Nathan Ponchard reviews the top-shelf Volkswagen Tiguan: the sporty 162TSI R-Line that blends luxury and performance.
Capable to its core and brimming with labour-saving ease, the second-gen Tiguan has gone from strength to strength over the last five years, selling more than 900,000 units globally in 2019 and overtaking the Golf to become Volkswagen’s best-selling model in 2020 – no doubt helped by the change-over to the Golf Mk8.
So what this 2021 mid-life facelift represents is a stepping-stone to greater things for the Tiguan nameplate, while (mostly) bridging the gap to the box-fresh Golf in terms of technology and appearance.
Originally launched in 2016, the second-gen Tiguan seems to have grown into its features over time. The angularity of its exterior and interior design seemed a little too intentional five years ago but has matured comfortably into a modern look – particularly thanks to the many small but worthwhile improvements introduced for 2021.
On the outside, fresh bumpers, new wheel designs, additional embellishment and high-spec lighting (with mega-cool sequential indicators on Elegance and R-Line) gives the MY21 Tiguan a premium air – especially the 162TSI R-Line wearing 20-inch ‘Misano’ alloy wheels with excellent 255/40R20 Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres.
While you may question the relevance of the top-shelf model in representing the broader Tiguan family, the simple fact is the 162TSI contributes more than 40 percent of total Tiguan volume in Australia, and the R-Line is by far the lion’s share of that (compared to the slightly cheaper, less overtly sporty 162TSI Elegance).
The $53,790 Tiguan 162TSI 4Motion R-Line is considerably more expensive than the front-drive Tiguan 110TSI Life (review) starter model ($39,690), though it justifies its premium with several model-exclusive features including a superb R-Line steering wheel, ‘progressive’ steering rack with super-keen turn-in (and just 2.1 turns lock-to-lock), a bespoke R-Line bodykit and bumpers, anthracite headlining, and stainless-steel pedals.
That’s in addition to the adaptive dampers, eight-way heated electric front seats, heated steering wheel, eight-speaker 9.2-inch ‘Discover Pro’ multimedia system, leather trim and 30-colour ambient lighting it shares with the $3K-cheaper Elegance.
Yet even the base Tiguan Life offers LED headlights, an electric tailgate, ‘Digital Cockpit Pro’ virtual instrumentation, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, auto-fold heated mirrors and VW’s full ‘IQ Drive’ safety suite including excellent travel- and lane-assist tech with adaptive lane guidance, front and rear parking sensors, side assist, and adaptive cruise.
While the cabin’s upgraded multimedia, trick instruments, new-gen steering-wheel controls with VW’s flush new logo on the centre boss, and a slick climate-control system with smartphone-style touch-and-slide operation (that’s reflected onto the centre screen when you hit ‘menu’) give the MY21 Tiguan a more contemporary ambience, it already had really good bones.
There’s a vast amount of space for a medium SUV, with huge (carpet-lined) door bins, excellent seat support, expansive vision and a 60/40-split rear bench that’s on runners for even greater packaging efficiency. There’s tonnes of rear-seat room along with 12-position backrest rake, clever pockets for device storage, proper door grab handles and temperature-controlled rear air vents, as well as a 615-litre boot.
But even treated as simply a driver’s car, the Tiguan 162TSI 4Motion R-Line scores. It’s quick-rack steering system makes it effortlessly keen to drive, combined with the impressive traction of its all-wheel-drive system and the abundant torque from its 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine. Yet it’s the finesse of its adaptively damped suspension with accompanying drive-mode system that makes the driving experience.
You don’t need to put the R-Line in ‘Sport’ mode to make it feel taut and sporty. Even in ‘Comfort’ the Tiguan is surprisingly dynamic, yet it’s the ability to have it set to ‘Individual’, with every parameter in ‘Normal’ except the steering (which is at its firmly weighted best in ‘Sport’ mode) that reaffirms the Tiguan R-Line’s position at the top of the premium-mainstream medium SUV category.
It drives with the polish and panache that you’d expect (but don’t always get!) from a premium-brand product, yet it competes head-on with its best Japanese rivals. And does so with a broader set of capabilities in terms of combining sporty handling with comfort, interior quality with massive space, performance with driveability, and a pragmatic style that’s also a little special.
About the only real black mark against the MY21 Tiguan is its lack of digital radio (on any model!) and the absence of wireless charging (due to an accompanying phone-booster on Euro models that isn’t legislated for Australia, though VW Oz is hoping to solve this dilemma in the future).
There’s an optional Harman/Kardon stereo as part of a $2500 Sound and Vision package that includes a 480-watt amplifier and a subwoofer, along with a head-up display and surround-view camera, though even the Tiguan R-Line’s stock audio set-up is nicely staged and amply powerful.
Beyond the just-launched 162TSI and already-on-sale 110TSI (that arrived in March), VW still has the Tiguan 147TDI to come in June (for a $1500 premium in Elegance and R-Line models), as well as the 132TSI 4Motion Life ($43,690) in July. Then in 2022, we’ll see a rip-snorting Tiguan R performance flagship, as well as a similar facelift for the five-plus-two-seat, Mexican-built Tiguan Allspace.
The term ‘all things to all people’ certainly wasn’t invented for the VW Tiguan but it wholeheartedly applies to this better-than-ever 2021 line-up.
If you wondered why the Tiguan is now Wolfsburg’s best-seller, this 162TSI R-Line provides indelible proof why.
Nathan Ponchard reviews the new Hyundai Tucson midsize SUV, which initially arrives in Australia with a sole engine choice – a two-litre petrol.
The old Ford Escape was a worthy SUV, but it didn’t sell well in Australia. This time, Ford is betting the the new fourth-generation Escape can out-manoeuvre key rivals.
Key specs (as tested)
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