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2018.5 Volkswagen Tiguan Review By Thom Cannell


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By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Authors Note: Bullet Points: 2018.5 Volkswagen Tiguan. No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience—balanced against hundreds of comparisons.

What do you look for in a new car, SUV, or crossover? Does quietness affect your decision? Do you prefer distinctive styling? How about cargo capacity, how does that rate on you list of must-haves? Or do you need a third row for younger children? Volkswagen’s 2018.5 Tiguan checks every box.


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Volkswagen has listened to customers, particularly those who wanted a smaller, do-everything crossover with more space for family, gear, or both. Tiguan, once an even more-compact crossover, is now longer, and offers third-row seating, which is a North American exclusive.

We’ve driven Tiguans before, (https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2009/08/17/474453.html) and it has remained a favorite among small crossovers for its economy, power, and capacity. That Tiguan surprised us with seemingly scant capacity for luggage. However, once the second seat was folded, we hauled an entire bathroom rehab (including toilet and ladder) in a single trip.


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The 2018.5 Tiguan recreates that experience without folding the rear seat!

The new Tiguan, though similar in appearance, is all-new and is built differently; VW calls this process the MQB or modular transverse matrix platform. What this means is, for North America, there’s 10.6-inches more length in the wheelbase to deliver more standard front and second-seat space, 58-percent greater cargo volume, and standard third-row seating for front-wheel drive Tiguans. Our 4Motion, All Wheel Drive-equipped Tiguan didn’t have the optional third-row seating; it’s only available on FWD models. Expect that the third-row seats, like any compact crossover, will be better sized for children than teens or adults.

VW kept some design heritage for the latest Tiguan, though it is an all-new design. Headlights, halogen in S and SE models, are upgraded to LED headlamps for the SEL Premium. Our SE, like all Tiguans, had steerable fog lamps to look brightly into corners, and LED DRLs, plus LED tail lamps. These features are integrated into a similar—but lower—body that uses a broad grille to visually widen the body. Exterior styling is classic, and should look great for at least a decade, with its large greenhouse and well-proportioned flanks. Rear views are also clean, with just-big-enough tail lamps that don’t detract from clean lines. We also like the large, and functional, twin exhaust pipes edged in chrome.

Inside, VW kept the clean lines flowing across the broad expanse of the dashboard. As drivers, we had an uncluttered instrument cluster that delivered speed and engine information directly. With a few button pushes, we could call up almost any information on the Driver Information Center, located between speedometer and tachometer. Typically, we wanted to know what we were listening to, or how soon to visit a gas station.


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From the driving position, everything was first class. VW’s 4Motion All Wheel Drive system computes the correct settings of engine, transmission and safety systems for every day road conditions, and others not so every-day. (On a previous short-term drive we experienced slippery, snow-slush-ice. Snow mode was a big help.) To activate the desired driving mode, simply push a button and rotate a dial, then everything is set to secure your safety. This console also holds the stop-start button (ignition switch?). Above the console and shifter are easy to use—and easier to understand—rotary controls for HVAC, plus the air-distribution buttons and seat-heater controls. On icy days next winter, you’ll find seat heaters are a blessing, if you haven’t joined that congregation already.


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Centered between the driver and passenger, and just below eye-height, is a highly reactive infotainment head end. Think iPad cool, complete with an ability to use gestures to scroll to alternative pages for AM/FM/SiriusXM. We also hooked into Apple CarPlay, which brought up familiar Apple icons. Response for any feature was immediate, which is often lacking. Also instantly available was the integrated backup camera display; there was no noticeable wait between shifting into reverse and a view behind, which made us feel more secure.


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VW has its own integration app, Car-Net App-Connect, that delivers family-friendly offerings like Family Guardian to tip you off if pre-set speeds are exceeded, notification of outside-of-boundary alerts, plus there’s the usual remote unlocking, horn/lights honk/flash, even a check to see if your windows are up, and the doors locked. Also, you can send locations to the navigation system. With the large, fast-responding screen, it works for you, not against you.

For 2018, Volkswagen updated the powertrain. The engine is a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected gasoline engine, and it mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission for improved fuel economy. That improvement delivered our only disenchantment. Tiguan glides effortlessly, and in the tallest, most economical gear possible. So, we felt that a bit of the traditional VW point-and-scoot fun had evaporated. We could have used the manual shift mode or sport-mode selection more often, but we had to reset from Economy every time we restarted—as is should be. Yes, we’re complaining about saving gas money!


Here’s the Bullet Points:

The Good—

  • Goldilocks in size; a bit bigger for cargo, with more passenger space.
  • Starting price of $24,595 MSRP.
  • Available third-row seats—suitable only for younger kids—expands usefulness for families.
  • Telematics that are easy to use, and make sense.
  • Styling that won’t look outdated any time soon.
  • Very pleasant to drive, regardless of road conditions.
  • ll Wheel Drive models have Off Road and Snow modes, plus Sport and Custom, making the vehicle all-around useful and fun to drive anywhere, any time.
  • Economical, with EPA ratings for our 4Motion All Wheel Drive vehicle of 21 city, 27 highway and 23 combined. We easily met those numbers.
  • Great warranty, 6 years or 72,000 miles and transferrable, including powertrain.
  • Full safety suite including: Blind Spot and Rear Traffic alert, Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, parking alerts, automatic rear brake, Forward Collision Warning, and more. Pretty much everything you’d want, but some features are options on more expensive SEL Premium models.

Room For Improvement—