2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline

 

My, how you’ve grown

Words by: Adam Allen

 

 

This Tiguan is bigger than the old one, isn’t it?

French fries taste better than quinoa, Canadian winters are long and cold and filing taxes is as much fun as migraine headache- few things in life are more obvious, and now you can add the Tiguan’s newfound increase in size over its predecessor to that list. During our time with VW’s new crossover we happened to park next to a first-generation model and the difference was as stark as putting a schnauzer next to a Great Dane. In one full swoop the Tiguan has gone from one of the segment’s smallest vehicles to one of the largest. Volkswagen’s customers told them that their SUV and other crossover offerings lacked the size and carrying capacity to be competitive, and it is abundantly clear that they listened to that feedback. If you must know, it’s a healthy 268 millimeters longer than before.

It’s so big it even has a third row of seats.

While that is certainly true, we tried sitting back there and if we’re honest, adults need not apply. Volkswagen themselves refer to the Tiguan as a “5 + 2” seater, conceding that those over a certain height simply will not fit comfortably or safely. No matter how short the journey is, the grumbling about being relegated to the rearmost seats is all but guaranteed. We left them down most of the time anyway and enjoyed a cargo area that is far more commodious then before. Actually, everywhere is more commodious than before, a fact that will please occupants who no longer have to feel like their intruding in one another’s personal space. The increase is especially felt up front, so those coming from a first-generation Tiguan will breathe a sigh of relief. If holding as much stuff as possible is a big part of your shopping criteria, you’ll probably end up behind the wheel of the Tiguan.

Things look good once you are behind that wheel, don’t they?

The first thing you notice as you enter the Tiguan is that the typical VW interior philosophy of careful assembly using high quality materials is intact. It’s also comfortable and has good sightlines, with the vast panoramic sunroof allowing for an airy feel. Once you fire it up, you’ll notice the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit has replaced the conventional instrument panel made up of dials and needles. Normally, we’d bemoan the loss of the analogue system- it has worked quite well for the last several decades, thank you very much- but it’s hard to complain when the digital setup is so darn good. The graphics are sharp and customizable, and the best part is you can read them even in direct sunlight. Volkswagen’s quest to bring their tech up to today’s standards has yielded an infotainment that is the best we’ve seen from the company in a long time. It is both intuitive and nice to look at, and when you execute a command, results happen immediately rather than suffering through some of lag from other systems we often encounter. There are also dedicated buttons for volume and climate control- why can’t everyone follow suit with this? Also new to the Tiguan is the ability to dial up specific vehicle profiles according to the conditions- On-Road, Snow, Off-Road and Custom. We used only the on-road setting and tried out Snow during a brief winter storm and found them both to work admirably. We’re not sure how many Tiguan owners will head into the bush, but if they do the Tiguan will be better up to the task than its diminutive predecessor.

It must embarrass the older Tig in terms of driving dynamics.

Um…not exactly. The previous generation fancied itself as A GTI with its pant legs rolled up, and although it was never a bonafide apex carver it acquitted itself quite well when the roads got twisty. With its newfound size, the Tiguan has lost some of the verve that made the old one such a blast. But where it lacks in fun it makes up for in ride quality- this current version rides remarkably well, and surely credit must go to the MQB platform which is the basis of the perennially excellent GTI as well as many other VW products. It will cruise along happily and in comfort and silence, an asset we believe will be hailed by the demographic shopping this CUV. 4Motion all-wheel drive adds an appreciable dose of all-weather security to the proceedings, but it won’t have a negative impact on fuel consumption because it engages the rear wheels only when the situation is warranted by the level of traction (or lack thereof) on the road you find yourself driving on.

What might go wrong?

As we’re right on the heels of talking about the Tiguan’s driving chops, it’s a good time to grumble about the drivetrain. The 2.0 turbo four and 8-speed automatic are geared towards keeping engine speeds as low as possible, a result of keeping fuel economy competitive. Unfortunately, that does not make for a lively driving experience. The Tiguan feels disappointingly slow, much slower than its numbers would suggest. Around town the transmission can be cause off guard in any of its lower eight gears, and you really need to give the throttle a healthy stab before the Tiguan provides meaningful thrust. A workaround for this lethargy is to always drive it in Sport mode- hopefully more power is in the cards for the model years to follow. The other dynamic trait we’d gripe about is the steering. Volkswagen has proven it can make electrically assisted racks that are a joy to use, but the calibration seems to be off for Tiguan duty. When driving down the highway, everything is fine. Only when you exit your prescribed off ramp that you find yourself making many small inputs and corrections that are out of place for a VW. Again, most Tiguan buyers probably won’t give a hoot, but it is certainly not the norm for a Volkswagen.

Should I buy a Tiguan?

If you own the last generation model and aren’t happy with its size, we’ve made it abundantly clear that this time around size does matter and there is lots of it. You’ll find that Volkswagen has made it better in every way (although we wish it had that same verve as the original, but we digress.) As we said previously, those who want one of the bigger choices in the segment should look no further than the Tiguan- the Nissan Rogue comes close, but it doesn’t drive nearly as well, nor does it feel as carefully screwed together. If a small CUV is not going to cut it but you aren’t yet ready to step up to something considerably larger like Volkswagen’s own Atlas, look no further than the Tiguan.

 

 

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline — Specifications

  • Price as tested: $40,645
  • Body Type: 5-door, 5+2 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  184 @ 4,400 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 221 @ 1,600 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,853 kg (4,086 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.8 L/100km (20 mpg)