The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet knew nothing but scorn from birth to death. The Range Rover Evoque Convertible has lived a better, yet still troubled life; it’s no longer on sale in the automaker’s home market after just two years. Still, the Evoque has been the only thing going in the droptop crossover space until today, now that the 2020 Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet is here to double the segment offerings. Teased as the T-Cross Breeze concept three years ago, Volkswagen has delivered almost exactly what was promised on the Geneva Motor Show floor. Sitting on the MQB platform and borrowing its roof retraction gear from the erstwhile Golf convertible, the open-sky T-Roc effectively replaces the Golf and Beetle droptops.
The fully electric roof — only offered in black — opens in nine seconds by pressing a switch on the center console or using the key fob remotely, and works at speeds up to 19 miles per hour. The side panels have been designed to act as drip rails, so the T-Roc Cabriolet shouldn’t rain on you after the car wash or shower is over. Engineers beefed up the unibody with reinforcement in the windshield frame, along the sides, and with extra cross members. Specially developed window and door seals, along with a roof that is promised not to «inflate» during high-speed driving, should keep cabin ambiance enjoyable. Since the roof’s folding mechanism frames the rear seats when the roof is down, the back seats can hold exactly two people now, instead of three. Trunk space takes a hit, naturally, dropping from 15.7 cubic feet to 10 cubic feet.
Every body panel after the wheel arches is different here than on the standard, five-door T-Roc. Even though the convertible loses two side doors, dimensions grow slightly; wheelbase stretches by 1.6 inches, overall length climbs by 1.3 inches. It’s undoubtedly a little heavier, too, although Volkswagen hasn’t yet revealed by how much.
In markets where the open-sky T-Roc is sold — not the U.S. — there’ll be two versions offering a choice of two engines and two transmissions. The Style package presents a choice of four themed interiors with ambient lighting. The R-Line model goes more racy inside and out with features like speed-dependent progressive steering, fog lights, lowered suspension, sport seats, and R-Line branding. Both ride on 17-inch wheels, but 19-inchers can be optioned. An available next-gen infotainment system comes with a SIM card for permanent online access, and an available 400-watt BeatsAudio stereo will broadcast to the world just how funky the buyer is. Standard safety equipment includes Front Assist with City Emergency Braking and Lane Assist.
Engine choices will be a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with 114 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque, or a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 148 hp and 184 lb-ft. Both come with a six-speed manual transmission standard, and the larger motor can be optioned with a seven-speed dual-clutch.
The T-Roc Cabriolet is an experiment in a segment no one knows what to make of yet, and VW is aware of that but decided to take the chance after seeing the designers’ concept. VW Group board member in charge of VW brand marketing Jurgen Stackmann told Autocar, «The [sales] momentum for convertibles is over. The opportunity to combine what people really want now — a C-UV [C-segment utility vehicle] — with a cabriolet that has a longstanding tradition in the Volkswagen brand was a great opportunity. … From a rational side, you would never go into the cabriolet market.”
Stackman isn’t worried about shoppers being put off by the form factor, telling AutoExpress he didn’t think buyers would consider the T-Roc Cabriolet a crossover. Since the T-Roc is a sub-compact and smaller than the Evoque Convertible, he said, «I think they will look at the car and see a very strong, characterful car.» We’ll see it at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show before it launches in spring 2020.