I thought about setting up an ‘Audi SQ2 swear jar’ before sitting down to write this review, before I quickly realised that it would lead to me having to remortgage my house. I even fell at the first hurdle by starting to type ‘Audi SQ2 Review’ in the title during an absent-minded moment, for Pete’s sake.
It’s impossible to avoid talking about these cars in the same breath. A quick glance at their genetic makeup will reveal why. MQB platform? Check. EA888 inline-four turbo engine making 296bhp? Most definitely check. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox? VW and Audi may use different names for the things, but that’s a check. And finally, a Haldex clutch-based, front-biased four-wheel drive system? You guessed it - a big ol’ check.
You might think, then, that this is another case of VW Group over-homogenisation. That I might as well hit copy+paste on our SQ2 review from earlier this year.
To begin with, it does seem that way. There’s the usual linear-ish but nicely punchy delivery from the inline-four, allied to a safe and predictable four-wheel drive system. It hangs on impressively before giving up into understeer, with the occasional hint of something happening at the rear.
The seven-speed gearbox is decent, if not quite as willing as you’d want, and the steering is the usual variable-ratio rack that’s a little light, a little lifeless, but quick and familiar-feeling.
It’s like comparing two randomly selected tracks off the last U2 album. You know, the one which was downloaded onto your iPhone against your will. There isn’t much going on to help you tell the two apart.
But with the Troc and the Skewtoo, there are a few differences, and one of them is quite fundamental. We’ll get to that shortly.
It does, quite clearly, look different. And I think it looks better: it’s more chunky and muscular. It’s just a shame you can’t banish the gaudy chrome strips on the sides in the configurator.
Also, the EA888 sounds quite different here, with the treatment to the ‘Soundaktor’ vibrator thing that lives by the front bulkhead tuned to give a more natural noise. The key departure though is the suspension.
The passive dampers on the SQ2 are tuned as though they’re on a fast Audi of old. From a time when ‘sporty’ was defined as ‘really f-cking uncomfortable’. You can’t have the SQ2 with adaptive dampers, but bizarrely, they are available on the T-Roc R. Wait, what?
We’re not sure how this was allowed to be in the Great VW Group Hierarchy, but whatever - they’re yours for £695 and are essential. Yes, even more so than the £36 optional clothes hanger. In comfort mode, there is gasps a lovely, smooth ride. You can approach speed bumps and potholes without scrunching up your face in a pre-emptive wince - the T-Roc R will gracefully tackle any such unpleasantness without the merest of shudders even threatening to rattle through the cabin.
It’s not just about the sense of floatiness during ‘normal’ mode driving that the magnetorheological dampers allow. No - they also make a tangible difference to how the T-Roc R behaves during faster driving in ‘Race’ mode, where you’ll find a much greater sense of flow to the body control. It doesn’t bounce around nervously like it’s underpinned by a quartet of vintage pogo sticks bought from Sharon on Facebook Marketplace.
It may be better than that Audi we really must stop mentioning, but it must be said - this is far from the most compelling mid-range performance car. With that same EA888/4WD/DCT combo used for a preposterous number of other cars including the you know what, it was never going to be.
It’s not the kind of car that eggs you on to drive the wheels of it, although should you be in the mode, the T-Roc R will oblige and be entertaining enough in the process. If anything, it’s slightly more fun than the Golf R, simply because it rolls a little more and the limits of grip and traction are easier to reach.
That said, the T-Roc isn’t a great deal heavier than the Golf R and it’s not like it rides on stilts, so you aren’t being penalised particularly harshly for choosing the hot crossover over the hot hatch. In terms of price, at £38,450, it’s £2000 more than the Golf R. Which is also slightly higher than the opening price of the (sorry) SQ2, but you get more stuff as standard.
It is, admittedly, not as nice inside as either. The use of cheap-feeling plastics is far too prolific in the T-Roc, and when you’re looking at one that’s knocking on the door of £40,000, this is especially hard to swallow. But if nothing but a quick crossover will do, this is the one you want.