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Letter From Europe; Grandpa Andrew Pays Attention To SUV Competition Tiguan and Ascent


Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

SEE ALSO: Letter From Europe Archive; 1996-Present

This the very first Letter from Europe since I’ve become a grandfather for the very first time.  

Pretty amazing feeling I must say. From now on I will pay more attention to SUVs, safety features and so on.

As luck would have the two most recent tests were just that-SUVs.

The first one was somewhat unexpected. A Subaru or Subie as it is known to  its fanatical owners .

My 80 year old cousin who lives in Canada tells me that after 60 years behind the wheel nothing but nothing comes near to his  WRX. The one without the spoiler I hasten to add. and this is my problem with the Ascent.

For years and years  Subaru meant two things to me-either ice racing, hurtling along at outrageous speeds or being the thinking man’s Range Rover for a fraction of the the price.

I’ve mentioned this in my last report on Subaru-you will see virtually nothing else in the mountains.

That is not to say that you won’t find anything else during school vacations or  New Year’s Eve but by and large the rugged mountain types will drive Subarus, many of them full of dents but still going strong.

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And now we have this marvel of marketing-the Ascent. In a way I can understand that the brand wants to grow, on the other hand it looks-certainly from the side as Toyota’s Highlander.

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I can understand that Subaru wants a share  of the three-row SUV market and they built a perfectly nice, comfortable Subaru but it has a problem. It is called the what is it problem.

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Casual observers will know what it is while looking at a WRX there is no mistaking-it is a Subie.

It enters a pretty tough field -Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and most of all the Toyota Highlander which is  excellent. Then there is Chevrolet’s surprisingly  good Traverse and Jeep’s Grand  Cherokee. So the field could not be bigger or more competitive.

The price of the Ascent starts at 33 thousand and rises to 45 with all the extras.

The engine is turbocharged and  intercooled producing 260 hp which in my opinion is all right rather than outstanding. Personally I would have preferred a 330 hp V6, more suitable for carrying 8 people.

The driver’s seat is excellent as are the instruments. All in all I found the Ascent perfectly pleasant and a worthy rival to all the SUVs I have mentioned earlier.

It is not a thriller like its smaller brothers but then it was not designed for that. Will loyal Subies trade up as their families grow? I think they will Especially if they can persuade the company to give them a  bigger, more powerful engine.  

VW’s Tiguan is certainly a rival I should have mentioned earlier. It arrived in the most amazing Habanero Orange Metallic Exterior. Never seen anything like it. More to the point-how did it perform I hear you ask? Well, it costs a great deal less than the Subaru coming in at a pretty astonishing 23 thousand dollars-a steal in terms of what you get for your money.

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The company has had a horrendous time of late due to the diesel scandal, smaller companies would have folded. Consequently VW are selling cars with minimal profits to get back their market share.

The Tiguan can only help. 184 hp is not vast but this turbo charged 4 cylinder engine gets you to your destination all the same, maybe a little bit more slowly. What is it up against? There is  the Grand Cherokee, Mazda’s CX-5 to name but two.

I personally much prefer it to VW’s Atlas which I really did not care for. The Tiguan is a far more attractive  proposition all it needs is a more powerful engine.

One thing about VW-there are so many common parts in their cars that once you have driven one you will not have any trouble figuring out another one.

The group is so huge that I am sure they could find a bigger, more powerful engine across the road at Audi.

Not many  people know that Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Lamborghini are all parts of the same group.

Coming back to the Tiguan  there are several, more expensive versions but if your budget is tight stick with the base model. Lots of room for the family and just be a bit patient when you are looking for those extra ponies.

We put the Tiguan to the test and it came through with flying colors. The task-collect my son Nicholas, his fiancée Jennifer and my new grand daughter Jolina into the Tiguan and transport them from Oakland to Belvedere with 4 suitcases, a pram and two carry on bags. Don’t ask me how we fitted it all in  but we did.

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The model I had for test costs 34 thousand dollars but there are several less expensive options.

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

VW certainly have their backs to the wall with this diesel scandal so their pricing is very competitive. And the build quality is as good as ever.

Totally different subject-my new book. An updated second edition of the first one with more pages and stories.

Right now only available from me directly at 55 dollars including postage and packing.

The title: Frankly Frankl-life, love, luck and automobiles.

Those  who have seen it loved it. Limited edition-499 copies -foreword by  Sir Jackie Stewart.

That's it for now...see you next month.