Volkswagen’s slipped a little GTI DNA into its family-sized softroader wagon.
WHAT IS IT?
Volkswagen’s Golf GTI-engined Tiguan 162TSI injects some athletic ability into the German auto giant’s mainstay medium SUV, while also bringing it within cooee of proper luxury metal in terms of equipment, finish, drive … and price.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?
Because not only is the Tiguan 162TSI a fresh arrival, but it’s also the fastest mainstream SUV on the market right now. Priced from $48,490 (plus $4000 for the almost mandatory R-Line package), it also knocks on the door of luxury segment rivals like the BMW X1 xDrive25i and Mercedes GLA 250.
Subaru Forester XT, Ford Escape Titanium 2.0
THE WHEELS VERDICT
If you were expecting a jacked-up Golf GTI, we’re sorry to bust your bubble but the Tiguan 162TSI isn’t quite the car you’re looking for.
It comes achingly close to fulfilling that brief though, and with a turn of speed that eclipses those of its closest rivals (namely the Subaru Forester XT Premium and Ford Escape Titanium) coupled with segment-leading cabin quality, the 162TSI sits head and shoulders above the competition.
PLUS: Speed, agility, excellent interior, smart design, loaded with tech
MINUS: Flat-sounding engine note, not quite the “Tiguan GTI” we were hoping for, extra spend required to get adaptive dampers
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Ever wondered what an SUV would look like in activewear? Ponder no more, for the Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI is here.
With the 162kW turbo four-pot of the Golf GTI hot hatch slipped between the Tiguan’s front wheels and hooked up to a seven-speed dual-clutch trans and all-wheel drive, Volkswagen has created a medium SUV that, on paper at least, looks like it should be a touch more athletic than the average grocery-getting softroader.
And the numbers are promising. Though it weighs over 300kg heavier than a Golf GTI, the Tiguan 162TSI manages to equal the 6.5 second 0-100km/h sprint time of its hatchback cousin. How? Thank the off-the-line traction of the 162TSI’s 4Motion AWD driveline and its extra gear ratio for its GTI-grade standing start performance.
But in rolling acceleration it lacks the same willingness and verve of its hot-hatch sibling. The extra mass is definitely felt. Suddenly, it becomes apparent why this GTI-engined Tiguan doesn’t bear a GTI badge of its own – it’s quick, but not quite quick enough.
It doesn’t sound like GTI should either. There are hints of a rorty turbo four coming through the firewall, but most of the time that noise is drowned out by a diesel-like grumble that only disappears from the middle of the tacho and up.
The 162TSI’s handling, however, is definitely up to snuff. Accurate steering and excellent body control combine with a well-sorted chassis to make the Tiguan 162TSI an SUV you can properly hustle. We only wish there was a little more grip from the Pirelli Scorpion rubber.
Electronically-adjustable dampers come with the optional R-Line package (along with 20-inch alloys, a bodykit, flat-bottomed steering wheel and more), and they alone make R-Line a box worth ticking.
In Comfort mode they almost completely dial out the brittleness that comes from the 20-inch rolling stock, while also introducing a smooth and compliant ride that’s worlds apart from the fussy, crashy nature of the standard fixed-rate dampers.
Variable-ratio steering is another key feature of the R-Line pack, and reduces the amount of lock-to-lock travel to a twirl-minimising two turns. Progressively decreasing in ratio the further you turn from centre, this variable ratio steering is precise, well-weighted (in Normal mode anyway) and does indeed impart an agile feel to the 162TSI driving experience.
All in all, this is a better-sorted, faster and more broadly-appealing SUV than the similarly-priced Subaru Forester XT and Ford Kuga Titanium - the only other non-luxury SUV offerings that have vague aspirations of sportiness.
Model: Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo petrol
Max power: 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 6.5sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 8.1L/100km
On sale: Now