2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line - Review by David Colman
It's appetizing in many ways, but where's the beef?
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
In 2007, Volkswagen introduced the Tiguan, a new crossover SUV based on the Passat chassis. This compact derivation measured just 174 inches in length, 103 inches in wheelbase, and weighed 3,770 pounds. A 2 liter, turbocharged four supplied 200hp, and endowed the newcomer with a relatively frisky power-to-weight ratio of 18.85lb/hp. In 2016, Volkswagen dramatically enlarged the Tiguan. The revamped version, now based on the company's modular MQB platform, gains 11 inches in length, 7 inches in wheelbase, and 366 pounds in curb weight.
Unfortunately, engine output of the turbo 2 liter four has fallen to 184hp, resulting in a lethargic power-to-weight ratio of 22.47lb/hp. Although VW advertising claims that the latest Tiguan offers "a turbocharged engine that takes fun-to-drive to the next level," that level seems to be down rather than up. The top-line 2021 SEL Premium R-Line we drove takes an agonizing 9.7 seconds to reach 60mph from rest, and strolls through the standing start quarter mile in a leisurely 17.3 seconds at 81mph.
Without question, the size increase of the Tiguan makes it more competitive with such compact crossover stalwarts as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In fact, the enlarged Tiguan is one of only two market segment crossovers to offer an optional third row of seating (Mitsubishi's Outlander is the other). Although our test Tiguan was not equipped with that third row seat, the $595 option will buy you accommodations for 7. When configured with seating for 5 like our test Tiguan, the cabin of this VW feels spacious and uncluttered. The leather front and rear seating is plush and comfy, and the subdued choice of the R-Line black headliner, ambient lighting, and front footwell lights all conspire to make the top Tiguan an inviting place to pass the time.
VW markets the Tiguan in 5 different levels of trim. The "S" starts the lineup at $25,245, followed by the "SE" at $27,395, the "SE R-Line Black" at $30,595, the "SEL" for $32,545, and the model we tested, the "SEL Premium R-Line" at $39,095. The less expensive models drive the front wheels, with all-wheel-drive (4MOTION) available for a about $1,300 extra. VW fits the SEL Premium R-Line with standard 4MOTION. No matter which model Tiguan you choose, however, the only motor offered is the 184hp turbo. The blacked out front grill and badging of the R-Line look sporty. VW adds a handsome set of 20x8J alloy rims to the Premium's visual mix. These flat faced wheels mount Hankook Ventus S1 Noble 2 mud and snow tires measuring 245/40R20. With its fully independent suspension sucking up the bumps, and its electro-mechanical power steering providing excellent feedback thanks to variable assistance, the Tiguan always felt securely anchored to the road surface. Neither frost heaves not degraded pavement loosened its tenacious all-wheel-drive grip. We were most surprised by the amount of vertical suspension travel the Tiguan was able to generate over bad pavement.
All models of Tiguan offer these basic safety protocols: Front Assist, Side Assist and Rear Traffic Alert. In addition, the Premium ranges add Lane Assist (lane keeping system), Light Assist (high beam control for headlights), and Adaptive Cruise Control (with Stop and Go). After fighting with Lane Assist for possession of the steering wheel, we deleted this purported aid and found the Tiguan much more enjoyable to drive on the freeway. We also discovered it relatively easy to delete most of the other safety nannies, though the VW system for doing so requires you to manipulate buttons on opposite spokes of the steering wheel at the same time. Best to accomplish all this menu perusing while stationary. Happily, once you have made your preferences known, there is no need to repeat the routine each time you restart the Tiguan.
At the $40,000 level, it would seem the top Tiguan should have power assist to adjust the steering column and a pair of memory positions to retain your seat and mirror positions. Other than those oversights, VW has done a solid job of providing the SEL Premium R-Line with unexpected niceties like a hot pocket for wiper parking, a heated steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. What the upsized Tiguan - "Bigjuan" - really needs is more motor. Now if VW could find a way to slot their exceptional 242hp GTI motor into the engine bay of the SUV we drove, the result would be nothing short of sensational.
2021 VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line
ENGINE: 2.0L TSI 16-Valve turbo 4 cylinder
HORSEPOWER: 184hp@ 4400rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/27MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $40,885
HYPES: THE CONCISION of VW's DESIGN LANGUAGE
GRIPES: GTI MOTOR PLEASE
STAR RATING: 8 Stars of 10