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VW’s T-ROC concept has T-tops and crawls over rocks, get it? You’ll still want one

Volkswagen’s SUVs all start with T. There’s the big Touareg and the smaller Tiguan. Now, there’s the T-ROC compact SUV concept.

While the Touareg is named for a nomadic peoples and the Tiguan is an amalgam of Tiger and Iguana (I wish I were making that up), the T-ROC moniker is a bit different. The “T” in T-ROC comes from the CUV’s T-top roof. And the “ROC” reflects the car’s off-road aspirations.

The three-door T-ROC is powered by a 2.0-liter TDI engine ripped from the frame rails of the Golf GTD, the diesel-powered version of the GTI. The torque-y little diesel four-banger rumbles out 181 horsepower. A bit light on power, the engine will still glide the T-ROC up to 62 mph from a dead standstill in 6.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 130 mph.

You might never know how fast you’re actually going, though. The all-digital instrument cluster speedometer tops out at 50 mph when in “offroad” mode. I guess VW doesn’t want you taking the T-ROC off any sweet, high-speed back-road jumps.

Volkswagen T ROC concept interior front

Although the T-ROC is rather small, and shares its platform with the mk7 Golf GTI, it’s hailed as an off-road dynamo. Accordingly, it sends its power to all four wheels through VW’s 4MOTION permanent all-wheel drive system with a Haldex-5 coupling. Don’t worry yourself if you don’t know what a Haldex-5 coupling is; you don’t need to. You’ll just be glad you have one when you’re fording African rivers in T-top style.

The T-ROC isn’t just for German hillbillies looking for a T-top off-roader, though; it’s also a high-tech four-seater coupe. The cabin features the aforementioned all-digital instrument cluster, as well as an all-digital climate control system. And in the center of the dash is an infotainment unit that doubles as a removable smart tablet.

When clicked into place, the upper two-thirds of the tablet jut out of the dash. Flip the T-ROC into “offroad” mode and the tablet screen lights up with the images of the forward-facing digital cameras, which are surrounded by LED spotlights.

Those cameras and spotlights are cleverly concealed behind a headlight setup that conjures recollections of the classic Karman Ghia, proving the T-ROC will delight vintage vee-dub fans, as well as modern tech-savvy ones.

I am really on the fence when it comes to the T-ROC. I love many of its features and it’s a sight better than the Dune Beetle concept from the Detroit Auto Show. Being better than the Beetle isn’t enough, though. I fear – if put into production – most of the best of the T-ROC’s features will be left on the design floor.

The full-tilt all-wheel drive system, for instance, I am sure will be scrapped by the VW moneymen. The coupe shape, too, will likely be extended and neutralized to appeal to a wider audience. Also, I am wholly confident the tablet infotainment unit would be replaced with a standard in-dash touch screen. The first time you leave your infotainment tablet at home on a long road trip, you’ll be cursing VW’s name.

And lastly – and perhaps most importantly – I am convinced the T-tops would be immediately sealed for good, ensuring safety regulation compliance.

Forgoing those unknowns, though, the T-ROC is the kind of car I really want. It’s got style, tech, off-road prowess, and turbocharged diesel efficiency. Maybe VW is crazy enough to make a car that I – and I alone – would buy. I can only hope.

(Images © Volkswagen)