No, it's not com­ing to In­dia but what is VW's very first com­pact SUV like to drive? And will it give us an idea of the up­com­ing T-Cross?

Evo India - - CONTENTS -

The T-Roc is the start of the more ‘emo­tional’ Volk­swa­gens

GUESS WHAT, UP UN­TIL NOW Volk­swa­gen hasn't had a com­pact SUV in its line-up. It's amaz­ing that the VW Group have held on to the world's largest auto maker tag (or se­cond largest de­pend­ing on which way the wind blows in China) de­spite their largest brand not hav­ing what has fast be­come the world's most pop­u­lar body style. And now that VW are fi­nally rolling out dime-a-dozen com­pact SUVs from dime-a-dozen fac­to­ries all around the world, it stands to rea­son that Toy­ota will have a hard time when the num­bers are added up next year.

Or will they?

To find out, I spent the morn­ing of the T-Cross' Euro­pean launch, driv­ing around Am­s­ter­dam in the new T-Roc. Con­fused? Let me ex­plain. T stands for SUV in Volk­swa­gen- speak, link­ing it to its big broth­ers the Touareg and Tiguan. The T-Cross that had me jump­ing on to a plane for Am­s­ter­dam is com­ing to In­dia in two years, al­beit sit­ting on a heav­ily re-jigged ver­sion of the MQB-A0-IN plat­form, stretched out, blinged-up and cost-op­ti­mised to our In­dian tastes. The T-Roc you see here sits above the T-Cross in price but be­low it in size — a com­pact SUV on the MQB plat­form that shares rather a lot with the Audi Q2 in­clud­ing its wheel­base. (The Q2 was sup­posed to come to In­dia but a sen­si­ble enough price could not be ar­rived at for it, scrap­ping its busi­ness case). What we have here then is a stylish, pre­mium, com­pact SUV that shows the way for­ward for what we can ex­pect in the In­dia-bound T-Cross, and if the T-Roc is any­thing to go by, the likes of the Creta et al will not have an easy task come 2020. It starts with per­son­al­i­sa­tion. The T-Roc is the start of the more ‘emo­tional' Volk­swa­gens, crisp and time­less de­signs now mak­ing way for more ex­pres­sive front ends, more lines and flair on the sides and two-tone body colours and more body-coloured pan­els on the in­side. It def­i­nitely makes for a funky, good look­ing car — cru­cially a car that looks young.

More than the styling though, what's more im­por­tant to us is what is un­der the skin, the MQB plat­form, that is fi­nally get­ting into pro­duc­tion in In­dia. So what is MQB?

It was for­mer VW over­lord Fer­di­nand Piech's big, big en­gi­neer­ing gam­ble, a plat­form so flex­i­ble it can un­der­pin ev­ery­thing from a car of the Polo's size all the way up to a Pas­sat, and in­clud­ing all kinds of body styles (hatch­back, sedan, SUV) of all the Group's brands. It's not just a flex­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture (length, width, wheel­base, track widths, all are vari­able but the key en­gine mount­ing points are same across the plat­form) but a new pro­duc­tion sys­tem that can build any kind of car (or SUV), of any brand, on the same line, lead­ing to huge flex­i­bil­ity and ul­ti­mately cost sav­ings. It's this pro­duc­tion sys­tem that VW's Pune plant will be re-tooled for, ul­ti­mately mak­ing it a multi­brand pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity ca­pa­ble of shuf­fling prod­ucts and thus al­low­ing it to run at much higher ca­pac­ity.

We're no stranger to MQB — the new Pas­sat runs on the MQB, so does the Oc­tavia, Tiguan, Ko­diaq, A3, et al. The un­der­ly­ing sense that all these MQB cars de­liver is a very Ger­manic sta­bil­ity that lets you max it out on mo­tor­ways with­out a shake or wiggle while also be­ing very ac­com­plished round cor­ners. MQB-equipped cars are also lighter than their pre­ced­ing avatars, lead­ing to bet­ter per­for­mance and

ef­fi­ciency along with that sense of light­ness that aids dy­nam­ics. All of this holds true for the T-Roc as well, the more com­pact di­men­sions mak­ing it very ag­ile through Am­s­ter­dam's tiny lanes. It uses MacPherson struts up front with a tor­sion beam at the rear though big­ger en­gined vari­ants do get the more so­phis­ti­cated multi-link set-up. Our test car was fit­ted with the op­tional adap­tive damper sys­tem and keep­ing with its in­tended au­di­ence, the T-Roc's setup is more sporty than what you would as­so­ciate with a tra­di­tional SUV, a shift that VW points out is part of its move to­wards more emo­tional cars.

On the in­side is the new in­fo­tain­ment with the 10.3-inch wide-screen dig­i­tal panel for the in­stru­men­ta­tion (same as the Audi Vir­tual Cock­pit), a more de­tailed 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment and a re­duced but­ton count — all of which makes the T-Roc feel more mod­ern. The chunky flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel adds sporti­ness while you can also spec body­coloured in­te­rior pan­els to add youth­ful­ness. It's a happy place, that's for sure. Not very spa­cious for rear seat pas­sen­gers, but then again there's the T-Cross for it.

Not only does the T-Roc give a good in­di­ca­tion of what we can ex­pect from the In­dia-bound T-Cross (great ride and han­dling, very so­phis­ti­cated cabin, more ex­pres­sive and emo­tional in all as­pects) but the 1-litre TSI unit mated to the DSG trans­mis­sion (both con­firmed for In­dia) re­ally does make the T-Roc a fun lit­tle SUV with more than enough poke to dart into gaps while also has­sling en­thu­si­as­ti­cally driven big cars on the mo­tor­way. With 114bhp of power it is quick with­out feel­ing too buzzy and over­worked, and it is al­lied to steer­ing that is quick and re­spon­sive, chas­sis grip that is plen­ti­ful and an all per­vad­ing sense that this is a fun car to drive. It marks the start of the new VW, and bodes very well for the Group's In­dia 2.0 game­plan.L

Sirish Chandran (@SirishChan­dran)

Right: 10.3-inch dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter and 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment makes the cabin feel suit­ably techy. Be­low: Dual tone colours give off a youth­ful vibe

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