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Topless T-Roc to make its debut: How the crossover cabriolet came to be

2019-08-15 09:31

Lance Branquinho

volkswagen t-roc

Image: Volkswagen

For a long time, if you wanted a VW cabriolet, you bought a Golf. But with the Golf7’s facelift, the option of a two-door soft-top version disappeared.

In a global market where customers who traditionally chose compact coupes and cabriolets as status cars have migrated to crossovers, the business case for a traditionally low-sung cabrio has become untenable. 

The solution? Do what VW has: apply the cabriolet roof mechanism to a crossover platform. Although this might rankle brand purists, VW’s product people know what they are doing with its new T-Roc cabriolet.

vw-t-roc cabriolet

                                                Image: Supplied

READ: “Accept no roof!” – The new VW T-Roc Cabriolet

In a segment where there are few rivals, they can easily conquer new customers. But where does the idea of a gravel-travel capable cabriolet come from? We take a look at how this concept has developed over the past decade. 

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 

The vehicle which bought us the freedom top. Jeep Wranglers have always featured an element of convertibility, due to the brand’s dedicated American customer base – where fair weather drivers want to indulge in top-down motoring. With the third-generation Wrangler, Jeep introduced this concept to South African customers too – with four doors.

jeep wrangler

                                                Image: Supplied

Although removing the roof panels wasn’t nearly as swift as an electro-mechanical folding roof, once you had them out of the way and stowed, the Wrangler delivered an excellent fresh-air trail driving experience. 

The Wrangler Unlimited has become perhaps the most iconic of all convertible-top SUVs, with unrivalled posing value – which often belies its immense off-road ability. 

Nissan Murano (2011)

Unlike the Jeep, with its prodigious off-road ability, the Murano was more of an urban SUV and therefore closer to the current concept of crossovers. Nissan’s engineers converted the Murano from a four- to two-door bodyshell, and that was not merely in the interest of making it look sleeker as a cabriolet.

nissan murano cross cabriolet

                                                 Image: Supplied

With the inevitable structural compromises that a folding soft-top roof would bring, having two large doors, as oppose to four smaller ones, did help mitigate against the loss over overall structural rigidity. Whilst Jeep provided removable roof panels, the Murano cabriolet was a true full soft-top design with a powered roof mechanism. 

When the launched back in 2011, this Murano was truly a unique offering in a market which perhaps did not quite know what to make of a large Japanese luxury car, with a folding soft-top – and 182mm of ground clearance. 

G-Class cabriolet Final Edition (2013)

Mercedes-Benz’s much loved Geländewagen had offered numerous soft-top convertible options since its launch in the late 1970s, applied mostly to the short-wheel base variants. 

The final of these was also the most desirable. Disarmingly cute with its boxy proportions and retro styling, only 200 of these Final Edition Geländewagens were built.

g-class cabriolet

                                                 Image: Supplied

Detailed with the best leatherwork Mercedes-Benz had available in 2013, the Final Edition featured a very manual (and labour intensive) soft-top cover. But that was an annoyance swiftly forgotten, the moment you fired-up that naturally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 engine up front, which powered-up to 290kW. 

Land Rover Evoque convertible (2017)

The vehicle which served as primary inspiration for VW’s venture into crossover cabriolets. Land Rover’s Evoque was a critical junction for the British brand, showing that it could build a smaller Range Rover.

land rover range rover evoque

                                                 Image: Supplied

With an advanced aluminium monocoque structure, Land Rover’s engineers were confident the Evoque, which was always planned to be built as both a five- and three-door SUV, would also make the transition to cabriolet without much bother. They were right. 

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