If you have ever doubted American car buyers collectively have a very short memory, look no further than Volkswagen. It was just three short years ago the company was in the midst of a scandal so severe, some had predicted it might never recover. Yet here we are watching Americans scoop up VWs at an ever increasing rate. Sales overall are up 6.4% this year and leading the charge is their highly refreshed mid-size SUV, the Tiguan.
When I heard the origin story for the name, “Tiguan,” I still didn’t get it. It’s a mash up of Tiger and Iguana and was selected in a poll by the readers of Bild magazine in Germany. I’m not sure which part of the vehicle is inspired by a reptile and which a jungle cat. My confusion doesn’t stop with the name. There’s a lot of good in the newly upsized and upgraded Tiguan, but a few of the choices are head scratching.
The Tiguan is comes in either five or seven-passenger configurations, and is classified as a compact SUV. It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission that drives either the front or all four wheels. While handsome in a square jawed Germanic sense, the Tiguan is virtually indistinguishable on paper from so many others in the category. The minute you get behind the wheel, however, you know you’re in a Volkswagen.
There’s a lot of good in the Tiguan. In my loaded SEL Premium R-Line with 4Motion AWD, the interior and technology were high points. At the top of the range you get a panoramic sunroof, Fender 9-speaker premium audio, heated seats and steering wheel, Firm and supportive seats finished in two-tone Saffrano (orange) and Black leather. Front and rear seat leg room is ample as is luggage space in the two row configuration. If you get the optional third row and fill it with very small humans – because that’s all that will fit – you have only twelve cubic feet of cargo space. That means you’ll need rooftop storage or a trailer if you want to take seven people on a road trip. If you really need room for seven passengers, move up to the Atlas or any of the other large mid-size crossovers.
At this level you get VW’s digital instrument panel which is a wonder of configurability and communications. You can put everything you need to know, from navigation to fuel economy to driver assist systems and more right in front of your nose. Also included in all SEL models is the eight-inch touch screen with navigation Sirius/XM satellite radio, HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and VW’s Car-Net App Connect Security & Service, and Guidance & Information packages. Features include automatic crash notification, emergency call, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, remote door lock and unlock, last parked location, and destination assist. There’s also a handy suite of features for parents of teenage drivers: speed alert notifies you when a speed limit you set on the car has been exceeded and boundary alert uses geofencing technology to let you know when the Tiguan leaves a defined area.
Performance is middling at best with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It makes 184 horsepower and generates 221 pound-feet of torque. 0-60 time is a leisurely 9 seconds and change. For comparison, the RAV4, hardly a paragon of performance, gets there in 8 seconds. Mileage is a decidedly average at 21 MPG city and 29 highway with all-wheel drive. That only increases by one MPG in the city with front-wheel drive while highway mileage remains unchanged.
Handling is fine, but the ride is rough and noisy. That may have something to do with the 20-inch wheels with low profile tires, but I’d have to drive the base model with its less stylish 17-inch tires to be sure. This is a Volkswagen so I expected the ride to be firmer than say a Chevy. For a vehicle with an engine that prevents it from having any sporting intentions, however, the ride is uncomfortably stiff. The best driving mainstream compact crossover is the Mazda CX5 and it has a more supple ride than the Tiguan.
The Tiguan is a fine vehicle. Good enough to make a bunch of people forget that VW was caught illegally spewing millions of tons of pollutants from the tailpipes of their diesel-engined vehicles. But then just about everything in this category is really good. The Tiguan’s strengths are its mature styling, sophisticated technology, and interior roominess – in its five passenger configuration. If you’re looking for something that can really hold seven people and won’t punish you for living where there’s rough pavement, there are a lot of good options out there.
2019 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion
Four-door, five or seven-passenger crossover
Base price: $24,295 excludes destination
Price as tested: $40,485 includes $995 destination
Major Options: SEL Package – includes panoramic sunroof with ambient lighting, leatherette interior, heated front seats, remote start, keyless entry, push button start, dual-zone climate control, 8.0-in touchscreen with HD/SiriusXM radio, navigation, 3 USB ports, 9-speaker Fender audio system, VW Car-Net security & service, guide & inform, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, park distance control ($7,500); 4Motion all-wheel drive ($1,300), Premium and R-Line packages – includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, leather seating surfaces, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, heated leather multi-function steering wheel, power driver’s seat with memory, hands free power lift gate, active blind spot monitor, lane keep system, auto high beam control, 360 camera ($5,800), third row seat ($595)
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with AWD and drive mode select
Power: 184 HP @ 4400 RPM
Torque: 221 lb.-ft. @ 1600 RPM
Curb weight: 3,814 pounds
0-60 MPH: 9.2 seconds
EPA MPG: 21 city, 29 highway, 24 combined