First drive: 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan in Germany
Volkswagen has done well with the Tiguan -– sales of more than 2.8 million examples globally since its 2007 launch is reflective of that –- but there’s no denying it was getting long in the tooth against a horde of fresher rivals. Consider this: there are now three times as many contenders in the compact crossover segment as there were when the first Tiguan debuted. It was clearly time for a change, and the second-gen Tiguan, which goes on sale in our market from September onwards, represents exactly that. It genuinely is an ‘all-new’ vehicle, using as its basis the hugely-flexible MQB architecture that underpins everything from the latest VW Golf to the third-gen Audi TT.
It’s worth noting that the Tiguan is the first SUV to use the MQB hardware, but there are more of these to come from VW, including a new three-row model that will address the German brand’s current lack of a seven-seat offering.
The Tiguan will be available with two powertrain choices in the GCC -– a 180 hp 2.0-litre turbo engine, and a 220 hp version that’s essentially the same unit that propels the Golf GTI. Both engines are hooked up to a 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. There is a manual offered in Europe, but obviously that won’t see the light of day in our clutch-hating region. As is the case now, the newbie will be available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive formats.
Pricing? Yet to be announced, but we’re tipping at least a 10% increase on the current Dhs 100,000 entry point, largely as a result of the new Tiguan’s vastly improved spec/kit levels.
You might be able to glean from the accompanying images that the new Tiguan is a beefier entity than the current model. It’s 60mm longer, while the wheelbase has stretched by 77mm as a result of moving the front and rear axles closer to the extremities of the car. Width, too, is expanded by 30mm.
The benefits are obvious. Apart from giving the newbie a more formidable stance on the road, the dimensional stretch has liberated appreciably more space inside the cabin. Even those perched in the rear seats now have little to complain about. There’s also more of a ‘command view’ than before, as the seating position is higher than that of its predecessor – and this is despite the fact that the roofline is 33mm lower overall than the first-gen model.
There’s 615 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in situ, swelling to 1655 litres if you fold them down. Pretty good for this segment. Adding to its flexibility, the rear bench can slide forwards or backwards by up to 18cm, depending on whether you want to prioritise luggage space or rear-seat legroom.
The cabin has a genuinely premium feel inside, with soft-touch plastics used throughout, and there’s attractive use of contrasting trim materials. Truth be told, the Tiguan’s innards are more in line with the likes of the BMW X1, Mercedes GLC and Range Rover Evoque than the vehicles it will actually be competing against -– these include the Nissan Qashqai/X-Trail, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, etc.
Spec levels for our market are yet to be finalised, but in Europe every new Tiguan comes with seven airbags (including a knee ‘bag for the driver), lane assist, front collision warning and autonomous city braking that prevents or mitigates impacts with cars, as well as pedestrians; if that fails, there’s also a post-collision braking system and an ‘active’ bonnet that softens the impact of any pedestrian unfortunate enough to collide with it.
You might expect the new Tiguan to be significantly lardier than its forerunner, given that it’s larger in all directions (barring height), plus the fact that it comes with more standard kit. In actual fact, it tips the scales 16 kg lighter as the MQB architecture is superior in terms of lightness and strength. In case you like numbers, torsional rigidity is up to 24,000Nm/deg (compared to the 21,000Nm/deg), and the payoff from this comes when you’re traversing rutted roads, as the chassis flexes less.
Although no Tiguans sold here are ever likely to venture beyond the tarmac, VW’s events team had set up a man-made ‘off-road’ course to demonstrate that it isn’t a one-trick pony. The course was set up at Mellow Park –- Europe’s largest BMX park, located about 25 minutes’ drive from Berlin.
The vehicles used for the exercise were equipped with the optional Off-Road package that offers 200mm of ground clearance and an approach angle of 25.6 degrees. It’s complemented by an Area View display that gives you a birds-eye view of the vehicle, making it easier to place accurately when tackling tight, tricky terrain. Needless to say, the Tiguan waltzed across the obstacles –- no surprise, given that the course was designed for it.
The more realistic test was out on public roads, where the second-gen Tiguan came across as a more mature and far better resolved vehicle than its predecessor.
The drive program comprised mainly freeway schlepping –- including some derestricted stretches of autobahn –- and these sections provided the opportunity to clock up the sort of high triple-digit speeds that would land you in hot water in the UAE. The conclusion one could derive is that even 200 kph cruising doesn’t present a problem. Noise levels remain low enough to continue conversation without having to raise one’s voice, and the car feels well planted -– even on roads that were sodden in parts.
The entry-level 180 hp 2.0-litre turbo engine is punchy enough -– as reflected by a tidy 7.7sec 0-100kph split -– but you need to work the transmission manually to get the best out of the motor as the 7-speed DSG ‘box tends to shift up at the earliest opportunity if left to its own devices. This obviously boosts fuel economy, but leaves you feeling flat-footed on occasion.
The few twisty backroads on the drive route revealed the new Tiguan has a well sorted chassis –- it’s arguably a better handler than its competitors, but we’ll reserve final judgement until we have the opportunity to get more wheel time on home soil. Body roll is well controlled, cornering grip levels are high and the steering is precise -– albeit slightly lacking in feel.
All in all, the new Tiguan represents a quantum leap forward from the current model. If VW’s Middle East subsidiary can get the pricing equation right, it will be a tantalising prospect when it launches here in September.
Photos by Volkswagen.