With the compact crossover/SUV becoming the default motor vehicle choice for many— if not most— American car buyers, the the race is on to make these car-chassis-based machines project a virile air of truckishness while still driving in sedan-like fashion and providing wagon-like interior space. Volkswagen, hungry for US-market sales in the wake of a public-image nightmare, has done what's needed to make the Tiguan more appealing to American crossover shoppers: make it bigger and more comfortable. We drove the 2018 VW Tiguan around the Denver area last week, and here's what we learned.
During the first decade or so of the SUV boom, big ol' body-on-frame trucks were the gold standard for mainstream American commuter appliances. They rode like Freightliners, handled like cement mixers, sucked fuel like container ships, and behaved so badly when driven like cars that American state governments felt compelled to create the puzzling "Esuvee" advertising campaign to convince SUV drivers that an Escalade didn't handle like a Malibu. Today, the compact SUV is a car; in the case of the Tiguan, it's a tall, softly-sprung car based on the same Modular Transverse Matrix platform as the Golf.
The '18 Tiguan doesn't handle as crisply as its Golf cousin, nor does it offer the towering ride height that lets drivers loom over their highway competitors, but it is a perfectly reasonable commuter machine that seats four adults in comfort and projects the desired image of outdoorsy, free-spirited truckitude.
The second row of seats fits three passengers, though a larger-than-petite middle one isn't going to be very happy with the arrangement. The third-row seats come standard in the front-wheel-drive Tiguans, while all-wheel-drive purchasers must pay extra for the feature; in practice, any human larger than about a ten-year-old is going to be clawing at the windows in a desperate bid for escape after about five minutes in the third-row.
With curb weight ranging from 3,730 pounds (for the front-wheel-drive five-seater) to 4,043 pounds (for the all-wheel-drive seven-seater), the 2018 Tiguan moves well enough with its Budack-cycle turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission (though the transmission's brain often seems reluctant to order up a quick downshift when the throttle pedal gets a good stomp). It's entertaining enough, but you don't buy a compact SUV for driving thrills.
Interior materials are pleasant enough for the price, and a touchscreen interface comes standard in all models (in two different sizes). The base six-speaker audio system is on the rental-car-tinny side, so we recommend the optional Fender nine-speaker setup (or an aftermarket audio rig) if you prefer your music played at Lemmy Kilmister-approved volume levels
Why buy this vehicle instead of one of its many worthy competitors? A strong inducement, offered by Volkswagen as part of its "earn the trust back" effort, is the 2018 Tiguan's fully transferable six-years-or-72,000-miles warranty. This should do an admirable job of keeping resale values high and returning customers to showrooms.
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