The Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline performance leader has arrived, giving you Golf GTI straight-line performance with a practical bent.
The premise is simple: Just because you've grown up a little and need a practical crossover, why can't you have something fast and fun? Despite the boom in sales in this segment of the market, it's still quite a rarefied atmosphere.
The 162kW Tiguan's mass-market rivals are the edgier 177kW Subaru Forester XT Premium and new 178kW Ford Escape Titanium, though Volkswagen ambitiously considers the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC competitors too, stating they're up to $20,000 pricier spec-for-spec. The price we pay for badge cred?
VW's extensive pre-order bank and bold sales projections for its hottest crossover suggest the company is on to a winner. The GTI comprises about 20 per cent of Golf sales, and this Tiguan spin-off should do similarly well.
In typical Volkswagen platform-sharing fashion, the Tiguan uses the same MQB architecture as the Golf (and Skoda Octavia), and the 162TSI version seen here borrows its engine from the Mk7 Golf GTI and Octavia RS.
It's a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 162kW of power at 6200rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1500 and 4400rpm, up from the old version's 155kW/280Nm. It's matched standard to a seven-speed DSG auto with paddle-shifters, contrasting the GTI's six-speed unit, giving the Tiguan a shorter first. There's no manual option.
Outputs are sent to the road through a 4Motion on-demand all-wheel-drive system with a front-wheel bias that can send torque rearward when slip is detected, or the appropriate terrain mode selected, via an electronically activated multi-plate clutch. It also gets VW's XDL system which brakes the inside front wheel to sharpen turn-in.
This sensor-based set-up is relatively common these days, and the Tiguan has a number of off-road modes that adjust torque delivery and ESC parameters to suit various surfaces for the few who want such features. Only the more raucous Forester rival has permanent 'proactive' AWD that's always 'on'.
We're well familiar with this engine, and it remains a vaguely sonorous ripper, with near-instantaneous response and muscularity through the mid-range reminiscent of a larger-capacity unit. With the sportiest drive mode selected, the re-mapped throttle and gearbox give the Tiguan impressive punch.
Despite being a little more than 300kg heavier than the Golf GTI, this Tiguan's claimed 6.5 second 0-100km/h sprint time matches the front-drive hatch, on account of superior traction off the line.
The 162TSI is more peaky and 'energetic' than the Tiguan 140TDI Highline's 140kW/400Nm surging diesel engine, though obviously less relaxed and frugal than the oil-burner. It's the one you buy if you want to be pushed back in your seat on a nice winding country road. Both offer 2500kg braked towing capacities, though the diesel will do it easier.
Fuel use is listed as a combined-cycle 8.1L/100km, though premium fuel is needed. Given the thumping European 176kW/500Nm Tiguan can't come here because of VW's internal hot-climate regulations (despite Australia's protests), the 162TSI is perhaps the best balance between punch and frugality in the range.
Volkswagen has made a lot of progress with its DSG dual-clutch gearbox since earlier iterations. Most of the urban shuddering has been ironed out, though you're still better served with moderated pedal use instead of a point-and-shoot or stomp-and-go approach.
Dynamically, the practical Tiguan is naturally going to give up some ground to the Golf GTI. Not only is its tare mass much greater thanks to the bigger body and AWD system, but it's also almost 200mm taller and longer than its hatch platform-mate.
Yet the 162TSI Highline builds on the regular Tiguan's comparative dynamic nous against most rivals. It sits fairly flat through corners and turns-in with alacrity, though the electromechanical steering with adjustable resistance doesn't offer you much road feel. A Golf would eat it alive along a good sequence, but it's good for a crossover.
The suspension and damper tune is unsurprisingly firm, meaning the body control is unilaterally excellent, but you're marginally less isolated from corrugations than you are in a cushier Hyundai Tucson. Unlike the Golf GTI, adjustable dampers are not standard on the Tiguan 162TSI, but do come with the R-Line option pack's bigger 20-inch wheels. Phew.
Typical of Volkswagen, the suppression of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is outstanding at freeway speeds. There's far less intrusion from wind and tyre road inside the cabin than you'd get in a bigger-selling Mazda CX-5 or Nissan X-Trail.
Dynamically then, the Tiguan 162TSI Highline is more or less just what you'd expect. Firmer-riding than some but still comfortable, quiet and composed, with plenty of punch and dynamics about 80 per cent as good as a proper hot hatch. More or less in line with the big expectations we took to the local launch.
To the inside. As we've detailed in news, reviews and comparisons on the new-shape Tiguan previously, the cabin is a significantly more practical and high-class environment than it was before, and subsequently sits right at the top of the class.
The material quality is excellent, and the fit-and-finish is as you'd expect of a German-made car. The creaking driver's seat we experienced in the 132TSI last year wasn't a problem in any of our testers this week. Small touches such as the felt-lined pockets and thunking doors make a big impact on the ambience.
The fascia is clean and simple, dominated by a large 8.0-inch flush touchscreen, flanked by good quality contrasting plastics. Cabin storage is plentiful and includes sliding drawers under the front seat, though the flimsy boxes mounted along the roof headlining aren't exactly a highlight.
Rear legroom is best in class, helped by the sliding and reclining rear seats that are much cleverer than most in breadth-of-movement terms. Amenities include LED cabin lights, rear air vents, and flip-down tables mounted to the front seat-backs. The cabin is protected by seven airbags, and there are two ISOFIX anchors.
Cargo space is a big 650 litres with the back seats in use, though they can be flipped flat via levers in one motion, giving you a cargo area that's almost 180cm long, and just over a metre wide between the arches. Under the floor is a token space-saver spare wheel, and a storage net is thrown in as standard.
Reflecting the 162TSI's Highline spec level, there's a lot of equipment for the money (almost $54k drive-away based on the MSRP).
Safety highlights include low-speed autonomous brakes (AEB), lane assist, park assist, a rear-view camera and tyre-pressure indicator.
Infotainment comprises an 8.0-inch Discover Pro screen with satellite-navigation and App-Connect (Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), while other niceties include cruise control, three-zone climate control, a leather multi-function steering wheel, keyless access and a colour trip computer with digital speedo.
You also get nice Vienna leather-appointed upholstery, heated and electric front seats, chrome roof rails and window surrounds, proper LED headlights with dynamic cornering lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, an electronically-operated tailgate, power folding door mirrors and dark-tinted rear windows.
However, some of the coolest features are only available as extra-cost options, mostly in package form.
First is the $2000 Driver Assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control, side assist with rear traffic alert, the Audi Virtual Cockpit-style full digital driver's instruments, and an area-view camera mode.
Then there's the R-Line Package ($4000) that adds a body kit, R-Line interior trims such as logos, 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive chassis control (adjustable dampers, which are standard on the hot Golf) and progressive steering that speeds up as more lock is applied.
A panoramic electric glass sunroof is a standalone $2000 option.
Tick these boxes, and your Tiguan 162TSI suddenly costs $56,490 (well north of $60k drive-away), more than the Golf R and into proper premium SUV territory. Amazingly, only 10 per cent of pre-orders don't have at least one option selected, and VW says 70 per cent of buyers so far have shelled out for the R-Line pack. Given the base car on 18s looks a bit bland, we get it.
As with other Volkswagens, the Tiguan 162TSI only comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre factory warranty, plus 24-hour roadside assistance including emergency accommodation, rental vehicle and towing, and household emergency assist. Service intervals are long, at 12 months/15,000km.
All told, the Tiguan 162TSI Highline offers largely what you'd expect. Almost as much punch as a Golf GTI, with respectably nimble handling, superior cabin space and a reasonable enough cost impost, provided you keep away from the options boxes.
Volkswagen Australia will sell a few thousand a year, and it's easy to see why. Have your cake and eat most of it. Just be aware that you'll be spending around $60,000 on the road to get the pick of the lot.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Volkswagen Tiguan 162 below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.
Note: The car pictured has the optional R-Line package, which adds those wheels among other things.