July 20, 2008
Don't ever let Volkswagen name one of your kids.
Beetle and Rabbit were OK—clever, in fact, bug and bunny.
Then came Touareg—Touareg!?!?
And now Tiguan, VW's newest offering, a compact crossover that shares platforms with the Golf and Passat, which also is nothing to write home about.
Coming this fall is Routan, the VW version of the Chrysler minivan.
Tough names to pronounce. Tougher to spell. Even tougher to understand. Touareg, Routan and Tiguan sound as if maladies needing a prescription.
Tiguan was derived by combining Tiger with Iguana. Thankfully, it didn't end up Iguaner.
It joins the crossover melee, competing in the compact segment against the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 that enjoy a major edge in name and loyalty.
Tiguan is available with front- or all-wheel-drive—4Motion in the VW vernacular—in S, SE, and SEL trim. We tested the SE with 4Motion.
VW says it differs from its rivals in that it is a performance crossover for those who value m.p.h. as well as m.p.g. It comes with a potent little 2-liter, 200-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder teamed with a 6-speed automatic with Sportronic manual mode.
The 4Motion keeps footing sure on all roads dry and mucky as well off-road, though VW notes that Tiguan isn't trail-rated like the larger Touareg. So, when fording deep streams or climbing over big boulders and tree stumps, you'd be better off in a Touareg. whose sales are down only 3 percent through June despite the weird name.
The 4s in the FWD/AWD CR-V and RAV4 deliver only 166 h.p. The more than 6-inch longer RAV4 sports an optional 3.5-liter, 269-h.p. V-6, but Toyota doesn't play up the performance like VW.
The 2-liter has plenty of pep. No time wasted leaving the light and almost no turbo lag when you kick the pedal hard. It has the spirit to climb the steep grades on the interstate.
But the 200-h.p. turbo 4 pays the price for the punch with an 18 m.p.g. city/24 m.p.g. highway rating—versus 20/26 for the 4-cylinder CR-V and 19/27 for the V-6 RAV4.
A more mileage minded turbodiesel is sold in Europe, but VW won't say when it will arrive in the U.S. It could be a while considering the unless diesel fuel prices retreat from the $5 a gallon mark. Don't care if diesel gets 30 percent more mileage than gas, when you hand over bills with Lincoln's mug on them rather than Washington's to pay for a tank, it plays havoc with your psyche.
Being German, Tiguan offers typically firm European ride and handling. It does a good job hugging the road—straight or twisty. Electronic stability control with traction control is standard and along with 4Motion keeps you in command of the pavement. No need to worry about body roll or sway.
But Tiguan isn't immune to gripes, one being that the VW crossover, which resembles a miniature Mercedes M-Class, has a tight cabin. Seats are narrow and firm. The driver's seat has a power back control, but manual fore and aft adjustment. Rear-seat legroom is lacking. Rear-seat backs fold fairly flat for more cargo space, providing the front seats are pulled forward. To load/unload cargo easily, you need to remove the parcel shelf strapped to the hatchlid—and find a place to store it.
There are some cubby holes in the dash and slots in the doors for maps or water bottles, but they won't satisfy pack rats. The center armrest houses CD changer, power plug and USB outlet, and that's about it.
The front console has cup/cell-phone holders and a tiny parking brake button instead of a big, bulky lever. There are power plugs under the center armrest, behind the front console and in a cargo-hold wall.
The cargo hold can handle luggage or gear. The flat floor lifts to expose a mini spare flanked by a few compartments to stow things.
Tiguan comes with synthetic oil and VW recommends 10,000-mile oil changes to cut maintenance costs, though it already saves you dough with its Carefree Maintenance program, which covers all scheduled maintenance such as oil and filter changes during the three-year/36,000-mile warranty.
Base price of the SE with 4Motion is $28,875. Side-curtain air bags front and rear are standard, side-thorax air bags are a $350 option. Options also include a panoramic power sunroof and sunshade ($1,300) with glass over both front and rear seats; only the front opens though. A navigation system with backup camera runs $1,950.
VW hopes Tiguan can attract 25,000 into its showrooms. Continued high fuel prices and a turbodiesel probably would make that a certainty.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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