CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN IGUANA
Volkswagen’s Tiguan R-Line
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Published on Fri, Dec 19, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Leave it to Volkswagen to name its compact crossover after a cross between a tiger and an iguana. With other companies succumbing to safe, alpha-numeric designations, VW gives us Touareg, Routan, and of course Tiguan. Editor-at-Large Zoran J. Segina reports on the latest version of the felineus lizard from Wolfsburg—the R-Line.
By Zoran J. Segina
Few decades ago Lindsey Wagner was featured in a commercial about a sport utility vehicle wherein she describes “his” car as fun and “her” car as sensible. The story in the commercial ends well - the featured vehicle is found to be both fun and sensible. Commercials, like fairy tales, are geared toward a happy and successful resolutions of the problem at hand. While Ms. Wagner's smile could convince a prospective buyer that an ox cart is fun and sensible - the elemental issue in all sport-, crossover-, and who-knows-what-other-moniker utility vehicles is the “utility” part of it. To satisfy the hauling part – loading cargo, carrying larger number of passengers, having off road capabilities - the vehicle should be inherently more suitable for chores than having fun. In our review of the Tiguan last year - a compact utility vehicle based on a Golf platform - we found that all utilitarian attributes are well met. The Tiguan has space for four, collapsible rear seats, pleasing lines and that German tautness which exudes a sense of not only the quality of materials and craftsmanship, but the engineering reliability of the whole package.
Now with the R-Line version of the same model, the Volkswagen is working very diligently to emphasize the "fun." The power plant is still the same inline four cylinder turbocharged 2.0 liter workhorse with 200 horsepower and 207 lb. ft. of torque. But what takes place from the point where that power and torque leave the end of the crankshaft to the point where the 19-inch Pirellis touch the road is a veritable excitement generator.
In the Tiguan R-Line the power transfer is entrusted to a 4MOTION. The moniker denotes a Volkswagen proprietary permanent four-wheel drive system which distributes the engine’s power to all four wheels as required. A transversally mounted engine such as the one in the Tiguan R- Line is fitted with a Haldex coupling - an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch which allows a variable distribution of power between the front and rear wheels. How does it know which axle needs it? Ah, the miracle of computers. The Haldex control unit calculates slippage, handling conditions and drive torque and cleverly doles out power to keep the vehicle in desired direction.
Add to all this plenty of torque at low rpm, a stiff sport suspension, and the aforementioned low-profile Pirellis, and the tall Tiguan becomes a lively sports car. The automatic transmission has standard position R-N-D, but an additional push moves the shifter into a sport mode which significantly changes the engine mapping. The shift to the right becomes electronic sequential shifting either by floor shifter or by paddles on the steering wheel. Turbo lag is noticeable in regular drive. Under similar road conditions and speed, the revs will increase by five hundred rounds per minute on average, bringing the turbocharged engine closer to its sweet spot, ready to pounce.
Speaking of pouncing - the name "Tiguan" is a portmanteau, i.e., a linguistic blend of the German words for tiger and iguana. It was created after Volkswagen, A.G., asked the German publisher Autobild to create a naming contest for the production car based on the concept introduced right here at the Los Angeles Auto show in 2006. The rumor has it that one of the initial proposals was to call the new model "Marrakesh." This would complement the full size SUV called "Touareg," after a North African Saharan nomadic Berber people. As the subsequent world events proved, the fates were kind to Volkswagen.
Back to the car at hand. My principal objection is the range of the steering wheel rake which cannot be pushed down enough. The wheel itself is beautifully clad in perforated leather and ergonomically designed with indentations for proper grip. Moreover, all the controls on the wheel are easy to understand and within easy grasp. My personal preference is to sit in the car as low as possible, especially important in driving what is in essence a performance sports car wrapped in the utility package. Have you seen the pictures of navigators in the Volkswagen FIA World Rally cars? The guy is stuffed so deep inside the cabin - to lower the center of gravity - that his helmet barely reaches above the dashboard. When I pushed the electrically controlled driver seat all the way down, and with the steering wheel high, I ended up looking like a kid who just stole a school bus.
Otherwise, the inside of the cabin reflect the R-Line origin of this Tiguan. There is a wonderful roof which opens the view of the sky along the entire length of the car. Press a button with dual controls and the first one will slide a mesh exposing a glass while the second control slides the sunroof all the way back. The dashboard is tastefully appointed with round ventilation openings which can be rotated allowing the occupants to point the stream of air just so. Cupholders abound. Audio system is Fender and seats are clad in leather. The Tiguan can be started by pressing the start/stop button. A handbrake is hydraulic and electronic. The gas and brake pedals are generously designed and made out of metal with rubbers inserts. On the left is a large dead pedal for bracing - a necessity when driving a tall car fast.
The Tiguan R-Line can be driven aggressively within reason. A sporty suspension and low profile tires offer superior handling compared to a standard-equipment model, but the vehicle's height and a raised center of gravity advise caution.
In the corners the lower sidelights turn on and rotate to illuminate the corner. While this is certainly reminiscent of the old Citroen DS 21,which first introduced this feature in the seventies, the sidelight opens the driver’s field of vision.
The utility part of Tiguan proves itself when the rear storage space swallows an outboard engine, fuel tank, two gallons of water bottles, and two bags still leaving a plenty of room. For convenience I collapse rear seats forward by a simple push. But if I had a full complement of passengers the cargo space would have still accommodated all my stuff.
A powerful engine and wide stance with nineteen inch tires make traveling fast and safe. A quick step on the gas will get Tiguan out of most dicey situations on the freeway, but the ride is harsh. When the low profile tires meet Southern California concrete road cover at a certain speed with, you can feel the bumps. After several days of braving the jarring freeway rides the Tall Girl had enough. For a twenty mile trip to the friends in Woodland Hills, we had to leave Tiguan at home and use her daily car – an old but softly sprung German sedan.
Brakes stop the car safely and do not fade. In medium to heavy freeway traffic one morning I follow closely behind a guy in the Audi S4 - a member of the same family with a way higher price. As we weave through the traffic I can sense Audi driver's mounting frustration because he is unable to shake little Tiguan off its tail. Driving around in sporty mode lets the engine get going and move fast without even using the paddle shifters. But in corners, a relatively high center of gravity makes pushing this crossover too hard a perilous endeavor. One must not overdo the limits. Harsh driving also turns Tiguan into a gas guzzler.
Electronics always present their own set of issues. With the door ajar, even with the car not moving in the parking lot, the computer screen would not engage. It keeps flashing "door open." One expects that Tiguan should be smart enough to realize that we are not moving. Navigation system objects to street names. It immediately tries to determine destination, and it takes some doing to force the computer to accept “Valley Circle” as opposed to “Valley Lane.” With so many of Southern California bearing similar names this is not a minor problem here. Perhaps we are so enamored of the advanced state of the car electronics to give them anthropomorphic characteristics.
Despite these minor shortcomings it is the surefootedness that is the most endearing characteristic of the Tiguan R-Line. Driving around with abandon, I felt that the car would never provide any unpleasant surprises. Yes, it does rattle my bones but in a very charming way.
For more information about Volkswagen products, go to www.vw.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015 Tiguan R-Line 4Motion Price MSRP: $39,700 EPA fuel economy rating: 20 city/26 highway miles per gallon Engine type: 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve, turbocharged and intercooled TSI gasoline in-line four cylinder engine with variable intake and exhaust timing Horsepower: 200 @ 4500 rpm Torque: 207 pound-feet @ 1700-5000 rpm Transmission type: Automatic with DSG dual-clutch electronic Tiptronic with paddle shifter Drive configuration: Front-engine, front-wheel drive Steering: Rack and pinion, electric power assist Suspension Front: Strut type with lower control arms, telescopic dampers and 22 mm diameter anti-roll bar. Rear: Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar Wheels and tires: 19-inch x 9J aluminum alloy wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Verde all season 255/40 R 19 tires A 96H M+S. Brakes Front: 12.3 x 1.0 inch power-assisted dual circuit vented discs Rear: 11.57 x 0.5 in. sold rear discs Curb weight: 3,404 lbs.