2018, Jan - Feb


By Cliff Leppke

2018 Tiguan: Once a prince, now a king? 

By Cliff Leppke

Upsized VW isn't born to thrill, but it'll make a family feel like it's siting on a throne.

In VW parlance, its bigger-is-better 2018 Tiguan CUV is the king of the concrete jungle. This king will ferry a royal flush: queen, princes, princesses and a dog or cat. In addition, there’s room for accoutrements associated with a trek to Kensington Palace.  

As such, it’s family friendly. I’m calling it a crossover rather than a utility vehicle because its unit-body employs the seventh-generation Golf’s toolkit. 

Because the Tiggy is equipped with the GTI’s leather-clad flat-bottom steering wheel, a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and toast-your-buns bolstered front seats, you’d expect this VW to emphasize its hot-hatch heritage. Sorry, folks, this VW isn’t born to thrill. It’s good for family service; it’s not a lift-kit Golf R. 

Instead, VW aimed this handsome Craftsman chisel-like machine with faux dual exhaust ports directly at the hot-selling Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue. Other competitors include the Ford Escape and Honda CRV. It ups the ante by inflating the Tiguan to almost midsize capacity (like the ape in the TV spots); the mid-row legroom is generous and the cargo hold without third-row seat flexible. Thoughtful people amenities abound, too. 

Let’s drive. The Tiggy doesn’t set new standards for crossover handling. The electric power steering is nicely weighted and centers well, but the 215/65R17 Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tires inflated to 41 psi do not bite. Thus, it’s a tad sloppy. And when pushed, the tires sing a high-pitched whine, as it gently drifts wider than planned at the wheel. There were times when I thought either the differential lock or AWD setup varied which wheels got torque altering handling precision. I miss the last-gen Tiguan’s zesty attitude. Others might prefer its people toting prowess.

Heavy metal? The turbocharged mill behaves like an angry Oliver-tractor at a state-fair towing contest; it’s snorty when provoked. It’s also asthmatic wheezy. This 184-hp, 221 lb.-ft. of torque “B” cycle 2.0-liter engine, which uses valve timing tricks and the turbocharger to decrease fuel consumption, mates to an eight-speed automatic that keeps engine rpm at 70 mph low — 1,800. 

This plus the vehicle’s 4,086-pound heft conspire to make 50-70 mph acceleration a leisure-time pursuit. My first impression: it’s like driving a 1200cc Bug, step on the urgent pedal at 60 mph to merge onto a highway or scoot into another lane and you wait. It’s as if you forgot to pay the bus driver before entering. Later, I noticed an E on the info/trip computer screen. I thought it a compass direction—except I was headed west. E means Eco—a fuel-sipping mode that blunts throttle response. 

There’s an eco cure. Instead of an inhaler, find the center console drive-mode dial near the shift lever. Its outer ring selects all-wheel-drive programming and transmission mapping for snow (very smooth) or driving off road, plus hill assist and descent (less than 18 mpg, not tested). The dial’s center has a round button. Push it to cycle through on-road modes: normal, sport and eco. Sport increases steering effort and alters front differential lock behavior. Don’t care to meddle with pushbutton algorithms? Slap the shift lever rearward from drive—that requests sport. 

This trick nets quicker shifting and better engine response. Tap the lever rearward again and you’re in drive or eco if you pushed the slowpoke button. Zero to 60 mph takes about 10 seconds, that’s lazy these days. In the Tiguan’s defense, it’s surprisingly stingy with regular gas. I observed 26 mpg. The EPA says: 21 city, 27 highway, 23 mpg combo. That’s good for an AWD SUV. An engine start/stop system reduces emissions too. 

On the highway, the engine is quiet. It maintains a steady speed but must downshift to climb expressway overpasses. Ride quality is compliant. However, potholes and sewer covers induce sudden Hulk Hogan body slams. Mild off-road jaunts also induce sudden thumps. The Subaru Crosstrek, a smaller CUV, is much better. And road patter can provoke resonances within the stout body structure. Overall, all the king’s kin will rate it comfortable. 

VW’s instrumentation deserves kudos for effective contrast night and day. At night, how about overhead halo rather than mood ring? LED lighting along the panoramic sunroof’s sides imparts an ethereal heavenly glow when nature hides the moon and stars. If you don’t like this or wish to tweak the instrument illumination, you’ll discover the age-old rheostat is gone. Instead, you must head toward the infotainment screen menu and tell the onboard computer to douse the house lights. For safety reasons, you cannot do this while driving. I’m not making this up! It’s time to reset this microprocessor madness and give us a knob. 

New for 2018 is VW’s eight-inch infotainment screen. It’s showroom engineering. You’ll like its quick response and intuitive graphics. A sleek glass-like touchscreen high on the middle dashboard has just two knobs: volume and tuning. Otherwise, your interface is finger-sensing touch points astride the main display. This makes walking through various functions difficult to accomplish by feel. And the tuning knob only changes channels after you’ve tapped the radio icon. 

Voice commands will change channels and perform other functions such as making phone calls. I encountered awkward moments when requesting satellite radio stations by number. Say 66 and it fetched “60s on 6” rather than number 66. Going with the flow, I discovered saying the channel’s name, such as Watercolors, worked splendidly.

In front, you’ll have access to two USB ports and one 12-volt socket. In addition, the mid-row faces one USB (power only) and one 12-volt socket. Because many new cars don’t come with factory navigation — and this Tiguan didn’t — VW offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allows users to pair their phones and access maps and navigation. The car’s display apes your phone’s — something most folks want. 

Occupants, as do honey bees, encounter a playful hexagonal interior design theme — as if borrowed from a Lamborghini. VW’s interior trim and carpeting cover most naughty bits. Those in the front row get soft-touch door panels; those in back don’t. The 40/20/40 rear seat slides and reclines. Each piece will fold flat (without removing the removable headrests), and you can release them at the seat or via stowage area levers. The slab-like rear seat could supply more thigh support, but the toe space under the front seats is generous.

The cargo hold has several cubbies and under-floor stowage with a spare tire. Without the optional third-row seat (AWD version), the rear floor is height adjustable. And there’s room for the shade-like cargo cover below the floor. A 12-volt socket is present too.

VW asks $32,625 for the AWD SE Tiguan with rearview camera, forward collision warning with braking and pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert and pushbutton start. Other options include the Habanero Orange Metallic coat and the big glass roof. A six year/72,000 miles limited warranty improves the deal. 

Prince William and Kate Middleton need not hock the family jewels to drive this affordable land rover. 

Cliff Leppke | leppke.cliff@gmail.com 


  • MEMBERSHIP RENEWALS:  Members-at-large will find it easier to re-up.
  • AUDI A5: In a diminished field, this all-wheel-drive coupe is more than just a low-rider.
  • TDI FAREWELL:  Volkswagen’s diesel buyback provides a unique opportunity.


  • Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke
  • Frontdriver – Richard G. Van Treuren
  • Small Talk - VW and Audi news - quickly
  • Retro Autoist - From the archives
  • Parting Shot - Photo feature
  • Local Volks Scene - A snapshot of local chapter activities
  • VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski




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