ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The crossover segment is one borne from compromise -- how do we tuck a carlike platform under an SUV-esque body? This 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line might have its share of downsides, but drivability is one area where engineers didn't make any concessions.
On the road, the Tiguan is light on its feet. It's a taut, upright handler devoid of that artificial, dialed-in weight you sometimes encounter in Audis, especially on sportier trims.
The 2.0-liter turbo performed admirably, scarcely lagging and never seeming particularly stressed while it hustled me around. I didn't even feel the need to throw the gear selector into “S” mode -- the regular-drive mode featured plenty of go.
Overall, the Tiguan (especially with the 4Motion all-wheel drive, I suspect) is a balanced, fun crossover with enough features to satisfy the most discriminating yuppie, just so long as they don't demand adaptive-cruise control or parking sensors.
It isn't without its challenges, though. Size is a big one; you're shopping a crossover, probably, because you need space for kids and groceries and maybe a dog or a weekend's worth of luggage. You can probably fit at least half those things in the Tiguan at once, but it's going to be tight -- the vehicle lags compared to its segment competitors here.
True, some nice features help to make up for the lack of space. The trunk liner with the reconfigurable CarGo Blocks system (they're brackets Velcro-ed to the floor mats that let you move and brace cargo) do a lot to prevent heavy stuff from sliding around. It's one of those things that sounds silly until you try using it, and then you wish you'd have thought of it first. A fold-down/pass-though armrest thing in the back row should let you tote longer cargo despite the shallowness of the trunk.
Even if you're willing to accept these compromises to enjoy the vehicle's drivability, price remains a hurdle. For close to $40,000, you could be enjoying slightly more interior room -- and a more luxe badge on the grille -- in an Audi Q5. I guess the Q3 would be a more direct comparison, but we're not getting that one for a little while. You're still getting dinged on cargo capacity even if you opt for the Q5, though.
You could step down to a bare-bones Tiguan for less than $25K, but competitors offer more features for the same price. And VW's trim structure makes choosing options a la carte infeasible. Even that CarGo Blocks system, brilliant for its simplicity, is a hefty $235 option. I thought the $75 cargo-net option we see so frequently was steep…
After enjoying my time in the Tiguan, I'm eager to log some miles behind the wheels of a range-topping Mazda CX-5 and a similarly equipped Ford Escape. I think the VW will outdo its competitors from behind the wheel. But I doubt it will sit $10,000 ahead of the rest of the pack. Introducing the Q3 here isn't going to make selecting the Tiguan any easier for consumers, either.
And it's a shame, too, because it is a well-executed small crossover.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: You can't just throw an “R” on a car and call it sporty. Case in point: this 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line.
I was hoping for a Golf R-like experience, which surpassed any VW I had driven before. This felt much like the standard Tiguan with a tad more flash.
I did like the overall look. I don't even mind the shape of this crossover/soft-roader thing. The sporty bumper looks cooler than the stocker, and I guess I like a few other things, including the chrome rocker-panel runners.
Power was acceptable from the 200-hp turbo mill, but it was nothing bordering on fast. It's not annoyingly slow. The six-speed shifts smoothly, but I'm surprised it didn't get VW's great dual-clutch gearbox. That transmission adds some sport to cars that aren't usually sporty.
As far as utility goes, the VW can carry some stuff. Like the other drivers said, the CarGo blocks seem silly until you really need it. This is still one of those casual SUVs for casual owners. If anyone really needed to haul stuff, they'll pick up something a lot bigger than the Tiguan.
The Mazda CX-5 is still my favorite in this class. I would love to see a speedy version of that.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Can't believe I'm agreeing with Lingeman, but he's right: The Mazda CX-5 jumps all over the VW – or, at least, this particular one.
I was surprised at this car's lack of refinement. The ride quality is lousy, too, with squeaks and rattles all over the place. You get an overall feeling of the thing not being buttoned up much.
I mostly like the powertrain. I've long admired the VW Group's 2.0-liter turbo four. Good power, considering it's hauling around 3,500-plus pounds with little turbo lag, a generally smooth operation. The engine's not the issue. Mostly, as I mentioned, it's a lack of refinement, particularly in terms of ride quality. Over potholes, it jumps all over the place. BMW's X3 is the only small SUV I recall riding this bad or worse. Maybe the VW is just getting old. The Mazda, the Ford Escape and, dare I say, the new Jeep Cherokee are all better trucks, in my opinion.
The flip side is the VW handles well, with little body roll and flingability. It's almost fun as these small trucklets go. Still, it's time for Volkswagen to redo the Tiguan.
As I've experienced before with Tiguans, I can't quite get comfortable in these things -- can't get the driving position right. Close, but not perfect. It's not that the seats themselves are uncomfortable. They're fine, for the most part. But they just seemed either too high or too low. I can't find the sweet spot.
What makes this the Tiguan R-Line? A flat-bottom steering wheel? Different fog lamps compared to other Tiguans? I don't get it.
The CX-5 I mentioned: Last one I drove costs almost $8K less than this car. $8,000! I'd take it all day long over a Tiguan.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Much of what's both right and wrong with Volkswagen's current model lineup is on display in this Tiguan R-Line crossover. Despite sporty good looks, a refined engine and excellent build quality, it's impossible to overlook the total lack of value for the dollar.
The lovely 2.0-liter turbo engine gets wasted some on the six-speed automatic transmission. I found shifting too slow in regular mode and too all-over-the-map in sport to get the most out of the I4. Though I don't think there's a lack of power here, the Tiguan's 3,500 lbs shows in the transmission tuning. I agree that the DCT gearbox would seem to have been a better choice, but perhaps Volkswagen engineers have a reason for not specifying it. Even better would be the DCT and TDI diesel powerplant.
Of course, if VW had thrown a diesel in the Tiguan, they'd likely have made the MSRP even more ludicrous than it already is. $40K for a small VW crossover with a four-cylinder engine? Sorry, kids, but it's just not that nice. The interior is well assembled but hardly luxurious. As other reviewers have already commented, the power output or drivetrain is nothing extraordinary. For that kind of scratch, you could be having the time of your life in an honest-to-goodness Golf R (and still have some money left over) without sacrificing much in the way of interior space.
The Tiguan does have the advantage of a higher seating position, but, like Wes, I had trouble getting comfortable. Despite a full range of power adjustability, the seat didn't seem to fit my back. The manually adjustable steering wheel didn't tilt low enough, resulting in kind of a city-bus driving position. Granted, I'm kind of tall and lanky, but I'm not so oddly proportioned that a compact crossover should be difficult in which to find a proper fit.
Despite its price and compromises, Volkswagen still managed to move a healthy 2,300 Tiguans in March. That pales in comparison to more than 11,000 Mazda CX-5s and nearly 30,000 Ford Escapes in the same month, but it shows that enough VW diehards want a premium small SUV to make the Tiguan worth Volkswagen's time. They'll just need to bring plenty of money.
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: This 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan is starting to feel dated. It's still good, mind you, and it's a handsome little cute-ute -- but it's starting to feel rough. And underwhelming. And, at nearly $40,000 for our R-Line, a bit of a rip-off.
The Tiguan, which actually starts at $23,305, isn't a bad car to drive. It still possesses an enviable Volkswagen feel of slickness, to some extent. The steering is pretty nice, and braking is easy to feel out. But the response from a standstill is languid. And the R-Line comes with a Sport suspension that, far as I can tell, doesn't feel sporty at all. Wait, hold on: If “sport” means that its stiff legs crash over road cracks and thrum constantly on freeways, then the Tiguan was developed by Fangio himself.
Inside, the datedness amplifies. The navigation screen is tiny and fuzzy, its map display so sparse as to possess a Fisher-Price quality. I couldn't find the button to open the rear hatch, whose electronic handle, by the way, is mounted curiously close to the pavement. The mirrors are strangely shaped, concealing large blind spots. Cars swoop up from behind, like a cop chase. It feels spartan in there, still cluttered with buttons, decidedly not the sort of attitude you would cop to after spending -- might I remind you -- $40K. The Hyundai Tuscon, Mazda CX-5, and even the ubiquitous Toyota RAV4 are more worthy value propositions. For snob appeal, save up extra for a BMW X3 and ask for bigger badges upfront. You know, if that's your thing.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN I only drove this a few short miles, but I included in those miles a section of road not far from the office that I call "Eau Rouge" because it kind of looks like the storied terror of the Spa, Belgium grand prix track, emphasis on the kind of. It goes left, bottoms out, then goes up right and left again. Here I kind of sort of felt some roll control. Yes, I did, it definitely tracked nicely through there. I also did one 0-60 launch and got an 8.4. Published results where they did more than one launch on a four-lane city street claim almost a second quicker. Regardless, was either figure what you'd call worthy of the vaunted R badge? Was it $40,000 worth? No.
I also just drove the BMW X4 semi-SUV thing which, granted, costs about ten or so grand more than this Tiguan, but the X4 really felt fun to drive. So too does the X3, although it, too, is priced above the Tiguan. For the Tiguan R's price you could get a base Audi Q5. But I think I'd be far more likely to go down a class or two and get a Mazdaspeed3 or Focus ST. Don't forget the CX-5, either, which is also more fun.
This is not to disparage the big R. I also drove a European-spec Golf R (details to come) and loved the thing. It tracked true and straight and was fun in any direction. But with the Tiguan R I kept eyeballing the sticker and the return on investment and it just didn't add up for me.
2014 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line 4Motion
Base Price: $39,355
As-Tested Price: $39,625
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4; AWD, six-speed automatic
Output: 200 hp @ 5,100 rpm, 207 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,591 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 20/26/23 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 20.3 mpg
Options: Monster mats heavy-duty trunk liner with CarGo Blocks ($235); first-aid kit ($35)
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