Owner Review

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 110 TDI Adventure (Special Ed) review

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When the second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan first broke cover in April 2016 at the Berlin International Media Event, it was love at first sight for me. I remember watching first-drive impression videos over and over again on YouTube from channels all around the world, some even in foreign languages with no subtitles. Did I care? No.

Being an urban-cross-SUV from VW (known for making cars for the masses, before recently turning into a premium brand) with contemporary design and no flashy elements, it will neither win any design awards nor set your pulse racing as the Jaguar F-Type or Pagani Huayra would. I'm not sure why I am madly in love with the Tiguan MK2 since its inception – odds are I still don’t know.

Almost 18 months later, the results were pretty spectacular and soothing, as I took delivery of my first ever built-to-order Volkswagen Tiguan Special Edition ‘Adventure’ 110 TDI (VW has still not specified what number of Adventure-spec cars will be made available for Australia) in Indium Grey with Driver Assistance Pack and Panoramic Sunroof.

As the name 110 TDI suggests, this Tiguan is powered by VW’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine (codenamed EA888) producing, you guessed it, 110kW (150hp) and churns out a healthy 340Nm of torque.

The Special Edition Adventure model sits between the Comfortline and Highline models. The Adventure-spec gets LED headlights, a new ‘off-road’ front bumper that improves the approach angle to 24 degrees, underbody protection, larger 18-inch alloy wheels with new Nizza design, keyless access and go, an electric tailgate, Volkswagen Genuine Accessory roof bars, and power folding door mirrors.

On the inside, the Tiguan Adventure is differentiated by extremely supportive 14-way adjustable ErgoActive driver’s seat with electric lumbar support and massage function, Art Velours microfleece seat trim (or in plain English, Alcantara and cloth), and heated front seats. Cosmetic bits on the car include Adventure badging on the tail and ‘off-road’ aluminum front door sill inlays.

My primary reason to opt for the Driver Assistance Pack was to experience VW’s Active Info Display, a 12.3-inch digital display that replaces analogue dials and displays a host of information including vehicle data, driver assistance system, off-road data, music, satellite navigation and more. If you are gadget nerd, chances are you will find display toggles with customisable menus on the Active Info Display very interesting.

The other bits offered as part of the Technology Pack are: Park Assist, where the car can park itself in a parking bay and parallel parking; and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that maintains the set cruising speed and can adapt to traffic conditions by automatically accelerating and decelerating (applying brakes if and when necessary) to maintain the set speed and distance to the vehicle in front of you.

The Area View Feature, which houses front, rear and side cameras to provide a 360-degree exterior view of the vehicle and using the options on the touchscreen system, means the driver can opt between views from individual camera angles and a rather satisfying bird's-eye view of the car (especially if your vehicle colour is silver or grey, which closely resembles the animated car). The Area View Feature comes in handy while manoeuvring between tight spots, and also while making those tricky moves on an off-road course.

Other features include Lane Assist, Side Assist with Rear Traffic Alert, Traffic Jam Assist and Emergency Assist. I’ll discuss these in detail at a later stage.

Let's talk about the design first. The Tiguan’s design is neither fresh and curvy like the Mazda CX-5 nor simple and boxy like the Subaru Forester, but it is contemporary and classic in its lines and proportions. A design that will certainly age well with time. The car/SUV/crossover, call it what you wish, doesn’t look out of place for any occasion, be it supermarket carparks, campsites, corporate office parks, urban areas or motorways. No matter what the occasion and driving mood, it fits the bill just right.

The interior of the Tiggy is a handsome affair, with an easy to use layout and super spacious and accommodating interior space. The doors open wide, the seat height is a perfect balance between car and SUV, neither too high nor too low, and the panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel even roomier and airy with loads of light filling the cabin through the roof and huge side windows.

Material quality on the Tiggy is top-notch with the premium feeling soft-touch plastics for the dash area above the level of the gear lever, and tough hard-wearing plastics in the bottom half of the footwells. Speaking of footwells, the pedals are optimally positioned with great room to rest toes and a properly angled footrest.

The ErgoActive driver's seat has a lot of adjustments, and finding that perfect driving position for long hauls is rather easy. The massage function works on the lumbar region and back of the driver, and it has a rather soothing effect. Don’t expect it to compare anywhere close to rollers and a kneading massage on luxury limousines.

A quick mention of other interior features that work flawlessly. The three-zone climate control is great to use and very convenient. Collapsible tables for the rear seat occupants are sturdy and well thought out, and the boot space is immensely practical for almost all sorts of items – long, tall, wide, you name it and it can swallow all your stuff without much fuss.

A special mention must go to VW for providing a cargo net along with the car. It just makes life very easy for throwing small shopping bags or office/gym bags wrapped below it and saves them from moving around.

Each and every knob and button on the Tiggy has an air of quality to it and a nice tactile feel. The side indicator stalks are so beautifully damped it is a joy to use them every single time. Taking into account the number of times we use indicators, this alone goes a long way to suggest the consideration VW has given its drivers and occupants to ensure they have a rewarding experience inside the cabin.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 110kW (150hp)/340Nm motor mated to the new-gen seven-speed DSG gearbox is a great combination for most needs. The power figures look nominal on paper and the engine has acceptable acceleration times of 0–100km/h in 9.3 seconds. Not tyre-smoking numbers, but just about adequate for most duties.

I haven’t done any sort of towing, so can't comment on that here. All the qualms about the previous-generation DSG gearbox (read: city traffic jerks) have been addressed beautifully by the boffins at VW. This is now one of the best-shifting gearboxes in the market. The shifts are buttery smooth and utilise the torque spread of the engine in a very linear fashion. The shifts go unnoticed most of the time, and the gearbox has absolutely no rubberband effect or whining noise like most CVTs.

But best of all, the gearbox is always alert and ready to downshift at the dab of the brake pedal, which perfectly helps with engine braking. While tackling a series of bends and corners that involve frequent use of the brake and gas pedals, the clever gearbox reads the throttle map immaculately and holds the gear for longer.

The gearbox shifts are rapid and ready to snap in action at a nudge of the gear lever in M/Tiptronic mode, though most Tiggy buyers might not unnecessarily have to use the Manual mode to get an involving drive. Just shift the gearbox to Sports mode (or even better to change the driving mode to Sport – which changes the gearbox shift pattern to Sports mode and also adds weight to the steering feedback) and the engine revs all the way to redline and holds the gear for a much longer time.

So much so that on a properly winding road and the gearbox in Sports mode, I have not seen the ’box go above the fourth ratio. Mind you, the first three ratios of the seven-speed gearbox are very tall and closely spaced. In regular driving mode, Tiggy gently cruises at 60km/h in fifth gear or 100km/h motorway speeds in seventh gear, with the rev needle hovering slightly over the 1200rpm mark, making the unit ultra-efficient in the real world.

I have been consistently achieving a fuel-consumption figure of 6.8L/100km for a mix of city and motorway drives. On a 400km motorway tour (80 per cent motorway and 20 per cent city traffic), I did notice the fuel-consumption figure drop to as low as 6L/100km, which is very close to VW's claim of 5.9L/100km for the combined cycle. Long story short, full marks for the engine and gearbox combo.

But an area where the Tiggy doesn’t score full marks is the ride and handling department. All my friends reading this review, and those who are aware of my affection for VW ride composure, don’t get me wrong here. The SUV handles with great poise and composure, and it's right there in the league of the CX-5 and Forester. I could have rated it higher than the Mazda CX-5, but the heavy steering on the Mazda does earn it some reward here (in terms of communication between steering and chassis).

However, things might come to a close tie if you configure the steering feedback to Sports mode while other parameters in Normal as part of the configurable driving mode in the VW Tiguan called Individual.

True to its German genes, the Tiguan has impeccable road-holding manners and very mature suspension composure on the motorway cruise. Though supple on bitumen, the suspension does lack some finesse on the coarse chipped roads. It becomes very evident that the suspension rebound is calibrated more for sharp edges and road joint imperfections than for high-frequency vibes from coarse chipped roads.

My Tiguan Adventure came shod with Continental ContiSportContact 5 SUV radials, which are among the best in the business. They are super sticky, and no matter how hard you push them, there is never a hint of squeal on heavy usage or loss of traction on our unpaved roads. Like they say, a great set of rubber can go a long way in completely changing the character and mannerisms of your car.

So the Tiggy looks good, practical for all family needs, has mature road behavior like a typical European car should, the transmission is spot on and the quality of the material is top-notch. So this should ideally be the summary of my owner's review after spending a fair amount of time behind the wheel of my Tiguan.

Well, no... That is just half the story. What sets the Volkswagen aside from the rest is the way all these things come together and the finesse of German engineering. Volkswagen's catchphrase for the Tiguan is "Technologically Advanced Tiguan", and that is exactly where the clever and rewarding bits of the German engineering on this SUV shine. So, in case you are interested in reading the sci-fi bits that actually work in the real world, the latter half of this review should talk about just that.

ACC actually brakes and decelerates to keep the car at a set speed and ensures it does not exceed the set speed on downhill slopes. Trust me when I say this, during my recent trip from Sydney to Newcastle (onward to Barrington Tops National Park), I did not touch the accelerator or brakes for a distance of more than 100km.

What's more, the car will even keep you in the lane on motorway curves. The Lane Assist does that by making steering moves to keep the car on the edge of the lane markings. Though I generally like getting thoroughly involved in my drives, I must say the ACC does take the fatigue out of long-distance driving. The feature is brilliantly put together and even works seamlessly in stop-and-go traffic – known as Traffic Jam Assist in Volkswagen’s words. The car will come to a complete stop and accelerate when the vehicle in front of you moves ahead.

That also reminds me of another clever move that incorporates the auto start-stop system. I agree that VW's auto start-stop system is a little aggressive and shuts the engine as soon as the car comes to a complete halt, but whether or not the ACC is switched on, the car detects the movement of the vehicle in front of you and cranks the engine up as soon as the traffic ahead clears up. Thus, it saves the usual delay experienced in other cars, where the engine comes to life after a brief pause once stepping from brake pedal to accelerator for the system to engage and then get going. Clever move VDub. So, the next time you miss the traffic signals turning green, don't worry as the engine will come on and gently suggest that perhaps it's time to drive on. It's like a butler service.

The cruise control system has two modes, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Speed Limiter – and for once we have a Speed Limiter function that actually works. The system effectively cuts throttle input once the vehicle reaches a set maximum speed. In case the speed goes beyond the threshold due to a downhill slope, the system gives an audible beep to alert the driver.

For some strange reason, the system completely disables Front Assist while in Speed Limiter mode. This means the car no longer readies brake pressure when the car in front of you stops suddenly and the efforts are best left for driver action. The Front Assist system icons completely disappear in this mode, and whether or not City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection are functional is hard to identify. Maybe only the boffins at Volkswagen can answer that. In my regular driving and with my tendency to brake early even at the slightest hint of obstacles and pedestrian movement in sight, it would be rather difficult for me to guess if the system is still working in the background.

When switched to Off-road Mode, Hill Descent Control (HDC) is auto-activated along with Hill Hold Assist when the car detects a steep gradient. HDC works in the speed range of 0–30km/h. The brake bite is well calibrated and gently applies brakes on all four corners. I haven’t noticed any sort of jerks or dives when the system is in operation.

The combination of Hill Hold braking along with throttle mapping in Off-road mode ensures the roll-ons are nice and gentle without any possibility of skidding or loss of traction. VW hugely depends on the combination of electronic trickery and Haldex Four Drive system, dubbed as 4Motion, for off-road duties compared to proper locking differentials and a low-range gearbox.

That said, the Tiguan is not an expedition-ready 4WD, but the electronic kit does the job on lighter trails, dirt, gravel and corrugated roads. It would be advisable to check the trail's difficulty before venturing into the woods with the Tiggy. And yes, before I forget to mention it, the Tiguan Adventure does come with underbody protection to offer great peace of mind.

The Tiguan also comes with a feature called Adaptive Lane Guidance (ALG), which is disabled in its default setting and the Lane Assist does most of its work. Adaptive Lane Guidance tries to maintain the vehicle in the middle of the lane for most of its time, and it does that by indicating to the driver of a possible drift by steering vibration, and then taking sharper corrective measures by weighing in the steering and nudging it if the vehicle drifts further.

While the Lane Assist works over 65km/h, the ALG is active all the time, thereby trying to correct you and interfere with your natural driving all the time. At low speeds, the system does misinterpret road joins and uneven curves for lane markings and can be a little erratic while passing through junctions and turns without lane markings. The steering nudge and the constant vibes at the slightest hint completely rob you of the natural steering feedback, and I highly recommend that it's better not to activate it. At motorway speeds, Lane Assist works just fine without any of the drawbacks of ALG.

The Tiguan Adventure model comes equipped with Keyless Access and Go, power tailgate and a function called Easy Open and Close. The trunk lid auto-opens when you wave your foot below the rear bumper with the key in your pocket. I have spent more than a month with the car now, and the sensors have never failed even once. The system is so prompt that I am yet to locate the boot release button on the rear hatch door. I have not used the smart key to lock or unlock the car or boot even once to date.

While most manufacturers term the auto-opening tailgate as a convenience feature, VW takes the thought one notch higher. While others only allow you to auto-open the tailgate by standing near it or waving your foot while your hands are full of shopping bags, the system on the Tiguan is smart enough to know when you are doing the reverse – ie, when offloading all those items from the boot.

There is the second button on the tailgate, which once pressed detects the movement near the tailgate, so you can conveniently get all the items out of the trunk at your own sweet time. When the car senses that you have walked away from the rear door, the system will automatically close the tailgate and lock the car. This way, you don’t have to hit the boot-close button like on other cars. For some reason, I truly find it very convenient.

Major execution flaw – Active Info Display and satellite navigation operation:
VW has decided to disable road-sign recognition for the Australian market. Why this has been disabled is seriously beyond my understanding because all the required hardware (all sorts of cameras) is available in the car. Thereby, when solely using the Active Info Display for navigation purposes it neither displays the speed limit from road signs nor satellite navigation. And that alone is my biggest complaint on an otherwise well-thought-out engineering package.

For someone like me who has recently moved to the city and needs assistance on speed limits, the best option I have with the VW system is to watch speed limits on the Discover Media Satellite system, while everything else related to the navigation can be pulled on the Active Info Display. Though a little inconvenient for city traffic with frequently changing speed zones, it's certainly not a deal breaker with the available workaround. However, I sincerely hope VW is listening and rolls out an update to activate road-sign assistance soon.

Also, navigation used via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is not displayed on the Active Info Display.

Easter eggs/hidden features:

  • Synchronous mirrors – while adjusting mirrors on either side, the system synchronously maintains the height and tilt of the mirror on the other side.
  • The mirror on the left-hand side drops to a lower angle to display the kerb when the car is put in reverse gear and reverts to the original position when shifted in drive. Just ensure the mirror knob on the driver door console is in the ‘L’ position and the rest is taken care of.
  • Auto start-stop system disables on its own when the vehicle in front moves ahead, even when the driver still has the brake pedal depressed.
  • Rear-view camera washer enables automatically when the car is in reverse gear and rear window wash and wipe is activated.
  • Tail-lights on the rear hatch door automatically switch off when the tailgate is in operation (either open or closing).
  • Just like the rear window locks, even the controls for the rear climate control can be locked by a single click on the AC menu displayed on the Discover Media/Pro system.
  • Park brake auto-engages when the gear lever is shifted to P position and disengages when moved to R or D. The system cleverly holds the Auto-Hold function and rolls on only after a dab of the accelerator pedal.

So there you have it – a super-happy bloke writing about his Wolf-mate. They are right when they say the Tiguan looks mature in its design, but I tell you what, that maturity shines in everything it does.

It can be in its posh cabin, premium material, practical cabin layout, stupendous build quality, composed ride, impeccable car-like handling or just the way it looks with clean lines. It's a well put together, mature package that is very hard to fault. Add to that the technology package on board, and I can vouch the Tiggy will have a place in my garage for a long time.