It has the Golf GTI’s 162kW EA888 four-pot engine and matches it to 100km/h (6.5sec).
It has a lap timer in the infotainment system. And with the popular R-Line option pack it looks half angry with a smart bodykit and those chunky 20-inch wheels. So is the new Tiguan 162TSI – the hottest version of Volkswagen’s ‘baby’ SUV yet – a Golf GTI on stilts?
No, it isn’t. And though we have no idea if they were ever tempted, Volkswagen’s done the right thing by not fitting GTI badges. Not only would have been confusing – the GTI badge has never gone on an all-wheel drive car, let alone an all-wheel drive SUV – but it would have been wrong. Tiguan 162TSI is what this car is.
What that means is it’s an excellent everyday car that’s surprisingly fast and competent up a twisty road. It’s the kind of car you buy to share with your partner – who couldn’t care less about cars – only to be reprimanded for driving too fast and having too much fun on alpine roads returning from the ski holiday.
Around town the Tiguan is brilliant and even people not interested in performance driving should grab the $4000 R-Line pack for the ride-transforming adaptive dampers alone.
With the R-Line pack and the $2000 Driver Assistance package – which adds blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise control, full TFT instrument display and 360-degree parking camera – the 162TSI (which starts at $48,490) becomes an incredibly well-equipped car for $54,490.
Parked next to the old Tiguan the new one is noticeably larger but still reasonably compact, its respectable 1637kg helping maintain relatively perky performance. Boot it and the 162TSI accelerates rapidly if uneventfully, the 4MOTION ensuring fuss-free traction. The sound is very mild mannered – it won’t be attracting attention – with a subdued turbo whistle and muted DSG fart.
The R-Line’s adaptive dampers, in their firmest Sport mode, work well on a smooth road but quickly lose compliance and make driving fast unpleasant when the road gets bumpy. Thankfully an Individual mode lets you combine a sporty engine and DSG with softer dampers, making the 162TSI a surprisingly fast, compliant and engaging back-road burner.
Ultimately this is a zippy passenger car that also does sporty – and does it well – with a secure chassis tune. To call it a GTI would require huggier seats, more aggro tyres and brakes, revised Sport mode damping, half-off ESP, perhaps a more lively chassis tune and a growlier engine note. And even then the leap straight to R might make more sense with the all-wheel drive.
Until then the 162TSI, though the fastest Tiguan yet, remains a brilliant daily driver – not a car you’re likely to drive for driving’s sake, but one in which you’ll happily take the scenic detour.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: Pretty zippy; ride; comfort; interior
DISLIKE: It does sporty well but it’s not a performance car
Engine 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm
0-100km/h: 6.5sec (claimed)