With a name conceived as some amalgamation of a tiger and iguana, the Tiguan was always part car, part SUV and styled like a Golf on heels. It identified as a Volkswagen, but looked bland. But, driving it was a spicy delight with that turbo engine propelling it down the left lane of fast freeways. Well, it’s all new for 2018 and it’s gone from bland to a big spicy habanero.
Clean styling presents as a scaled-down Atlas crossover with 17” alloy wheels, halogen headlamps, black roof rails, and LED running lamps. It’s longer, looking more upscale. Look close, and you notice the precision tailored creasing in the bodywork, squinted headlamps, and elegant chrome between paint and lower side cladding. There’s no missing it in metallic Habanero Orange paint.
Inside, it’s all business with black leatherette seats and soft black coverings for the dash and doors. Right in the center of the dash is VW’s new touchscreen. It’s easy to understand and can be controlled with voice and simple volume and tuning knobs. Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto ease connection and management of smart devices. Our test car didn’t have it, but I’d order my Tiguan with the 480-watt Fender audio system.
Heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and rear air vents keep everybody comfortable no matter the weather. Unlike most compact crossovers, Tiguan is available with a third-row seat and panoramic glass roof. Toss luggage into the roomy rear compartment through a power-opening hatch. You can also get it with a rearview camera, forward autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert systems. Settle in, grip the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, and prepare to depart.
Launch it onto the freeway to realize the sleek shell wraps a spirited powertrain. In the nose is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 184 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s shifted through an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic paddle control. 4MOTION all-wheel-drive plants the wheels around corners, over slick roads, and through winter mess. Fuel economy is rated 21/27-MPG city/hwy.
Numbers don’t fully convey how the Tiguan drives. Like an Audi, its four-wheel independent suspension system is controlled in corners, but virtually glides over rough pavement. With the turbo, there’s always s a feeling the Tiguan wants to leap away from a stoplight or show taillights to competitors on the open road. Drive modes adjust the powertrain for snow, on-road, and off-road. Its calling card is feeling like it was born to run fast for long.
With a finesse that’s as much Audi as Volkswagen, the all-new Tiguan is a very tasteful little pepper whether you take it hot, mild, or somewhere between. The interior is kept simple so drivers can focus on the main task at hand – covering miles safely and quickly. There’s always room for more power, but the turbo-four strikes the right balance. With an as-tested price of $31,775, the Tiguan compares fenders with the Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V
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2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 184hp 2.0-liter T4, 8-speed auto trans.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Handling
Fuel economy: 21/27 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Puebla, Mexico
Base/as-tested price: $25,345/31,775