Brian reviews the 2017 VW TIGUAN 132TSi
Long gone are the days when the typical Tassie family trundled around in big six or V8 rear-wheel drive sedan – the car for all occasions.
Except they weren’t – which discerning and increasingly budget-conscious motorists have confirmed by the sheer volume of smaller, more fuel-efficient family oriented SUVs sold over the past fifteen years or so.
I won’t bore you with the statistics because you see it every day, in every town and city – small to mid-sized SUVs everywhere.
And why not?
The modern mid-sized SUV is a technical tour-de- force of design and engineering the likes of which were hard to imagine only a few years ago.
Hatch-like handling and turbo power, 5-star safety with interiors that seem bigger than the exterior, combined with frankly astonishing fuel economy, these higher riding vehicles have become a bit of ‘no-brainer’ for families and younger active couples as well as the more mature among us.
That is until you try to decide which mid-size SUV to buy given the sheer number on offer from virtually every carmaker on the planet.
So let me ease your burden somewhat.
I recently spent a weekend with the brand new VW Tiguan - and I’m not going to deliberately downplay this in any way – I really like this car. A lot.
Disclaimer: I still own a 2010 VW Golf 118TSi – and the reasons I like the new VW Tiguan so much are very similar to why I chose to spend my hard-earned on the Golf back then, a decision I have never regretted.
It just feels premium in every department over its segment competitors to the extent that, in this case, it boggles me why anyone would spend an extra $25+k on an equivalent spec Merc or Beamer.
Yes, the new Tiguan is that good.
On Friday afternoon I picked up the Pure White 132TSi Comfortline petrol variant with standard on-demand AWD (4Motion), expected to be the volume seller of the range, and was immediately taken with the look of it.
It’s bolder than its predecessor with a sharper more hunkered-down stance, thanks to a wider track and lower roofline and bigger overall dimensions.
From its purposeful front end to the all-LED rear light array this is a very contemporary and stylish car. With some badge and bling tweaking the new Tiguan would not look out of place in the Audi line-up.
I was also delighted to note the panoramic electric glass sunroof, which is part of an optional Luxury Pack that also includes Vienna leather upholstery, electronic driver’s seat, heated front seats, auto power folding door mirrors, keyless entry, push button start and a very trick electronic tailgate you can open with the swipe of your foot under the bumper.
I had occasion to use this feature almost immediately when loading a carpeted tube of wood (a cat scratch tower, for those wondering) about 1.5 metres long into the boot of the locked Tiguan by simply swiping my foot at the back and the tailgate opens completely hands-free.
Think juggling armloads of shopping and kids and phone while trying to find the key to unlock the car and then get the boot open without dropping anything important, like the phone.
It’s just not a problem anymore with the Tiguan.
Even better, you can set the tailgate to close (or not) as you walk away making getting everything out again just as easy as getting it in and still managing to close and lock the car. It does it itself.
Speaking of the boot, the Tiguan’s is biggest in class at 615 litres with the rear seats up and forward, and a huge 1655 litres with the rear seats folded. As I mentioned, this is a much bigger Tiguan than the old one, it now competes in the mid-sized segment of the SUV market. Oh, it swallowed the cat tower easily.
There is lots of storage space under the floor, which has adjustable height, and the controls to fold the rear seat are at your fingertips and it comes with a useful cargo net.
The 60/40-split fold rear seat slides forward and backwards, for either extra legroom in the rear or more boot space, and has separate adjustable backrests.
The nicely sculpted, leather-clad seats, the seating position and “space back here” earned rave reviews from the elderly in-laws who made special mention of the Tiguan’s near perfect entry and exit height for those whose movement is increasingly limited.
But to test for myself, I set the front seat to my more-than- comfortable driving position (I’m 6’2” wearing boots, in the old money) and then jumped in the back.
What I found was indeed space - a whole lot more space between my knees and the seatback than I expected - and I could even wriggle my feet (in size 13 boots) around under the driver’s seat. Astonishing.
A much-appreciated feature of the rear space will be the folding seat-back trays on which the kids can pop their iPads or books or whatever is entertaining them this minute, each with a built-in cup-holder. Genius that.
And that’s just it. It doesn’t matter what brilliant feature of the new Tiguan I mention, there’s another worthy bunch I haven’t. It’s that kind of car – continually delighting you with its thoughtful innovation.
For example, I haven’t yet revealed the tri-zone climate control that gives the youngsters (or in-laws) some large, friendly buttons to set their own temperature in the back. Or the ever-handy storage spaces tucked all over the place.
Up front, the premium feel continues with heated seats - the driver getting full electronic controls – that are well shaped and supportive. Combined with rake and reach steering wheel adjustment it’s hard to imagine not being able to find a perfect driving position.
I spent a solid half-day in the Tiguan with no fatigue or aches and pains often associated with long stints behind the wheel. Quite the opposite, actually, I wanted to keep driving it.
The steering wheel is a joy to behold! Flat-bottomed leather with all the buttons you want and need right there, nicely lit, and it’s exactly the right size. It sits in your hands like it wants you to dance as much as drive.
All the various controls across the console are exactly where you expect them to be and feel solid and well put together. Quality stuff. It’s a familiar space to anyone who has driven a late model VW Golf or Passat. I couldn’t fault the fit and finish of this new Tiguan, inside or out. It really is a class above.
The premium feel continues with auto headlights and wipers, soft touch quality materials and ambient lighting. It’s a lovely place to be.
The standard eight-inch multimedia screen is among the best and clearest I’ve seen, as is the Sat-Nav. One of the very cool features you don’t instantly notice is the way the touch-screen buttons only appear when a human hand moves near it, maximizing screen space when you’re not touching it. Very clever.
Multimedia wise, the Tiguan gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and there’s a great rubberized spot in the lower console behind the gearstick for iPods or phones with all connection jacks right there.
This new Tiguan also offers the ‘virtual dashboard’ as an option – a fully digital dash that can be configured in huge number of ways. For example, it can show the SatNav screen bang in the middle of your eyeline, with speedo and tacho to each side. This option also includes a head-up display.
Trust me, this tech is not a gimmick – it works brilliantly and looks even better and is destined to be standard kit on cars into the future. You can have it now in the Tiguan.
But it is on the road – and off it – that the Tiguan really shows its stuff. The 132kW 2-litre turbo petrol engine is basically a detuned Golf GTi plant and cranks out an impressive 132kW and 320Nm of torque taking you from 0-100km/ in 7.7 seconds.
That’s hot-hatch territory from just a few years ago so the Tiguan gets along very nicely, thank you, with a funky exhaust note in the upper rev range. The suspension in all settings is very well sorted, cornering flat on the bitumen yet soaking up all its imperfections, while only sipping 7.5L/100km.
The way this cracker of an engine mates to the Tiguan’s standard 7-speed DSG auto gearbox and the 4Motion all-wheel- drive system is the key to its handling and performance, because each element is ‘talking’ to the others.
The Tiguan anticipates what gear you’ll need to be in as you exit the next corner and drops down to that gear before you go around it, guaranteeing maximum grip and control.
Should you need some extra traction in normal driving conditions, the 4Motion system seamlessly transfers torque to the rear wheels. The practical upshot is astonishing levels of poise and grip, ably assisted by the all the safety aids you would want in a modern vehicle, which I’ll detail shortly.
The steering is well weighted and precise and body roll is virtually zero for a car of this type; the Tiguan drives like a very well sorted hatchback and the best of them is its sibling, the Golf, so we shouldn’t be surprised.
Or should we? Since when did a mid-sized SUV handle like a hot-hatch and go just as well – even on the dirt? Especially on the dirt.
Flick the rotary dial onto off-road mode and the Tiguan honestly doesn’t seem to notice the difference when the road surface becomes loose and uneven. If part of your regular driving is on some of Tasssie’s more notorious dirt roads this new Tiguan will handle them with ease. It’s impossible to explain how stable and solid it is on some pretty ordinary surfaces, at speed. You’ll have to drive one for yourself to fully appreciate it.
There’s another setting for snow and yet another that allows drivers to customize the Tiguan’s off-road settings, plus hill-descent and hold.
But it’s in the standard safety and technology areas this Tiguan sets new benchmarks offering AEB (Auto Emergency Braking), Lane Assist, fatigue detection, semi-autonomous parking, a rear-view camera with 360 degree sensors with onscreen display and a suite of seven airbags. The entire Tiguan range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP Safety rating.
I was particularly impressed by the way the Tiguan stays in its lane even if the driver lets go of the wheel, in say, a fatigue or medical emergency situation. Make no mistake this is a very clever and incredibly safe family car.
With five different engines (3 petrol and 2 diesel) and 3 trim levels; Trendline, Comfortline and Highline plus a range of option packs, prices start from $31,990 for the 110TSi Trendline, the new VW Tiguan is the new benchmark mid-sized SUV.
It leaves you with a smile on your face and a sense you’re driving a much more expensive ‘luxury’ vehicle than the Tiguan costs, no matter what trim level or option packs you might choose.
Test drive the new 2017 VW Tiguan today at Gowans Volkswagen Devonport & Burnie and Jackson Volkswagen Launceston.
PS: Would I buy one? No hesitation, yes!
PPS: Option the sunroof!