LITTLE BIG DUB
2014 Volkswagen Tiguan
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Thu, Nov 7, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John Grafman First impressions are the most important. There’s more than just a little truth to that. With the Volkswagen Tiguan SE, that moment where man (or woman) meets machine couldn’t be better. The small crossover segment is flooded with cars from almost every car manufacturer. So, it’s a challenge to stand out from the pack rather than simply saying “me too”. VW took the approach on the Tiguan similar to that of its big brother, the Touareg. The focus is on polish, refinement, and still offer a relatively affordable vehicle, which fits the mold of this German carmaker. On the first blush with the Tiguan, this comes off as being more impressive than one has a reason to expect. The exterior has a clean and inoffensive figure, albeit subdued and not particularly expressive. The panel fit is top-notch, with close and even tolerances. The walk-around inspection reflects the quality of a fairly expensive vehicle. Only the odd grafting of the familiar and bland front coming from the Golf/Jetta reminds us this is an inexpensive ride. The front-end styling doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the body. This cues signal the potential buyer to expect some of the aspects of lower-level VW, both good and bad. On the inside, this certainly looks like it has the goods. Very agreeable materials on all surfaces again hint at an upscale product. The look and feel of most parts, as well as the fit, could confuse one into thinking this is an Audi. In particular, the massive panoramic power sunroof is a primo standard feature in this model. The sunshade allows light to filter in, and brightens the interior. Alas, not all that glitters is gold. The seating that looks like upscale leather isn’t really what we expect. In fact, this is leatherette (vinyl or other manmade material). The airy interior does provide ample room for four adults, and cargo. This includes a sliding second row of seats, so the configuration can accommodate more people or cargo as needed. This is brings back the utility in crossovers. The operations of the instruments are easy to get acquainted with, including those on the multifunction steering wheel. This isn’t old school. The use of Bluetooth technology for phone and audio media connectivity is another good reason to love a Tiguan, along with the Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod cable. This also has a nifty radio/navigation with a color touch screen, and satellite radio to make life in traffic a bit more bearable. All of the details that visually indicate a better-built car carry over to the driving experience. This is as tight as a drum. While all cars should be this solid, not all are. The VW is an even better drive than one has a right to expect in this genre. This Tiguan is quiet; the kind of quiet one expects in a near-luxury car. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is, for the most part, smooth and provides adequate power, with 200 horses delivered to the front wheels. The six-speed automatic transmission makes the most of the engine. But, once the right foot gets planted deep into the gas pedal the VW doesn’t sound very automotive. The closest relative to the sound coming from the small, Hungarian built engine is a sewing machine on amphetamines. While the whirling isn’t a nuisance, it just doesn’t seem to be what one is expecting. Taking the hop over the hill from the Valley to Malibu via Mulholland confirmed out spins around town. The VW never struggles, even on the steeper sections. Nevertheless, the Tiguan is not recommended for rugged off-roading, unlike its very off-road competent sibling, the Touareg. This is still a small SUV, according to the EPA. But, many larger SUV’s are closing in on the fuel economy of the Tiguan. At 21 MPG city and 26 highway, these aren’t exactly astounding figures. Maybe the only behavioral characteristic that could be improved on is handling. This is, in a large, part due to the tires with large sidewalls. On one hand, these help absorb and road variations and unwanted sounds from tweaking the occupants. It also makes this vehicle looks robust and fills in the wheel-wells. On the other hand, the Tiguan leans enough around corners that any spirited driving is better left to other cars, or other tires at the very least. Day-after-day, the Tiguan feels as if VW took the basic crossover and then refined it to the point that this can compete, or at least come in close competition, with its cousin the Audi Q3, or the Mercedes GLK, or BMW X1 or a host of other vehicles. Okay, maybe we’re reaching, but this not what one immediately thinks of when the name Volkswagen is brought into the conversation. However, with ongoing effort on the part of the Germans it just might be. But, here’s the rub to all these improvements. The Tiguan is not as affordable as the VW badge implies. With a base price of over 31K, this does shift our point of view. Yet, if VW pushes the quality bar up higher, so will the other car companies. Once quality is no long the differentiator, then pricing gets more competitive. Okay, so maybe we are crystal balling just a little here. But, as old Lee Iacocca would say, “If you can find a better built car, buy it!” Right now, the VW is on track to change minds. The Tiguan might just get consumers rethinking what’s important in life. It’s not often cars can make that kind of contribution to society, or open our minds to new ideas. Of course, this wouldn’t be Volkswagen’s first time at doing that as well. For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SE with sunroof and navigation Price: $23,860 (base S with manual transmission) $31,410 (base SE) $32,235 (as tested with sunroof and navigation) Engine type: 2.0L inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged/intercooled, TSI, cast iron block, aluminum alloy head, Double overhead camshaft, chain driven, four valves per cylinder, maintenance- free hydraulic lifters, variable intake valve timing EPA fuel economy estimates (city/highway): 23/26 miles per gallon Horsepower: 200 @ 5100 rpm Torque: 207 pound-feet @ 1700 rpm Transmission type: Automatic 6-speed Drive configuration: Front engine, front-wheel drive Suspension Front: Strut-type with lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic damper, anti-roll bar Rear: Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar Wheels and tires: Front: 19-inch Savannah alloy wheels with 255/40 R19 96H all-season tires Rear: 19-inch Savannah alloy wheels with 255/40 R19 96H all-season tires Brakes: Front: 12.3 x 1.0-in vented front Rear: 11.3 x 0.5-in solid rear discs Standard, all four wheels, with electronic brake pressure distribution Standard Electronic Stability Control Overall length: 174.5 inches Overall width: 71.2 inches Overall height: 65.6 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3,404