Car reviews - Volkswagen - Tiguan - 162TSI range
Performance, refinement, safety, quality, handling, value, design, practicality
Room for improvement
Momentary DSG lag off the line, firm ride without the R-Line’s adaptive dampers, bordering on a hard ride with the 20-inch alloys
25 Jan 2017
VOLKSWAGEN certainly knows how to play to its strengths, as the racy 162TSI Highline variant of the increasingly upmarket Tiguan ably demonstrates.
From $48,490 plus on-road costs, this is the most expensive petrol-powered version of the already premium German-built medium SUV you can buy. However, a peak underneath the rather blocky bonnet might help explain why.
Cribbed from the Golf GTI is a 2.0-litre direct-injection twin-cam four-pot turbo, delivering 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque. Just like the much-loved hot hatch.
In fact, this lauded EA888 powertrain even goes one better than the existing Mk7 Golf GTI version by driving all four wheels (rather than the front ones) via a seven (and not six) speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Of course, with no changes to the regular steering or suspension systems, Volkswagen could hardly call this the Tiguan GTI, but then, with 201mm ground clearance and a hefty 300kg-plus of extra mass, this particular 1637kg crossover doesn’t deserve the iconic three letters, does it.
To be fair, the difference is only 37kg compared to the 132kW/320Nm 132TSI Comfortline that costs $7000 less, and we doubt most medium SUV buyers seeking something frisky and fun to sink their teeth into will mind all those added kilos – especially when there are precious few alternatives in this class.
For starters, while the EA888 in this application sounds alarmingly like a diesel at idle, beyond the noise and clatter is a healthy, hungry little slogger that begs to be revved and, better still, enjoyed.
Overcome the momentary delay off the line if you are in a hurry (a long-time DSG trait), and the 162TSI will accelerate strongly, piling on the speed quickly and effortlessly as needed.
A 6.5 second sprint-time from zero to 100km/h matches the 1324kg Golf GTI DSG (is it the extra cog? Or AWD?), and the newcomer’s sweet mechanical operation, backed up by imperceptibly slick shifts on the move, means that this Tiguan is a deceptively fast point-to-point machine with exceptional refinement and finesse.
Being Golf based, the steering and suspension hardware underneath cope well with all that stirring performance, though the only vehicle we tested was fitted with the $4000 optional R-Line package, which added variable ratio steering as part of an Adaptive Chassis tune that also included electronically changeable dampers and a 20-inch wheel and tyre package instead of the standard 235/55R18 items.
Result? At speed, on smooth roads, with the driver-adjustable vehicle mode set in Sport, the 162TSI is a cracker, turning into corners quickly and cleanly, and with inspiring poise.
Factor in a fab set of brakes, and you’d imagine a ‘GT’ badge at the very least would suit this beastly crossover, but just be mindful of the fair amount of road noise streaming through.
The AWD system, too, comes into its own in the wet, adding a further layer of confidence, control and grip when the weather is bad.
However, bumps and irregularities add a hard, jarring edge to the Tiguan on 20-inch wheels, necessitating a switch bypassing Normal to Comfort if any form of suppleness is to return. Adaptive dampers are essential.
Our previous experience with this generation Tiguan on anything other than the base 17-inch wheel package suggests that forking out for the R-Line is mandatory on the lesser models too if a punishing ride when road conditions deteriorate is to be avoided.
In Oz, all Golf GTIs have the dampers as standard and maybe bigger wheeled Tiguans should follow suit – or at least offer it as a stand-alone option.
Furthermore, we’d actually spend up on all the available option packs (Safety and sunroof for $2000 apiece), simply because they lift the 162TSI’s ambience to a level where Audi, BMW and Benz buyers might really be impressed.
Also, the R-Line’s treated leather sports seats, additional chrome and aluminium trimmings, and those striking big alloys, mean that the design and presentation match the drivetrain’s potential.
In a strangely inverse way, then, the most expensive and optioned Tiguan you can buy ends up being the best value, since it oozes with the kit that helps the muscular and athletic 162TSI Highline breakthrough the premium glass ceiling.
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