Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact recreational SUV is not some belated attempt at jumping on the bandwagon. It’s worse than that.
Despite decades of commentators claiming the opposite, being a designer at VW never was an easy job. One needs to be within spitting distance to current fashion, but still keep the technocratic aloofness that’s characterised the brand’s best products intact. Which is no mean feat under any circumstances.
But having to come up with a Lower-Saxonian answer to the success of the Nissan Juke and Toyota C-HR is an altogether different kind of challenge. For how can the supposedly sober, sensible spirit of a Volkswagen be combined with the, at the very least, frivolous concept of a style-over-substance ‘lifestyle’ SUV?
The answer to this contradictory question is the very muddled VW T-Roc.
Its name is good enough in itself to drive the message home that ‘this ain’t your dad’s Vee-Dub’. Anyone who ever considered the Tiguan monicker too po-faced will unquestionably applaud the sound of a name like a second-rate rapper’s.
The T-Roc’s styling is equally forced. The typical tropes of VW’s current Heidedesign 2.0 are present, as is the odd whiff of Walter de’ Silva’s almost, but not quite forgotten reign in charge of Wolfsburg’s stylistic fortunes.
But on top of that, there is almost half of all current fads that should be below a marque that, until very recently, claimed to be tasked with building not just any car, but Das Auto.
So, in random order, we’ve got:
- conspicuous DLO/roof chrome bar sloping towards the rear
- oversized grille with attention-grabbing graphical patterns (although not matrix-shaped)
- fake grilles
- fake exhaust tips
- staked lights, fake grilles & exhaust tips combined
- ‘aluminium’ accents that are obviously painted plastic
- busy rear light graphics
- kink above the rear wheel arch
The T-Roc is as convincing an off-roader as its patterned black plastic masks are functioning air vents. In that sense, one could even argue that there’s a certain honourable honesty to the VW. But that would give it far too much credit.
As it stands, the T-Roc is a laughable renunciation of a great many German design values. That it isn’t even confident enough to abandon them altogether and go for a fresh stylistic approach only adds insult to injury.
Something’s definitely rotten in the state of Lower Saxony.
The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com