Volkswagen T-Roc R: new VW or used Mercedes GLC 43?

Fancy a fast four-wheel drive SUV? VW’s T-Roc R is now on sale, but should you get one over a similarly priced used Mercedes GLC 43 AMG?

Ian Dickson
Nov 18, 2019

Meet the fastest SUV rolling off the Volkswagen production line. This is the T-Roc R and it marks the return of the R badge to a Volkswagen SUV after an absence of more than a decade. The last VW SUV to wear the super-sporty R badge was the Touareg R50 - a mighty 5.0-litre diesel rival to the high-performance Porsche Cayenne - but now the brand is back with a car that’s even faster.

Strictly speaking, the T-Roc R is not really a proper SUV but a crossover version of the Golf R hot hatch. Underneath, it shares the same 300hp engine and four-wheel drive tech as the Golf - albeit in a taller package - so performance should be blistering.

There’s plenty of performance SUVs on sale, but they tend to sit at the pricier end of the market. The T-Roc R starts at £38,450, which is a lot to pay for a small VW, but it packs performance matching that of its relative the Golf R to go some way to justifying that price.

Direct crossover-style rivals include the Audi SQ2, which shares the same engine and platform with very similar performance but is marginally cheaper at £37,370, and the BMW X2 M35i, again offering similar performance but adding another £5,000 to the price list. There’s also the Cupra Ateca - again sharing the same engine - which is about £2,500 cheaper and only marginally slower.

Don’t overlook hot hatchbacks either. As well as the Golf R, another rapid, yet similarly pricey, model is the Mercedes A35 AMG.

Read on for the all the details on the new Volkswagen T-Roc R's engines and interior as well our thoughts on whether you should choose one over a used Mercedes GLC 43.

Volkswagen T-Roc R prices and trims

While the T-Roc is available in a wide range of engine and trim levels, the R badge is reserved for only its most powerful version. Order books are open now with prices starting at £38,450 and the first deliveries expected to roll in by the end of 2019.

In addition to a standard T-Roc, the R gets performance and aesthetic upgrades to set it apart from the rest of the range - if you're going to spend the extra money, you want everyone to know you've got something a bit special. R-specific add-ons include huge 19-inch alloy wheels, an elegant bodykit, bigger brakes, R badges, matt chrome mirror casings and a restyled front grille. Inside, there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel, body-coloured trim panels, a smattering of carbonfibre and the option of the Golf R’s sports seats.

Oh, and white paint is standard. If you want another colour, Volkswagen will charge you between £360 and £1,020 to choose from a very vibrant palette that includes Turmeric Yellow and Energetic Orange. Other options include a noisier exhaust at £3,000, soft nappa leather at £2,155 and dynamic chassis control, which adjusts the suspension settings, for £695 - it's not at all challenging to push prices beyond £50,000 once you have it kitted out to your liking.


Volkswagen T-Roc R engine

The T-Roc R shares the same engine as the new Golf R, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with 300hp and 400Nm of torque. That's plenty of muscle for a relatively small car, it's actually 42mm shorter in length than the Golf, albeit 383mm taller and 29mm wider. Power is fed to the wheels via a four-wheel drive system and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There is no manual gearbox option.

Performance figures are astounding: 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds and it has a limited top speed of 155mph. To give that some context, consider this: the new Porsche 911 Carrera (with a manual gearbox) sprints to 62mph is 4.6 seconds. There’s no doubt about it, the T-Roc R is quick.

As for running costs, Volkswagen claims the T-Roc R will average 37.2mpg and emit 176g/km of carbon dioxide - impressively efficient for one so powerful, but expect running costs to be somewhat steeper than an equally quick but admittedly much more expensive Jaguar I-Pace.

Volkswagen T-Roc R interior

The T-Roc R largely shares the same neatly designed and well-equipped interior as the base T-Roc - choosing the performance model will not represent a compromise in terms of comfort. Technology includes an eight-inch touchscreen media system and a 10.3-inch Active Info Display, which displays useful information such as sat-nav directions where traditional dials would normally be.

Volkswagen T-Roc R safety

Safety kit in a car this fast is reassuring and the T-Roc R isn’t wanting for much. There’s Lane Assist, to warn you if you’re straying out of the white lines, hill start assist and hill descent control.

Optional safety kit includes a pre-crash protection system, which costs £150 and tightens the seat belts, closes the windows and primes the brakes should it detect a crash is imminent.

Volkswagen T-Roc R dimensions

Hot hatches, or in this case, hot crossovers, are all about marrying performance and practicality - and the T-Roc R is no exception. There’s plenty of space and the boot is a useful size, offering between 392 litres and 1,237 litres of luggage room.

However, that's not too different from the Golf R that it's based on at 343 litres and 1,233 litres - and the Golf is cheaper and faster, so if you're being sensible, that's the car to go for. If you want fast acceleration, sporty looks and serious SUV space, though, a one-year old Mercedes GLC 43 AMG could save you a couple of grand, offer more power at 367hp and far more room in the boot at 550 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,600 litres with them folded.

As for size, the T-Roc R measures in at 4,234mm long, 1,819mm wide and 1,573mm high, making it narrower and shorter (but a little taller) than the BMW X2 35i, the best-handling car in this class.

You may never use a sporty T-Roc R as a tow car, but if you do it has a total towing weight of 2,070kg - a substantial amount for a car this size. Check out our roundup of the best small tow cars and best medium tow cars if you're after a small but strong machine.

New VW T-Roc R or used Mercedes GLC 43 AMG?

Before you go rushing off to order one, let’s reflect for a moment on what the T-Roc R’s price tag could get you on the used market. One of our favourite fast SUV picks is the Mercedes GLC 43 AMG, a car that blends elegant styling with top-notch comfort and epic speed. From new they start at a hefty £50,500.

A quick scout around the classifieds on BuyaCar, however, shows GLC 43s for sale from £33,495. That gets you into a 2017 car with less than 50,000 miles and gives you a decent saving of £3,500 (without options) over the T-Roc R. Spend a little more and you can find a one-year old model with barely 10,000 miles for several thousand pounds less than the VW. That gets you a lot of car for the money.

You get a significant boost in power, with the GLC 43’s 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo petrol motor producing 367hp and 520Nm of torque - that's low engine speed muscle. It’s heavier, with the Mercedes coming in at 1,870kg versus 1,575kg for the Volkswagen. That makes them equal in the dash to 62mph, but it’s through the gears where the GLC has an advantage, especially with its super-smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox. That bigger engine does get through far more fuel, though.

We’ll have to wait until we’ve driven the T-Roc R for the definitive verdict on which is best to drive, but if the Golf R is an indicator of its character it will undoubtedly be more fun than the Mercedes, though the Mercedes is a more upmarket machine and still very satisfying to drive.

The GLC does excel on the inside though, its cabin is a significant step-up in terms of luxury. It also has the edge on technology and equipment and benefits from a much bigger boot, so if you want a fast SUV with a bit more space and a more refined experience, the GLC 43 makes a lot of sense.

Of course, the fact it also loses value from new extremely quickly means older models are far cheaper to buy than the VW. But the extra power means the GLC will be more expensive to fuel and tax, maintain and insure.

New Volkswagen T-Roc R review

Volkswagen’s T-Roc R promises a lot on paper. We’ll drive it soon but we expect it to be a fun drive. It’s comparatively priced with rivals, every bit as quick and comes with the pedigree of the Golf R underpinnings.

Add in a reasonable does of practicality and space, and the T-Roc R looks like a compelling package. But at a steep £38,450, we can’t help wondering what other performance SUVs we could get for the same price or less in the used market - or simply saving ourselves £10,000 on a one-year old, barely run in 190hp petrol model - complete with four-wheel drive and a slick automatic gearbox, just like the R.


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