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2023 Volkswagen T-Roc R review

Volkswagen launches brutish compact SUV down under – the 2023 T-Roc R.

Last week we reviewed the Volkswagen T-Roc Style and sportier R-Line variants and I made the personally shocking admission that I would choose the more subdued Style 110TSI over the R-Line.

I said the same for the recently updated Skoda Karoq review, confirming that in a family car, I'd prefer comfort over power.

Volkswagen T-Roc R review

While in Canberra, we also had the opportunity to test out the new T-Roc R – the angry, aggressive version of the 2023 T-Roc that is based on the VW Golf R.

And I'm here today to tell you that I would take this blistering R version over the regular T-Roc Style any day of the week.

What can I say, I am a walking contradiction.

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While the ACT could arguably be called the rev-head capital of Australia given the Summernats event, I think there is more to it than that. From my observations, Canberra has to go through more tyres per capita than anywhere else in the country (maybe even the world).

Summernats isn't once a year there. It would seem it is a way of life. If I had to make a guess, I'd say with confidence that there is more rubber on the roads and intersections there than there is on actual registered vehicles on the roads.

But, that probably lends itself to the second thing I learned.

There are some fantastic driving roads and it was the perfect place to drive this T-Roc R.

It is priced from $65,532 driveaway which is $6,857 less than the Golf R, just in case you are torn between the 2.

That also means that it is cheaper than the Audi SQ2 which costs $74,375.46 driveaway and the Mercedes-AMG GLA 34 which roughly starts at a relatively eye-watering $99,000 driveaway. You can pick up a Hyundai Kona N though for $53,784.46 driveaway.

A Grid Edition of the T-Roc R will join the line-up in 2023. It will feature a streamlined feature list but also knock $5,000 off the asking price.

How does the T-Roc R drive?

Powered by the same 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine from the Golf R, the T-Roc R can launch itself to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. So it is brisk. In terms of kilowatts, the powerplant produces 221 and 400Nm of torque.

What's better though is these numbers are roughly the same as the 2 competitors above. So by spending a bit less, you aren't really losing out in the power department.

And trust me, you really don't realise you need that much power in a family car until you drive it.

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Said power is sent through a 7-speed direct shift gearbox, so you get quick shifts at the right time, to keep the horizon coming at you almost in a blur.

That is also in part to the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system that determines how much power to send to each wheel at any given time. It ensures that when you corner, the T-Roc R hunkers down and sticks to the road.

It feels very different to the 110TSI through corners and gives you almost unshakable confidence that you can point the car into the corner and know you'll come out the other side.

The chunky R-emblazoned brakes wash off the speed effectively as well.

You might read all of that and think this 2023 T-Roc R is set up too ferociously to transport the family in comfort, but it does the day-to-day driving pretty well. There is still a level of firmness but it is far from uncomfortable. Helping here is the adaptive damping that reads road feedback, driver input and other different factors.

It means you can set the steering and engine to how you like it via the infotainment screen, plus set up the vehicle to ride how you like in any given situation.

So, when you are on the Federal Highway going back to Sydney, you can put the 2023 T-Roc R into comfort mode, engage the adaptive cruise control that you get as part of the IQ.Drive safety system and eat up the miles in comfort.

What's the T-Roc R like inside?

There are a number of differences inside between this and the Golf R.

Highlighting the cabin are Lapiz Blue inserts which are on the dash and door trim and help to give a bit more of a sporty feel compared to the all-black interior of the Golf.

Electronically adjustable, heated and ventilated seating is easy to set up and the racing seats comfortable, as we found on our trip back from Canberra. You get the same leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch-sensitive buttons as the Golf.

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Behind that is a completely customisable 10.25-inch digital driver's display featuring the top-of-the-line Digital Cockpit Pro software. You can have any information you desire, more or less.

Connected to the 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment unit running Volkswagen's standard software is a premium 6-speaker sound system that seriously slaps.

In the 2023 T-Roc R, Volkswagen's software allows for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and satellite navigation as standard. It is handy because if you do forget to take a cable with you as I do from time to time, you can still use smartphone mirroring and charge your phone thanks to the wireless charging bay below it.

More touch-sensitive buttons for climate controls make things easy to adjust. They make more sense here than on the steering wheel, especially when driving the vehicle hard. Sliding your finger along the fan speed and temperature controls allows you to increase or decrease each. Nice and easy on the go.

As you expect from the German brand, everything feels like it has been finished to a high quality. All touchpoints around the cabin are sturdy and you know it has been bolted together well.

The back is fairly roomy too. Sitting behind the driver's seat in my driving position, I had adequate space and what makes things better back there are 2 USB-C charging ports and adjustable air vents for rear passengers.

2023 T-Roc R boot space

Fitted as standard is an electronically opening and closing tailgate which, when open, reveals 392 litres of space. Fold those rear seats down and you'll have access to 1,237 litres.

There are lights and hooks for shopping bags back there to make sure things don't get too scrambled if you unleash some of that turbocharged power.

Under the floor is a space-saving spare wheel should you get a flat.

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How safe is the 2023 Volkswagen T-Roc R?

Volkswagen hasn't skimped on safety either with the T-Roc R getting front, side and curtain airbags for both the driver and passenger side of the vehicle.

The T-Roc R gets Volkswagen's advanced IQ.Drive safety suite that protects you with the following technology:

  • Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
  • Distance warning
  • Driver fatigue system
  • Lane keep assist
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring
  • Park assist (parks the vehicle for you)

The verdict

Yes, we liked the Kona N and still do, but there are elements about it that do make you think "boy racer". In contrast, the 2023 T-Roc R seems to be much more grown up in its design and mature in the cabin.

Volkswagen has created a jack-of-all-trades of sorts.

It is comfortable when you want it to be and can be ferocious when you put your foot down. Inside it is premium and European, but there are also the Lapiz Blue inserts in the dash that add a bit of that sporty character along with the R branding.

At $65,532 driveaway, it is cheaper than the Audi and Mercedes-AMG.

The only question floating around in my head is, if you're looking for a family car in and around this price bracket and have been considering something more expensive like the Audi SQ2, does it make more sense to go for the Tiguan R instead? We'll report back soon.

Searching for a new car? Check out all of our car reviews and comparisons. You might want to read our car loans comparison if you're planning on financing it.

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Alex Jeffs is the senior publisher for personal, car and business finance at Finder. He has been building websites since he was 14 years old and has tested cars everywhere from race tracks to Oodnadatta. See full bio

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