2010 Volkswagen Tiguan SPosted on June 14th, 2010
Compact sport-utility vehicle is big on performance
By Nina Russin
The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s compact sport-utility vehicle: available with either a front or all-wheel drive. Power comes from a turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.
For many years Americans shied away from turbocharged engines because of performance and maintenance problems. Computerized engine controls have made turbo lag and oil coking things of the past. Turbocharging is an effective way to enhance small engine performance, while boosting fuel economy and reducing toxic emissions.
Turbochargers are exhaust-driven blowers that improve the efficiency by which air flows through the engine. While belt-driven superchargers do the same thing, they can be bulky and difficult to package in a small engine bay. Smaller turbochargers are easier to fit under the hood.
The sprightly Tiguan accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 7.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 130 miles-per-hour. Turbocharging enhances low-end acceleration: the engine’s torque rating is higher than its horsepower.
Turbines also reduce power loss at altitude. The Tiguan performs as well at 6000 feet as at sea level, with no reduction in fuel economy.
Buyers can choose from three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. Base price on the S is $24,300, not including an $800 destination charge. The test car comes with two options: seventeen-inch alloy wheels and Bluetooth interface. MSRP is $25,900.
Road trip to Durango
This week, I drove the front-wheel drive Tiguan from Phoenix, Arizona to Durango, Colorado. There are two possible routes between the two cities: one fast, and one scenic. I chose the longer scenic route, which passes through the northern Arizona town of Flagstaff before heading east through Monument Valley and the Four Corners region.
Route 160 in northern Arizona is a two-lane road with relatively dense traffic. Traffic is heaviest during the summer months when tourists head for the national parks and monuments along the way. Average elevations range from about 4000 to 7000 feet. It’s essential to have a vehicle capable of passing slower cars, or the drive can seem endless.
The Tiguan has plenty of power to do the job, even on uphill grades. The car’s relatively small wheelbase and wide track makes it both stable and maneuverable through traffic.
The electric-mechanical power steering system is well tuned, producing feedback similar to a conventional hydraulic system. A 39.4 foot turning radius makes it possible to do U-turns on wider roads. On some of Durango’s narrow streets, I had to resort to three-point turns.
The car’s four-wheel independent suspension is firm for a sporty ride. It enhances steering response and keeps the chassis flat in the corners.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
I was impressed to find an electronic parking brake with a hill-hold feature: technology not normally found on vehicles in this price range. While I wouldn’t recommend off-road driving with the front-wheel drive model, the all-wheel drive Tiguan has ample ground clearance, approach and departure angles to handle some uneven trails.
Visibility around the car is quite good. As with any high-profile vehicle, there is a blind spot beneath the rear window. The side mirrors do a good job of compensating for blind spots in the rear corners without obstructing the driver’s view when cornering.
Over-the-shoulder visibility is good to both sides. I had no problems monitoring traffic several lanes to my left when I was merging onto the highway.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from road and wind noise. I had no problems conversing with passengers in the second-row seats.
The Tiguan’s interior is spacious and versatile, with seating for up to five passengers. The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and practical for buyers living in climates with hot summers.
I found the driver’s seat comfortable on segments lasting upwards of five hours. The manual seat adjustments are easy to use. Both front seats have ample lower lumbar support.
The gauge cluster is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. A digital display in between the gauges lists the time, ambient temperature, trip and odometer readings.
Both the driver and front passenger have an abundance of air vents, making it easy to maintain a comfortable temperature. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Controls in the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position. The standard 300-watt audio system has excellent sound quality, and includes an in-dash six-CD changer.
Both rows of passengers have access to bottle holders in the doors. There are cupholders in and behind the center console, and in a fold-down rear armrest.
A large locking glovebox keeps valuables out of sight. An overhead console includes a sunglass holder and two reading lamps. A dome lamps illuminates the back of the cabin at night.
An open bin at the base of the center stack holds compact discs or a cell phone. The center console bin includes a 12-volt power point and auxiliary port for plugging in electronic devices. I was disappointed that there is no USB port for plugging in an iPod or music stick.
The Tiguan’s cargo bay is large enough to hold a weekend’s worth of luggage with the rear seats in place. A pass-through allows rear seat passengers to access items in the cargo bay. Second-row seats also fold flat, extending the cargo floor. The Tiguan meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
A roof rack is standard on all but the base grade. A cargo loading system is available as an option package.
All grades come with front, side and side curtain airbags. Rear thorax airbags are available as an option on all grades. Volkswagen was one of the first manufacturers to make electronic stability control standard on all of its models.
Antilock braking and traction control are standard on all grades.
Volkswagen’s factory warranty includes free roadside assistance for the first three years or 36,000 miles of ownership. The warranty also includes free scheduled maintenance for the same period.
Volkswagen builds the Tiguan at its Wolfsburg, Germany assembly plant.
Likes: An affordable sport-utility vehicle with a versatile cargo area and excellent performance. The turbocharged Tiguan performs as well at high elevations as it does at sea level.
Dislike: Bluetooth interface is not standard equipment.
Model: Tiguan S
Base price: $24,300
As tested: $25,900
Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 5100 rpm
Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/24 mpg city/highway
Comments: The manufacturer recommends using premium fuel.
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