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Published on Saturday 25 May 2013 21:36
Ten Second Review
The UK market has had a Tiguan R-Line before and it did very well. Now the badge is back in the latest version of Volkswagen's baby SUV, offering plenty of equipment, a choice of 140 or 170PS diesels or a 210PS 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine. It's a class act.
We like to deal in extremes when it comes to making fast judgments. This car is a great seller. This one is a flop. Then there are the cars that are neither one nor the other. They're often the ones that get overlooked as soon as they fall off the front page of the news agenda, but go on to sell in steady but unspectacular numbers. The Volkswagen Tiguan is a perfect example. Lacking the image of an Audi Q3 or a Land Rover Freelander, the Tiguan finds itself in the second tier of SUVs and SUV Crossovers. It first arrived in 2008, and was extensively facelifted in 2011. It's still a bit of a slow burner for Volkswagen and the introduction of a ritzy R-Line variant probably isn't going to markedly alter sales volumes.
The R-Line does start to realise the Tiguan's potential though. There was always the kernel of a very cool car somewhere under that almost wilfully dowdy styling and the more extrovert R-Line teases it out. We had an R-Line in the original shape and it accounted for 20 per cent of Tiguan sales. Volkswagen reckons it can do even better with this version, targeting a quarter of the Tiguan's sales volume.
With the R-Line being a range-topping trim, it's only apposite that it gets the three best engines in the Tiguan model range. None of them are anything out of the ordinary if you're familiar with Volkswagen products. There's a petrol option in the shape of the 210PS 2.0TSI which gives the Tiguan genuinely startling pace. It's the same engine you'll find in the Golf GTI and it's enough to punt the Tiguan to 62mph in 7.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 134mph. With 4MOTION all-wheel drive traction off the line, it's likely that the Tiguan would have the drop on the Golf on anything other than bone-dry tarmac. If you'd prefer the torque of a diesel, there's the 2.0TDI four pot in either 140 or 170PS forms.
Whether the Tiguan is any good off-road will be an irrelevance to most UK buyers and the big wheels and body styling of the R-Line model means it's even less likely to be put through its paces in the mud, but should you find yourself in a position where traction is at a premium, you'll be glad of the Haldex all-wheel-drive system and a whole suite of electronic trickery to make the most of that traction advantage.
Design and Build
The R-Line version of the Tiguan is based on the SE but isn't too difficult to tell apart. You get bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch 'Mallory' alloy wheels, it's painted in Sterling Silver with black wheelarch extensions and there are body-coloured front and rear 'R' design bumpers and rear spoiler. Subtle R-Line logos adorn the front grille and aluminium front door sills. It's not showy in its finish, but this car does offer more of an urban look than the standard Tiguan.
Otherwise the recipe is largely the same as the rest of the Tiguan family. This means, amongst other things, a rear bench seat that can slide fore and aft by up to 16cm and recline by up to 23-degrees for greater comfort on longer journeys. As usual in this class of car, three adults would be a little squashed on the back seat but two will have decent standards of head, leg and shoulder room and three kids will be fine. Out back, there's 470-litres of total boot space and the option of a ski-hatch for longer items. If that's not enough, pushing forward the 60:40 split-folded rear bench frees up a total of 1510-litres. You can carry quite heavy loads too, thanks to a payload capacity of 670kg.
Market and Model
There are three models to choose from and at launch all were priced at around £28,000. The TDI 140 is the most affordable, with the TSI petrol model tacking £400 onto its asking price and the TDI 170 asking another £300 of you, so it's a compact little line- up. Equipment levels are very strong, with the R-Line being based on the SE trim which is already generously stuffed.
You'll find 'Climatic' semi-automatic air conditioning, a trip computer, all-round electric windows, an alarm, power heated door mirrors and an 8-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with DAB digital radio and an AUX-in socket. Useful options include the Park Assist system, able to automatically locate, then steer you into the tightest roadside space. Other popular options include a keyless entry and start system, a vast panoramic glass roof and touchscreen sat nav. Tarmac driving aids include the XDS electronic differential lock to improve handling when driving quickly though bends. And the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system able to adjust the suspension to suit the mood you're in and the road you're on.
Safety kit includes six airbags (with rear sidebags an option) and an ABS system with emergency brake assist for sudden stops instantly advertised to following motorists by hazard warning lights that automatically flash as you screech to a halt. There are also Isofix childseat fastenings, anti-whiplash head restraints and the usual electronic assistance for traction and stability control. You also get a fatigue detection system that focuses on your steering and driving behaviour for the first 15 minutes of every journey, then periodically monitors it thereafter. If your reactions seem sluggish and indicative of tiredness, the system will bleep at you until you take a break.
Cost of Ownership
Most owners will go for the economical diesel models but even the petrol 2.0 TSI variant is remarkably frugal, returning over 33mpg on the combined cycle and 199g/km. Though the upfront price isn't cheap, whichever variant you choose, you'll probably be better off choosing this Volkswagen than a cheaper South Korean alternative when you factor in depreciation and whole life costs.
The 2.0 TDI 140 variant that Volkswagen reckons will be the most popular pick of the R Lines returns 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and puts out 150g/km of CO2. The pokier 2.0 TDI 170 model isn't a great deal thirstier, managing 47.1mpg and 158g/km. Servicing costs can also be kept to reasonable levels thanks to a choice of servicing regimes - 'Time & Distance' for low mileage cars or a 'LongLife' programme for those regularly covering over 25 miles a day. Go for the latter approach and it can be possible to drive for up to 20,000 miles or 24 months without a major service.
Despite its best efforts, the Tiguan has never been one for Volkswagen's highlights reel. It just hasn't made the numbers - in the UK at least - to be deemed a genuine success. That shouldn't detract from the fact that, especially in this facelifted guise, it's now a very good car and the R-Line model only underscores that further by giving the model the swagger and self confidence it so badly needs.
Will it change the Tiguan's fortunes significantly? Probably not. If it can up-sell a few people who might have been thinking of a Tiguan already or catch the eye of those driving by who suddenly realise that VW's baby SUV has morphed into something decidedly handsome, then it's done a good job. I think it'll achieve both those ends and if there's one thing we know about Volkswagen, it's that it's a company that will patiently and unerringly work its way to success. Sometimes those steps are small. Sometimes not so much.