For $13K more than VW’s highly popular (and hugely capable) Tiguan 162TSI R-Line, you can have a red-hot Tiguan R, featuring the same oily bits as the new-gen Golf R
The 162TSI R-Line model that sits below the R in the five-seat Tiguan range was already one of the hottest performers in its segment, yet even it pales in comparison to what the Tiguan R is capable of – certainly in terms of ultimate handling agility and straight-line thrust. The Tiguan R may look like a slightly pumped R-Line, but this visual deception disguises significantly altered mechanicals – spanning both engine outputs, braking package and all-wheel-drive system.
For the $68,990 (before on-road costs) Volkswagen is charging for the Tiguan R, you essentially gain those hardware upgrades along with 21-inch ‘Estoril’ alloy wheels (the same design as the Golf R’s but larger), illuminated R skid plates, R-logo puddle lighting, Nappa leather trim with embroidered blue R badging and blue stitching, a sports steering wheel with perforated-leather sections and blue R detailing, enlarged matte-grey wheel paddles, and an ‘R’ button on the steering wheel to select and engage the revised drive modes.
There’s also a cool R welcome animation performed by the IQ-Light LED lighting (including Matrix LED headlamps and sequential indicators).
Given that the 162TSI variant already accounts for more than 40 percent of Tiguan volume in Australia (with the sporty R-Line variant easily outselling the Elegance), Volkswagen has had to slightly adjust our Tiguan R spec to maintain consistent supply.
The panoramic sunroof ($2000) and 10-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system ($1000) that were originally standard fitment have been moved to the options list – meaning the 1000 customers who’ve already put down a deposit on a Tiguan R shouldn’t be left short-changed … providing they don’t all wants sunroofs and trick stereos!
As for what the Tiguan R competes against, it doesn’t actually have a direct competitor. In terms of driver focus and hardcore sporting appeal, only the Hyundai Kona N Premium ($51,000) and Audi RS Q3 ($96,200) really fit the bill, yet the Kona is a much-smaller, front-drive performance SUV and the RS Q3 is vastly more expensive, yet lacks the trick twin-clutch rear diff the Tiguan R shares with the Audi RS3.
So the Tiguan R appears to be a bit of a bargain, but would your money be better spent on the more sensible, yet more sporting, same-price Golf R wagon?
What gives the Tiguan R proper cred in the eyes of enthusiasts is that it is very much a new-generation Golf R on stilts, not just a dragged-up imitation bedazzled with R badges.
The Tiguan’s core DNA dates back to 2016, however the Mk8 Golf is essentially a development of the 2012 Mk7 – meaning that what’s under the skin of the 2022 Golf R and Tiguan R is very similar … unlike their overall cabin architecture.
What that means for Australia’s Tiguan R (and Golf R hatch) is an international-market tune for the tricked-up 2.0-litre turbo-petrol – belting out a serious 235kW from 5600-6500rpm and 400Nm of torque across a vast 2000-5600rpm shelf – as well as a 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds. Despite weighing 220kg more than a Golf R hatch, the Tiguan R is just 0.3sec slower to 100km/h and feels equally as rapid most of the time.
Intriguingly, the Tiguan R is barely any slower around a racetrack – VW Oz launched both cars simultaneously at Sydney Motorsport Park – which must be credited to its unique all-wheel-drive system and upgraded R Performance brakes.
Like the Golf R, the Tiguan R features a twin-clutch rear differential that can apportion up to 100 percent of drive to either rear wheel for true torque vectoring and superb drive out of tight corners – especially in ‘Race’ drive mode.
The way the Tiguan R can pivot when changing direction and transfer all its power to the ground with such proficiency puts it on a much higher plane than any other performance-focused SUV anywhere near its price. And even though a fast racetrack is ultimately not its comfort zone, the Tiguan R is still a hoot.
You can feel its additional height compared to a Golf R hatch (the Tiguan stands 210mm taller) and its inferior centre-of-gravity, as well as the extra work performed by its upgraded brakes (357mm vented/drilled front discs with two-piston calipers, 310mm vented rear discs).
But it’s only when the tyres eventually start to give out – in this instance, 255/35R21 98Y Hankook Ventus Evo 3 SUV tyres – that the Tiguan R betrays its (relative) limitations. Wearing good-quality Cup tyres, a Tiguan R would be a formidable track-day stealth fighter – even without the Nurburgring-honed ‘Special’ mode of the Golf R.
As for the Tiguan R’s driving flavour, think slightly more forgiving Golf R. Even though the Tiguan wears 21-inch wheels and its Drive Mode system defaults to a new Sport mode (replacing Normal – just like in the new Golf R), it isn’t too abrasive on bad roads.
When combined with its keen turn-in and delicious punch, the Tiguan R’s ride firmness is entirely in keeping with its station in life, yet it’s capable of feeling quite calm when the dampers are set to Comfort.
Its uprated engine offers multiple modes, including a ‘Pure’ option that silences the synthesised induction sound (even though it’s far from unpleasant) to allow the trademark exhaust blurting to take centre stage, and there’s even an ‘E’ mode for the transmission (when Comfort is selected) that channels the R’s wad of torque to best effect.
So while the Tiguan R lacks the ultimate ride plushness of a 162TSI R-Line on 20s, it remains a multi-talented beast with a persuasive breadth of dynamic ability.
It’s also been given the broadest active-safety suite of any Tiguan variant, including VW’s clever and effective Travel Assist with adaptive lane guidance, as well as features such as side assist with lane-changing assistant, rear AEB, and rear cross-traffic alert. It also features pre-collision ‘Proactive Occupant Protection’ which arms the vehicle systems if it detects an imminent collision.
Much like the exterior (which embellishes what the Tiguan R-Line already had, while turning some of the chrome detailing to black), the Tiguan R’s interior is like an R-Line with an R-branded wand waved over it.
That means a similar seat design to the R-Line (‘Comfort Sport’, according to VW) with standard 12-way electric adjustment, three-position memory and heating, plus woven carbonfibre-like trim sections, blue stitching and embroidered R logos.
They look good and offer impressively firm support, however the ‘Comfort’ part of the title hints at the fact they’re better suited to straighter roads and larger bodies – certainly compared to the huggy tombstone buckets fitted to the Golf R.
There’s also an R sports steering wheel with a perforated-leather sections, blue stitching, enlarged matte-grey wheel paddles and an R button on the wheel that provides instant access to the Drive Modes on the touchscreen with a light press (Comfort, Sport, Race, Individual), and a direct line to Race mode with a firmer push.
The Tiguan’s digital instrument pack has also received some R flavour, though its design and functionality is less comprehensive than the Golf R’s ‘Innovision’ arrangement.
As for the rest of the dashboard, the Tiguan R finds itself very much positioned between a Mk7.5 Golf and a Mk8. It retains the physical buttons of the past for its Drive Mode dial and (crucially) its ESC setting (for one-press access to ESC Sport), as well as a very tall gear lever, and it separates its capacitive-buttoned HVAC system from the 9.2-inch touchscreen positioned above.
While the impressive 10-speaker, 480-watt Harman-Kardon sound system with 16-channel amplifier and subwoofer is now optional, the Tiguan R retains digital radio and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto … but still doesn’t get wireless phone charging.
This system in the five-seat Tiguan is only available with a signal booster from its production source (unlike the Mexican-built, seven-seat Allspace) so Tiguan R owners will require USB-C cords to access the multiple ports for charging.
What the Tiguan R does manage to do, however, is maintain the same level of trim quality throughout its cabin (unlike the Golf R), including its excellent fore-aft adjustable rear bench with 15-position backrest. In terms of vision, storage, utility and practicality, the Tiguan R kicks as many goals as any other Tiguan – meaning class-leading packaging efficiency and an excellent boot.
Extendable via the sliding rear seat, Volkswagen claims the Tiguan R offers 615 litres of cargo volume below its luggage cover, though the under-floor section is filled with the stereo subwoofer, which means the floor can’t be dropped down to its lowest height.
We should also point out that if genuine luggage space is a priority, then you should really think about a Golf R wagon instead. Not only is it the same price as a Tiguan R, but you get a seemingly more usable luggage area and a 50mm-longer wheelbase than the Golf R hatch for excellent rear legroom.
The combined ADR81/02 fuel consumption figure for the Tiguan R is 8.8L/100km using 98-octane premium fuel. This compares to 7.4L/100km for the Golf R wagon.
Recommended service intervals for the Tiguan R occur every 12 months or 15,000km, with Volkswagen’s capped-price servicing packages covering three years ($1650) or five years ($3100).
In comparison, you can buy a seven-year service pack for Skoda Kodiaq RS for $2900, which also bundles in a seven-year warranty.
Volkswagen Australia’s warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres – standard practice for a mainstream manufacturer.
If the Tiguan R is the performance SUV you didn’t know you needed to have, then we can confirm that this is an incredibly accomplished, involving and rewarding driver’s car that also happens to be a superb family vehicle and excellent value for money.
While the Tiguan R may not really look that different to a regular R-Line, it’s all the details that matter – not only through adding more personality to its interior, and more class to its exterior, but also the hardware underneath that makes this such an impressive stealth machine.
About the only thing preventing the Tiguan R from achieving genuine greatness is another car Volkswagen’s own stable – the Golf R wagon. It’s faster, more efficient, more fun to drive and arguably cooler, as well as more practical for combining people with loads, and is ultimately slightly better equipped (with fan-cooled front seating, for example).
But if a fast SUV is your bag, then the Tiguan R is a cracking performance effort. It combines much of the flavour and agility of Audi’s RS3 and RS Q3 for a price that’s so far below the four-ringed offerings, it’s scorching.
Variant tested 235TSI R
Key specs (as tested)
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