It still packs a 235kW punch, but with its a simplified equipment list and immediate availability, the Tiguan R Grid Edition will charm a certain sports SUV buyer
The latest in a string of shortage-busting special editions from Volkswagen Australia, the 2023 Tiguan R Grid Edition delivers what many a family buyer will be after: a Volkswagen SUV with a seriously quick engine, true go-fast R bits, at a reasonable price, available now.
That’s the elevator pitch of two new R Grid Edition siblings that Volkswagen has introduced locally for 2023: there’s this Tiguan, a proper midsizer with room for five real adults and their cargo, and also the smaller, beautifully-balanced T-Roc R Grid Edition that we rated highly last month.
Both Grid Editions are genuine, full-fat Volkswagen R products, not diluted R-Line variants with less power. But to dodge 2022’s backlogs associated with premium technologies, both run with stripped-back interiors and exteriors without $70K+ conveniences like matrix LED headlights, power tailgates, and electrically-adjustable seats.
Whether you can cope without those features in a VW-badged family rig is a subjective question, but at least you get a sizeable discount for slumming it, relatively speaking. In the case of the $63,990 Tiguan R Grid Edition, it’s 10 percent sharper than the ‘full-fat’ series-model Tiguan R ($70,490), both prices before on-road costs.
But with the Tig-Grid’s on-road fee still coming in at virtually $70,000, there might be a few moments in two-driver households where this SUV’s shapely and comfortable, but ultimately finicky and manually-adjustable seats become a source of discontent.
If you think you might fall into that category of owner, then it could pay to wait for availability of the higher-end Tiguan R model.
Supply of that car looked dire, ironically until the day of the launch of the Grid Edition, when the German factory confirmed it could now build 100 full-spec Tiguan Rs monthly for Australia.
As cruel an irony as that may be, Volkswagen’s local division was delighted with the news. High demand for the ‘base model’ R Grid Edition has also surprised VW Australia’s product planners, so the Grid will become available on an ongoing basis along with its fully-featured brother.
So, with that in mind – should you save six grand and go Grid?
Even though it’s something of a pared-back special, it’d be erroneous to assume that the Tiguan R Grid Edition is meanly specified. It’s still a pretty well-equipped sports SUV, if not a lavish one.
For its $63,990 (BOCS) price, the Tiguan R Grid Edition piles on the following features:
If you’re after more, then there’s always the $70,490 Tiguan R grade, which picks up the following items:
It’s fast and playful, with more than enough performance for virtually any family buyer – but that’s the point. With Volkswagen’s R product, more is more. The Tiguan R is as much about bragging rights over the 162TSI R-Lines in the carpark at club-soccer as it is about its own capabilities.
Speaking of the 162TSI R-Line: that spec, the previous Tiguan range-topper, came out in 2018, whereas the full-R model didn’t emerge until 2022. Volkswagen Australia tells me that many Tiguan R buyers are graduating up from the 162TSI.
For 162TSI upgraders coming out of a three-, four- or five-year-old SUV, the timing makes sense. But if you’re in that cohort, beware of purchasing without a test-drive: the R is a different animal to the R-Line, and not always in a good way.
Take the ride quality. Simply put, the Tiguan R just can’t compete with the balanced and supple nature of the 162TSI R-Line, which has a less aggressive suspension tune and more forgiving 20-inch wheels with slightly higher-profile tyres.
Remember, R actually means something: while the 162TSI R-Line is a family chariot masquerading as an R product, the Tiguan R has some legitimate track capability.
That means a much more disciplined, controlled and firm suspension, a stiffened chassis, and even bigger 21-inch wheels with more purchase on turn-in.
While the low-riding Golf R still manages to include more than a dollop of suppleness, the Tiguan R’s worse centre of gravity inflicts a compromise even Volkswagen can’t fix: it’s not that comfortable over bumps. If you’re expecting 162TSI R-Line ride quality in a faster package, prepare to be disappointed.
That’s not to say that the Tiguan R is unlivable. It’s quite bearable…just that the constant jarring over expansion joints and urban potholes might be a new experience for existing Tiguan owners. Test drive, and if you can bear (or even prefer!) the R…happy days.
If you can’t take it and you need the space, we suggest a new 162TSI Elegance or R-Line model … or join the very long queue for the considerably comfier Golf R Wagon, which is priced equally to a series-model Tiguan R at $70,490.
Naturally, there is an upside to the R’s firm ride, and that is a truly disciplined SUV that allows keen drivers to push this Tiguan harder than they ever could an R-Line.
On our initial drive in the Victorian high country, our jaws were left hanging by the clear lines of communication from the Tiguan R’s chassis that provides skilled pilots with many options.
Turn-in is zealous, in part thanks to those low-profile tyres that chop around in town, while the body allows a considerable degree of flexibility by adding additional steering lock or lifting the throttle mid-corner. This truly is a big (and brawny!) hot hatch.
If you’re going to deploy the Tiguan R on mountainous back-roads more than once a year, then you might very well want to put up with the compromises the SUV demands in town. It’s a hoot, and the Grid Edition makes that entertainment 10 percent more affordable.
Then there is the engine, which is a latest-generation EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder unit with substantially more muscle than the next-rung-down Tiguan. With 235kW/400Nm, it’s 45 percent more powerful and 14 percent torquier than the R-Line.
How is that achieved? There’s a different turbocharger and substantially more cooling, plus a bespoke exhaust system that feeds cool-looking quad pipes at the rear.
You notice the performance difference in the increased freneticism in all driving situations, most of all under hard launches where the AWD-equipped Tiguan R simply grips and goes.
Our independent Chasing Cars performance testing figures tell the story, with the Tiguan R’s 5.12-second 0-100km/h result eclipsing the 162TSI R-Line’s 6.38sec sprint.
It’s a similar story under brakes. While the rear brakes look oddly small beneath the thin-spoke 21-inch wheels, they’re clearly effective, as are the much larger front stoppers.
Brake feel is good, with the pedal resisting fade on a spirited drive. The Tiguan R delivered us a 34.75-metre 100-0km/h emergency stop result in independent testing.
Sound-wise, the subtle but attractive EA888 engine note is mostly drowned out by artificial noise in the cabin – but you can turn this off by accessing the individual drive mode and switching the sound profile to ‘pure’.
Like other R models, the Tiguan R Grid Edition has a ‘Soundaktor’: hardware at the firewall which generates a rumble in the cabin to match the engine note.
This is an acquired taste – we generally like it – but in this car, it was rumbling at such a frequency as to cause a light trim rattle around the steering column. Annoying.
Car enthusiasts will love the Tiguan R Grid Edition’s interior, because it gives a rare-for-Australia glance at a true Euro-spec Volkswagen. It does not have all the trimmings; instead, the Grid has just what is necessary.
For those amongst us who are not Volkswagen anoraks, the best way to avoid disappointment before test driving a Tiguan R Grid Edition is to understand that, interior-wise, it’s basically a mid-spec trim grade, rather than a high-end SUV.
That will go a long way to explaining the front seats, which are proper R-branded buckets finished in classy velour and blue-tartan cloth. But they aren’t leather and they are manually-adjustable. That said, unlike in the T-Roc R Grid Edition, at least these pews are heated.
Heated too is the perforated-leather steering wheel, which includes extended-length paddle shifters for the dual-clutch automatic, but also the much-critiqued gloss-finish touch-capacitive shortcut buttons that Volkswagen management has already said it plans to walk away from soon.
Tech-wise, audiophiles might miss the full-fat car’s Harman Kardon premium-badged system but a secret of the Mk 2 Volkswagen Tiguan is that the standard eight-speaker stereo is surprisingly decent, being clear, punchy and slightly warm in acoustic.
But the rest of the tech-set is very much here, including a configurable and attractive 10-inch digital instrument cluster and a half-generation-old 9.2-inch touchscreen in the dashboard. That screen is easily controllable, bundling factory navigation with the proper, wireless versions of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Like all Mk 2 Tiguans, the R Grid Edition’s interior vibe is handsome, conservative and quite well-built, but it’s also no-nonsense and quite grey.
Materials are gently premium but many are family-friendly in the sense that they are hard. Optimists would say spill-resistant. We say the hard dashboard sides and rear door-tops are too austere at $70,000 and beyond.
Storage is plentiful. Our car was equipped with the sole Grid Edition option, a panoramic sunroof ($2100) which lets light and air in on demand but steals away a huge roof-mounted console. Even without this, though, you get a large bin beneath an adjustable centre armrest, big bottle holders and huge cupholders.
Critters in the back seat can also store things in one of six pockets on the rear of the front pews. That’s cool, but not quite as cool as the pre-facelift Tiguan’s aeroplane-style tray tables that opened out. Perhaps they weren’t durable enough? Not sure why they were replaced.
In the back there is a huge amount of room from rear seats that recline and slide fore/aft to balance knee-room and boot space. Back-seat passengers also score air vents and even their own climate zone, plus more USB-C type fast-chargers, bringing the Tiguan’s total to four.
Walking around to the rear side of the Grid Edition reveals the car’s unique badging but also its step down to basic tail-lighting when compared to the series version.
The Grid also makes do with a manual tailgate. Now, that’s not the end of the world: it is assisted by heavy-duty gas struts – but make sure that everyone who will need to shut it can actually reach it before signing on the dotted line.
Volkswagen’s claim of 615 litres of boot space makes sense when the back seats are slid all the way forward, though this eliminates any knee room. Slide that seat to a middle position and the cargo room is probably around 550 litres.
That’s spacious, and features like tabs to remotely fold down the back seats are handy. But the lack of any spare wheel could cause frustration while touring in the country; the T-Roc R Grid is a size smaller yet still manages to cram a space-saver spare beneath its boot-floor. No such luck here.
The Tiguan R and R Grid Edition are part of a new wave of Volkswagen performance cars that unabashedly require 98 octane super-premium petrol in Australia. That is because the latest generation of Volkswagen performance combustion engines are only being built with particulate filters.
Those particulate filters are sensitive to sulphur content, and most Australian fuel remains remarkably high in the substance. Only 98 octane is guaranteed to be low enough in sulphur to not clog the filter, so using it is essential.
Naturally, that drives up fuelling costs … for now. With the Australian federal government’s announcement that it will implement a new national fuel standard policy in the coming months, it’s possible that premium fuels will become the new minimum requirement.
In terms of its actual fuel consumption, in our testing we found that the Tiguan R Grid Edition is thirsty in town and frugal on the open road, recording results of 12L/100km for the former and as low as 7.0L/100km for the latter.
Servicing costs can be reduced by purchasing a maintenance ‘care plan’ when taking delivery of the Tiguan R and R Grid Edition. A five-year, 75,000-kilometre care plan costs $3200, averaging a reasonable $640 per year.
The new car warranty for the Tiguan R Grid Edition runs for five years with unlimited kilometres in that time.
When it comes to family SUVs with verve, the Tiguan R Grid Edition is a surprising deep cut. Here we have a pared-back, Euro-style Volkswagen specification with manual, cloth seats and few of the lavish conveniences that are normally fitted to Australian-market VWs by default.
Many will like this simplified – and more affordable – character. Some of that cohort will also truly understand the Tiguan R’s dynamics, which demand stiffness and firmness at low speed as a trade-off for divine handling on a country road.
However, some family buyers will find that the more luxurious and comfortable Tiguan 162TSI Elegance ($54,290) or R-Line ($57,790) provide a more sensible balance between pace, handling, ride quality and cabin amenity.
There’s also the truly charming T-Roc R Grid Edition ($54,300) in the size class beneath that we absolutely recommend sampling.
Variant tested R GRID EDITION
Key specs (as tested)
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