2019 VW Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion Review by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the massive 2019 Toyota Sequoia, and we felt that it had earned the motto (ok, we read it on a popcorn box) Big is More.

In its class the jumbo Toy makes the most of its size.

But it’s not the only class where size matters. Take for example the 2019 VW Tiguan. The previous gen was one of our favorite small SUV’s – it felt like you were getting some GTI DNA mixed in with crossover practicality. When time came around for VW to update the Tig, it decided to aim directly for the U.S. market. And the vehicle grew significantly. So now, we find ourselves asking:

Is Big More?

The Tiguan was due for a size increase – VW recently introduced the mammoth 3-row Atlas model, so the Tiguan needed to fill some larger shoes.  And you can bring those oversize kicks, with a wheelbase that’s 7.3 inches longer, and an overall length that nearly 11 inches longer. It not only makes the VW one of the largest in its class, it now serves up enough space to offer an optional 3rd row seat.

We tested a base Tiguan S model 7-seater last year, and liked the looks. But our SEL Premium tester showed up looking even more substantial, with handsome sleek LED headlights and Adaptive Front lighting. The profile looks more serious with handsome 19” alloys, and best of all, the hot Habanero Orange Metallic paint, that really pops. Orange is the hot color these days – the $70,000 Audi Q8 is being advertised in Dragon Orange Metallic. We don’t mind being mistaken for the high-priced spread.

Spread Out

The bigger outside carries over to a much larger interior. While our previous S tester had the third-row seats (okay for small kids) our Orange Bahnstormer was a 5-passenger model, and it feels seriously spacious, with loads of cargo space behind the 2nd row seats. Total cargo volume is up 17.4 cubic feet over the previous model. Another area that was a real step up from our previous tester – the SEL Premium is loaded with goods, and it really enhances the experience, much less Aunt Gertrude’s faithful Rabbit Diesel and much more baby Audi.

It still has that sensible VW-ness to it that we like, but now you have a plush Titan Black leather interior, heated steering wheel, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a host of technology staring back at you, including the SEL’s Digital Cockpit display.

Borrowed from Audi, it includes a reconfigurable display including putting the navigation display on the large screen in front of you. Interestingly, it will only display the internal navi. Thanks to standard Apple CarPlay, we enjoyed using our Waze display, but it only shows on the 8-inch touchscreen. No great loss – that screen is large and sharp, and also allows tablet-like gesture controls like pinching and swiping.

On the music side, we enjoyed the Fender Premium Audio system, with a 480-watt 12-channel amp, through nine speakers, including Super Twin front door speakers, and a Bassman subwoofer. Naming speakers after legendary Fender amps is very cool. Ja?

VW’s Car-Net system is a tech powerhouse, starting with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link smartphone connectivity. The SEL also enjoys VW Car-Net Security & Service, which includes remote access, along with thoughtful things like Automatic Crash Notification, Manual Emergency Call, Roadside Assistance and even Stolen Vehicle Assistance that works with local law enforcement.

If you’re more worried about family members’ driving habits, you also get  Family Guardian, which offers features such as: speed alert, which notifies you when the pre-determined maximum speed limit is exceeded; boundary alert, which lets you know when the vehicle has traveled outside of a pre-set virtual boundary; and curfew alert, which notifies you if your vehicle is driven while curfew alert is on. There’s even valet alert, which lets you know if your vehicle is driven more than 0.2 miles from the valet drop-off location. The times we live in today…

Drives Big

You really feel the larger size in the Tiguan’s drive, and that’s good and not so. Under the hood is VW’s familiar 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder, pumping out 184 hp, and a strong 221 lb. ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm. That low-end power helps the Tig move out smartly off the line, but at higher speeds like freeway merging, it feels down on power. Putting it into Sport mode helped, and we found that hand-shifting the 8-speed automatic gave even more punch, but you’re still revving the heck out of it.

The engine may be tuned more for MPG. Our large 4Motion AWD vehicle was easily clearing 30 mpg on the freeway, and despite frequent visits to Turbo Town, we averaged around 24 mpg in mixed driving. The Adaptive Cruise Control is great, responding smoothly and quickly, and will come to a stop and take a lot of the strain out of the stop and go commute.

Once up to cruising speeds the Tiguan is impressive, the ride is supremely smooth, but not floaty, and it’s whisper quiet. This is a great daily driver or long-vacation hauler. Make that a ski-trip – with 4Motion AWD, you have Onroad, Snow, Offroad and Custom Offroad settings, so you’ll have no problem getting to the slopes. And with Hill Descent Assist and Hill Start Assist, the VW would be happy in light off-roading as well.

Handling is confident, rather than sporty, but the steering has the typical VW/Audi light but feelsome touch and it’s an easy vehicle to maneuver around in.

It also feels confident. The Tiguan has an impressive array of available safety gear, including Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring Blind Spot Monitor Rear Traffic Alert, and Lane Keeping System.

Perfect Size Pricing

There are a wide range of models to choose from. The front wheel drive Tiguan S starts at just $24,295, and you get a nice big family-sized vehicle for a reasonable amount. Adding VW’s 4Motion will take you up to $25,595. We would probably step up to the SE model at $26,695, to add the leatherette seating, 8” touchscreen sound system and Blind Spot Monitor and Front Assist. The SEL model at $31,795 is where you start getting the real goodies like VW’s Digital Cockpit, 8” touchscreen navigation and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Our top of the line SEL Premium 4Motion started at $37,195. The Habanero Orange Metallic added $295, add in $995 for Destination, and we totaled out at $38,485.

Competitors would include the new Toyota RAV4 we tested that came in just over $39,000. The Mazda CX-5 turbo we drove came in at $38,385. The RAV strikes as a little more outdoorsy, the CX-5 a little more of a sporty vehicle. The Tiguan has its own niche – high-tech, with a European vibe, American room, and unmatched refinement.

For the family buyers VW is aiming at, the new Tiguan is a big improvement. Though enthusiasts may find the new model swaying to much towards comfort, hey, there’s always the GTI!

Supersizing the Tiguan makes it one of the best family SUV’s available. It’s a Big deal.