A GTI in high heels, or a GTI in army boots?
A month ago VW opened the order books for the Tiguan TSI 162kW R line. With the waiting list sitting at three months, we managed to get behind the wheel of one for a week of adventure, shopping and launch control. Sit down, shut-up, and drink your chocolate milk, because this could be the family car every performance enthusiast has been waiting for.
Performance and ride.
The revs climb to around 3000 rpm, I release the brake, there is a slight pause. Suddenly the car edges forward, slowly at first, as the clutches slip ever so slightly, then a moment later everything grabs simultaneously. There is no noticeable wheelspin, no chirps from the 20 inch tyres and certainly not much drama, but 6.5 seconds later I’m cruising at 100km/h. Tiguan’s launch control is no gimmick and neither is that 162kW gem of an engine. The same engine we know and love from the Golf GTI.
Tiguan’s performance: I had an idea the performance side of the car would be impressive, and it is. And although 162kW doesn’t seem like that much by today’s standards, that Haldex system is eerily efficient at getting the power down. Yes, the car understeers predictably but put it into Sport mode and the quasi Quattro 4Motion system tries its best to instil some fun into the driving experience. The suspension firms up, the steering stiffens (a little too much if you ask me) and you feel like you’re in a raised, and more spacious, Golf 7 GTI slash R. It’s brilliant.
On regular smooth roads the ride feels fantastic in Eco mode, and even with the stance and the massive wheels, the ride isn’t crashy or harsh. Under hard braking the car squirms and writhes, but not uncomfortably, and I could really feel its weight, but the communicative chassis held no unwanted surprises.
Practicality and interior
This week saw our band, “The Other Lebowski” perform our very first gig. We decided to use the Tiguan as our gig van. With the seats folded down the full 1655 litres of stowage was made available. The electrically operated boot mechanism made a gaping hole in the rear big enough for speakers, keyboards and guitars. Driving around slowly, I managed a best fuel index of 10.6litres per hundred, way off the claimed 7.8, which, if I’m honest, seems optimistic for anything but absolutely perfect conditions . The index can go as high as 12litres/100km when driving rapidly, and if I were to level any criticism at Tiguan TSI, it would be that. The test unit had just 3000km on the odo, so let’s hope a looser engine provides better economy.
In our week of “ownership”, Tiguan didn’t go near any gravel or slippery surfaces, and although I’m sure Tiguan is quite capable in those conditions, would any owner really want to risk damaging that R line kit and 20” wheels? Doubtful.
From behind the wheel, the seats are supportive and firm, with relatively small bolsters on the sides and great lumbar support. The steering wheel is nicely weighted, but as mentioned, in Sport mode it becomes a little too heavy for my liking, without delivering an equal measure of feel. This can be tweaked in the handy “Individual mode”. Our unit came with the must-have optional panoramic roof which extends way back into the rear, giving the already airy cabin a fantastic, spacious feel. I could go on and on about things like the balanced sound system, but we all know how great the Golf GTI is inside, and bar the strange adjustable cupholders and lack of optional Sat Nav on our test unit, Tiguan is as well thought out on the inside as a Golf GTI, with some added space.
It is, to use an overused phrase, bite-the-back-of your-hand-beautiful in R Line trim, great to drive and, at a starting price of R562 900, great value too. This is more than likely the king of this segment, and if you can live with the fuel consumption, a great choice for the family that has outgrown the GTI.