as an SUV-cabriolet. I think they will look at the car and see a very strong, characterful car.
Do you still need to do a Golf Cabriolet now that this exists?
I don’t believe we will come to that decision. We took the decision to do the T-Roc Cabriolet as a team, and to be frank, we asked the team ‘show us the car. If we love it, we’ll give it a shot.’ We loved it. It will suit the line-up and it will be a good Volkswagen. I don’t think we need to take another cabriolet into what is a small market segment, so Golf, I don’t think will get a cabriolet.
If we do go for another open car it will be something radically different, so something like the ID. Buggy. That would be something very different. Different user group, different style group, but not another cabriolet.
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Associated Advanced Gallery New 2020 Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet fills gap in range – pictures