Volkswagen has found itself on the outside looking in when it comes to the current SUV zeitgeist that has seized American car shoppers. The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan compact sport-utility vehicle, in combination with the full-size VW Atlas, is intended to address that oversight and snag a larger slice of customer affections (and paychecks) than the previous Tiguan and the ignored Touareg were able to claim.
I had the chance to drive the new VW Tiguan from mile high Denver, Colorado through the hills surrounding Boulder and back down to Golden, which was true workout for the completely redesigned people mover. Has Volkswagen finally taken its proper seat at the SUV table? Check out these 5 things you need to know about the 2018 Tiguan.
1. Bigger And Longer Where It Counts
Size wasn’t really a complaint when evaluating the previous-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, but the new model isn’t taking any chances as it’s stretched out almost 11 inches longer than before. The 2018 Tiguan’s use of the MQB platform – shared with a variety of other Volkswagen vehicles – has allowed it to maximize its interior volume by offering a third row of seating that was previously unavailable, joining a handful of the bigger ‘compact’ SUVs in delivering seven-passenger capability. All front-wheel drive editions of the Tiguan feature a third row as standard equipment, but in an unusual move you’ll have to order it as an option on all-wheel drive models.
You’ll also want to reserve the way-back accommodations for children and instead corral adults into the ample second row, which both slides and reclines to maximum comfort / facilitate the Tetrising of cargo and third-row passengers. Interior storage space is up too, by almost 60 percent, for a total of either 65.7 cubic feet (AWD) or 73.5 cubic feet (front-wheel drive). This places the Volkswagen within spitting distance of class leaders when the rear seats are folded forward, but there’s only a modest 12 cubes available in an three-row vehicle fully loaded with passengers ( (and there’s a fussy spare tire cover to deal with that might not be the most durable part of the Tiguan’s kit).
2. Quiet, Comfortable Ride
The longer wheelbase of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan helps to contribute to its improved stability and smooth character out on the road. The cabin itself will be familiar to anyone stepping up from the older Tiguan, but there’s a new full-length panoramic sunroof available as well as improved materials throughout the interior. Even with all that glass hovering overhead the Tiguan is quiet and composed in its ride, and you really don’t notice its increased bulk when rounding a corner. It’s not quite premium in feel, but more like an oversized Golf, or a slightly smaller (if that comparison still holds true) Passat when underway.
3. Single Engine Option Limits Appeal
While the curves in the road might not reveal the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan’s larger waistline, mashing the accelerator pedal quickly returns you to the reality imposed by the physical laws of our universe. The top-tier all-wheel drive Tiguan has gained nearly 400 lbs over its predecessor, while the VW SUV’s new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sees it dropping nearly 15 horsepower, checking in at 184 horses overall. There’s an almost equal boost in torque (rated at 221 lb-ft) to help rebalance the performance ledger, but in Colorado’s thinner atmosphere the engine (which is paired with an eight-speed automatic) wasn’t impressive when climbing at highway speeds.
The front-wheel drive version of the Tiguan (also an eight-speed) proved to be a little more spry, a byproduct of being a few hundred pounds lighter than its pricier counterpart. The upside of the new engine and transmission arrangement is a two mile per gallon increase in around town fuel efficiency (22-mpg for FWD models), alongside a three mile per gallon improvement on the highway (27-mpg for both FWD and AWD Tiguans).
It’s also worth noting that the all-wheel drive system – dubbed 4Motion – is reactive, in that it waits until traction conditions require its intervention before stepping up to the plate and engaging the rear axle. There’s no real way to short-circuit this process and lock the rear wheels in play, not even by choosing the vehicle’s Off-Road driving mode, which merely backs off the automatic engine start/stop system, reduces the stability control system’s watchful presence, and kicks in hill descent control automatically as long as you are below a certain speed. On-road, Snow, and ‘Custom Off-Road’ modes are also available on 4Motion-equipped vehicles.
4. Finally, All Those Features We’ve Been Waiting For
No one might have been complaining about the previous Tiguan’s size, but there was certainly some discord regarding the equipment that was available with the SUV. The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan addresses these concerns with the most modern feature set ever offered on a compact hauler from the German brand. This includes the much-needed upgrade to VW’s MIB II touchscreen infotainment system, which is faster and more intuitive to use than previous efforts, and which can be had in both 6.5-inch and 8.0-inch versions. The latter can be paired with Volkswagen’s outstanding Digital Cockpit display, a full-LCD gauge cluster that can expand to show an immersive navigation map if you’d rather not be distracted by the screen on the center stack. Sadly, it’s only available on the most expensive SEL Premium trim level, and can’t be ordered as a package on any other model.
I’m not particularly jazzed about the Fender-branded audio system, which is largely a marketing effort on both sides of that particular corporate equation, but it’s nice to see adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking join blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning on the Tiguan’s order sheet.
5. Premium Pricing Is Hard To Swallow
Previously, it was difficult to justify the Volkswagen Tiguan’s higher-than-average pricing based on the somewhat stark state of its equipment list. The 2018 Tiguan is in a somewhat similar position when it comes to pricing, but for different reasons.
It’s clear that for the most part, the VW’s gear has caught up to where the rest of its SUV peers have been for the past couple of years. It’s a different value story when considering that the Tiguan remains a single-drivetrain vehicle no matter how much you’re willing to spend, which means a $37,550 all-wheel drive Tiguan features the same motor as a $25,345 base model. This has been a successful strategy for stalwarts like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, but upstarts from Kia (the Sportage), Hyundai (the Santa Fe Sport), along with the dominant Ford Escape now offer a stepladder of engine options, with much more impressive turbo choices delivering as much as 60 horses more than what Volkswagen’s SUV delivers. With the Tiguan in a challenger position – and no doubt hobbled by VW’s move away from diesel – it’s a harder sell to accept modest output at premium prices, particularly with so many different nameplates available near the $40k mark.