We recently tested the new Mini Countryman, and determined that while it’s the largest Mini yet, it still is Mini, in brand and spirit.
So, now we have the all-new 2018 VW Tiguan, a big step forward in size over the previous model.
Big enough to squeeze in a 3rd row of seats. But it leaves us wondering:
Has the Tiguan gotten too big for its britches?
One look and you know the new Tiguan is shopping at the big and tall SUV store. 10.6 inches longer, and riding on a wheelbase 7.3 longer, it’s not only a much larger Tiguan, but VW says the largest vehicle in its class.
Big is Beautiful in this case. Wider and lower than the previous gen, the character line on the side really pops out.
LED daytime running lights, and taillights, give it a fresh presence. Even on our base S trim model, you get nice stuff like foglights, handsome 17-inch alloy wheels and heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators.
Room for bigger britches.
That extra size is immediately noticeable when you get in. In front wheel drive models like our tester, three rows of seats are standard. Like the few vehicles in this class that offer a 3rd row of seats, it’s really only for kids, and the cargo room is smallish with the third row up.
What the third row taketh away, the 2nd row giveth, with superb comfort, the ability to recline and can slide 7 inches fore and aft. In 5 passenger mode, you’ve got limo-like comfort, and a healthy 33 cubic feet of cargo space. Drop the second row as well and you get a cavernous 65.7 cubic feet of room a massive improvement over the previous model’s 56.1 cubic feet.
Slide into the driver’s seat, and if you’re familiar with VW, you’ll feel right at home. Like all VW’s the interior quality feels a class above, and everything is designed with functionality and ease of use.
It’s a nice place to spend time, with cloth seats in what VW calls a “rhombus patter”, and a multi-function steering wheel. Unfortunately, not leather-wrapped in the S trim. You do get a nice large tach and speedo flanking the multi-function trip computer. In the center of the dash is a 6.5 –inch touchscreen, with a few cool features including the Think Blue Trainer designed to get you thinking about driving economically. All this, plus an aux-in, SD card and USB port, and streaming Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, not available on our lower trim is VW’s new Digital Cockpit display, that was first seen on Audi vehicles, and has now migrated down to the VW Atlas and GTI. Like the Audi, this puts the entire configurable display in front of the driver on a 12.3-inch display in the instrument panel.
When you’re using the navi, the speedo and tach diminish in size to give you a better view of the map directly in front of you. If you’re not using navi – or leave it on the center screen display – the gauges become larger and easier to read. Very cool.
Ignorance may be bliss, though, because we were happy with the basic system in our tester, partly due to the standard MIB II infotainment system which works very well, along with rear view monitor, and a fine sounding audio system.
Does bigger drive better?
That depends on what you’re looking for. We always felt that the previous Tiguan was kind of like a tall GTI, offering the same kind of sporty fun, responsive handling, zippy acceleration, all in a slightly more useful package.
Looking at the specs tells us the new Tig is over 300 pounds heavier, combined with a larger, longer vehicle, we’d expect performance to be down a bit. There’s a new 2.0-liter turbo engine pumping 184 hp, but pushing a mammoth 221 lb. ft. of torque at just 1600 rpm.
Even though it’s a 4-cylinder, for some reason the engine reminds us of the old Audi 5-cylinder engine. It sounds so German – purposeful, hardworking, like a fine-tuned machine, and gives the Tiguan some added personality we enjoyed.
Combined with an 8-speed automatic, while not feeling as jack-rabbit fast as the old Tiguan, the new model still moves with authority, and feels downright quick if you leave it in Sport mode. So, we of course we left it in Sport mode. We still averaged well over 25 mpg in a mixed driving – pretty admirable for a good-sized SUV.
The ride is on the firm side, but the long wheelbase does a good job of dealing with bumps. Handling is confident and has that nice European feedback that makes it a good drive. That said, we still miss the lighter model’s sporty attitude. Win some/lose some…
Longer wheelbase does not mean larger payments.
Here’s a nice surprise. The base 2017 Tiguan started at 24,995, while our 2018 Tiguan S Front Wheel Drive starts at just $25,195. For the added size and utility and 3rd row seats, that’s a heck of a deal.
Options are few on the S, but we’d spring for the Driver Assistance Package for a well spent $850, which includes Forward Collision Warning & Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert.
Adding that to our tester, plus destination fees and our grand total was $26,945
You can build from there. If you want 4Motion all-wheel drive, it’s $1,300. Walking up the trim ladder adds luxuries and conveniences, and takes you to SE ($28,930), SEL ($32,550) and SEL Premium ($36,250). Load a premium with 4Motion and 3rd Row seats, and your Tiguan comes in at just over $39,000.
The new Tiguan is a smart move for VW. For 99% of the SUV buying public, who want space and comfort – and the occasional 3rd row of seats – the new model has a lot more to offer. And at sensible prices, too. And for the few who like the old “tall GTI” …well there’s always a GTI!
Bigger, smoother, and more comfortable, the new Tiguan offers more – for more buyers – in just about every way.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.