The new Tiguan is proof that good cars come to those who wait

EDGAR travelled to Dresden to test drive VW's 2016 mid-size SUV.

Neil Churchill November 3, 2016

Most of the time when a manufacturer releases a new model it’s somewhat of an anti-climax. Often that ‘new and revamped’ car will only have undergone a few slight aesthetic changes – a drop of the headlights, a new-look grill, a slightly lower profile, etcetera, etcetera.

Often though the real disappointment isn’t the minor facelift but what hasn’t changed underneath. Yes there might be a few more horses but the engine is often the same, as is the chassis, drive system, transmission and so on. But it’s understandable why. To change everything would result in a whole new car, not just a new model, and that costs a lot more money than the alternative of some new headlights and a few more paint options.

But that hasn’t deterred Volkswagen. Sure it’s one of the world’s biggest car companies and has bucket loads of cash to throw at a new model, but that shouldn’t mean the Germans don’t get a hat-tip for their approach to the new Tiguan. In other words, they’ve changed nearly everything. 

To be fair, the original Tiguan needed upgrading. When it first hit the roads back in 2007 the crossover market was still finding its feet. Today though it’s one of the most hotly contested segments with several of VW’s rivals – and own brands – gaining footholds in the nine-year gap. 

So the 2016 model is certainly due, as is the raft of changes. To find out if it’s worth every one of your 125,000 dirhams (SEL model), EDGAR flew to VW’s Transparent Factory in Dresden to collect the new car and take it for a drive through the towns and hills of Saxony. Here’s what we learnt.

MQB

The first thing to know about the new Tiguan is that it is based on VW’s new MQB – modular transverse matrix. If you haven’t heard about the MQB yet, it’s essentially a platform that will allow the company to manufacture nearly all its front-drive models in the same way, saving massively on time and cost – and not just VWs but Audis and some of its other brands too.

It's a throwback to how cars used to be mass-produced back in the day, but as the motoring world undergoes massive changes with the rapid advancement of electric cars and autonomous vehicles, many see it as a wise and astute move. Volkswagen’s chief of research and development, Ulrich Hackenberg, has called it a “strategic weapon.”

New styling

In that nine-year window where the Tiguan underwent only a minor facelift in 2012, the mid-size SUV market took a sporty turn, so it’s not really a surprise that VW has built a more youthful, dynamic and sportier character than its predecessor. Sharp double lines on either side of the bonnet add an energetic zip, while the angled line down the side cleverly camouflages the door handles. A similar trick is pulled at the front, where the LED headlights almost blend into the radiator grille. 

While it’s both longer and wider than its former – by 60mm and 30mm respectively – the 2016 model has a 33mm reduction in height and its wheelbase has gained 77mm. Despite lowering its roof and also raising the seat height by 8mm, somehow VW has got more headroom out of the new Tiguan than before. They say it’s thanks to its ergonomic design; to us it sounds more like sorcery.

When you squash that all together, it’s no wonder the new model looks like it’s ready to tear off the line in a way the 2007 version never did. On appearances alone, the tortoise has been upgraded to a hare.

Behind the wheel, if you’ve ever been in the former model, you’ll instantly know this isn’t the same car. Not even close. The driver’s side feels more personal and cockpit-like with the instrument panel slanted in your direction. The sporty steering wheel, new drive mode knob – not too dissimilar in style from sibling brand Bentley’s – and the new instrument panel, what’s known in VW parlance as the Active Info Display (AID), are all welcome, youthful upgrades.

The AID is pretty versatile. It has six different views on its 12.3-inch monitor, including a 3D navigation system, steering angle indicator and compass. It reinforces that feeling of driver-centric design. But it is the retractable head-up display that impressed us the most. Tucked neatly into the dashboard, it pops up perfectly inline with the driver’s view, without being obstructive. The small screen shows basic but pertinent information: speed, speed limit and arrows for sat nav, for example. No it’s not a revolutionary new trick, but it demonstrates Volkswagen wants the new Tiguan seen as a modern, intelligent car. Driving on new roads in a foreign land, unsure of speed limits or direction, we found it genuinely useful.

We appreciated the detail in the little things too. The blind-spot indicators are bigger and bolder than what we’re accustomed to, and the rearview mirror has a stylish frameless design. 

On the road

The Tiguan uses a new 4MOTION Active Control that VW says “guarantees superior acceleration capability and tremendous driving fun in every situation”. We can’t vouch for ‘every situation’ as we didn’t go off-road, but on the tarmac it was as smooth as you like, and it certainly had the legs on the autobahn.

There was a slight lag when we put our foot down in the 150-horsepower, 2.0-litre diesel model, but the 180-hp petrol equivalent was sprightly. The suspension felt solid enough for its sporty credentials and with very little understeer taking corners at speed was too tempting to resist.

It felt as every mid-size, sporty SUV should; elegant up-on-high through residential roads, nimble and pacey when unleashed. For those who like to customise their set-up, adaptive chassis control is an option as is progressive steering.

5 x 3

The Middle East will get a choice of five trim levels and three engine options. The S and basic SE are both a 1.4-litre, two-wheel drive, six-speed with 150 horsepower, starting at AED 89,957 and AED 104,998 – the price difference is down to the trim. But we imagine most will gravitate towards the second SE and SEL for their 2.0-litre, 4Motion, seven-speed gearboxes and 180 horses, at AED 114,280 and AED 124,780 – this is what EDGAR got hands-on with.

The top dogs will take the Sport, which comes with the R-Line trim package and gets 220 hp out of the same 2.0-litre engine, parting with AED 132,337 for the pleasure. It goes from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 220 km/h.

Safety first

In a motoring world that is becoming rapidly safer, the Tiguan’s safety tech ticks both the standard and progressive boxes. There’s a Driver Alert System, adaptive cruise control and a total of seven airbags inside the car. It uses Lane Assist which, while still unusual to experience, will eventually become second nature on long-distance drives. It is also has an extension called the Emergency Assist, which forces the car to halt after alerting other road users by flashing the hazard lights and performing controlled swerves within its lane.

Front assist with pedestrian monitoring looks after those outside of the vehicle, as does its post-collision braking system. Most pertinent to an unfortunate pedestrian or cyclist however is the active engine bonnet, which lifts the rear edge by 50mm within 22 milliseconds, reducing the risk of serious head injuries. 

Overall

After pacing the new Tiguan across Dresden’s countryside and the surrounding quaint villages, including the watchmaking mecca of Glashütte, it’s pretty clear to see what VW has made.

The Tiguan, as is the case with most crossovers or mid-size SUVs, was always the smaller, more city-friendly version of its bigger brother, the Touareg. The new model though needed to be different. It needed to be modern, proper modern, and sporty. It needed to look sexier, appealing to both men and women, but still be a no-nonsense, easy to drive, A to B tool. And that’s exactly what it is.

True, upgrading from an original model that’s nine years old isn’t hugely difficult. But that doesn’t take away from the end result, and the 2016 Tiguan is a result that can be truly enjoyed. 


The 2016 Tiguan is now available in the Middle East market. volkswagen-me.com