2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype Review: Karpool Koenig

Let’s face it. VW’s Tiguan is long in the tooth. Introduced in 2007 and face-lifted for 2011, it’s among the silverbacks in an ever-growing band of compact CUVs. Nevertheless, so voracious is the public’s appetite for all such perky two-box vehicular high chairs that 2016 is shaping up to be Tiguan’s best sales year. Mind you, at 38,063 units through November, it’s not exactly keeping Honda and Toyota planners up at night. In hopes of scaling the sales ladder and helping to grow back the limb of VW-brand sales volume amputated by the diesel difficulties, the Tiguan is exploring a subniche in the segment by stretching the wheelbase and slipping in an optional third row of seating suitable for occasional carpooling use by the youngest family members.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

At 109.9 inches, the wheelbase is 3.4 inches longer than the Rogue’s and 4.8 inches longer than the Outlander’s. It’s even 0.5 inch longer than that of the Kia Sorento—one of our favorite budget-priced midsize three-row crossovers. Overall length, however, is within an inch of the compacts and 2.2 inches shorter than the Sorento.

Third-row headroom is tight, but legroom can be augmented by sliding the second row forward as much as 7.0 inches. This makes it geometrically feasible for shorter adults to ride in the back, but they won’t be comfortable on the low cushion. One nice touch is that once seated in back, the third-row occupant can determine how far back the seat comes by pulling the backrest upright at the desired position—an improvement over even our beloved Volvo XC90, which only relatches in the full-rear position.

Tiguan joins the MQB A platform, which makes deluxe driver-assist and infotainment systems available. Top SEL trim models we sampled featured Audi-esque virtual cockpit instrumentation and an 8.0-inch center touchscreen, both of which offer myriad information display screen options. Under the hood is a revised version of the EA888 2.0-liter TSI turbo-four bolted to a six-speed automatic with front- or 4Motion all-wheel drive. Sadly, at 186 hp the engine produces 14 fewer horses in this bigger, heavier Tiguan.

All of our Tiguan driving, including some exposure to the short-wheelbase version not offered in North America, was on gravel roads. That makes it impossible to comment definitively on interior wind or road noise, lateral grip, or even steering feel (except that it completely isolates the driver from harsh one-wheel impacts). The seats are comfortable, the user interface appears to have taken a solid step forward, and the body structure feels a bit less solid on the long-wheelbase than on the short, but again that’s in somewhat extreme circumstances.

Pricing won’t be available until much closer to the vehicle’s launch, but expect the NAFTA-built (Puebla, Mexico) CUV to carry an attractive entry price near the current vehicle’s $25,860 for the front-drive five-seater. Top-drawer SEL 4Motion examples could crest $40K. Don’t expect it to dice with CR-V and RAV4 for segment sales leadership, but if it can nab a healthy fraction of Rogue sales (289K through November), VW management will be elated.

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