Volkswagen makes the questionable decision to build a convertible SUV
The "SUV convertible" sounds great on paper – the robust capability of an SUV coupled with the playful, airy fun of a convertible. But outside of timeless staples like the open-air Jeep Wrangler, SUV convertibles rarely look so good from behind the wheel. Exhibit A: the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Exhibit B: the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. Will Volkswagen's new T-Roc cabriolet be Exhibit C, or will the people's automaker be the one to break through with a design that looks as good in reality as on paper? It's too early to know, but for better or worse, VW is preparing to throw some money at the project.
On Friday, Volkswagen announced that it will go down that particular road less traveled, peeling the roof off the new T-Roc to create a funky SUV convertible. The measure was green-lighted as part of a multi-model offensive and will include an €80-million (US$98.5 million) investment in the Osnabrück plant.
As you may remember, Volkswagen first launched the T-Roc as a two-door T-top concept at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. In our humble opinion, that concept didn't look half bad, partly because the compact concept didn't really look like an SUV at all and partly because the fixed C-pillar prevented it from looking as awkward as the aforementioned Nissan and Land Rover efforts.
Based on VW's first teaser sketch of the T-Roc convertible, it looks like it will be going for a more traditional retractable top. The model looks okay with the top up, the light slope of the roof line blending in nicely with the compact, sporty lines of the two-door T-Roc body, but the real test will be how it looks when the top goes down. The T-Roc's flat, sturdy belt line could very well leave it looking a lot like the Evoque Convertible – which is to say, not great.
Volkswagen, of course, is more optimistic.
"Volkswagen is evolving into an SUV brand," explains Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand. "With the cabriolet based on the T-Roc, we will be adding a highly emotional model to the range. I am especially pleased to note that we can count on the Osnabrück team's decades of experience with convertibles."
The €80-million investment will go toward the modernization of production technology, assembly and logistics needed for production of the T-Roc cabriolet, which will start in the first half of 2020. The new model will be a part of a 20-model global SUV lineup Volkswagen plans to have by that year, and the company expects SUVs to account for around 40 percent of its vehicle sales by that time.