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  • First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE

    Posted on June 23rd, 2017 ninarussin

    New model gains power, performance and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    This year, Volkswagen introduces an all-new Tiguan compact SUV, building on the original model’s formula of European performance with some significant improvements. The 2018 model is built on the automaker’s modular MQB platform: the same front-wheel drive chassis used for the Golf and midsize Atlas crossover. While the Tiguan is considerably smaller than the Atlas, it’s larger than the car it replaces- about 11-inches longer- and available for the first time with third-row seating.

    Pricing for the front-wheel drive S-grade starts at $25,345 excluding destination; the 4-Motion all-wheel drive variant starts at $26,645. There are four grades, including the volume-leading SE, upscale SE and SEL Premium. The top-of-the-line Premium with all-wheel drive costs $38,450 including the $900 destination charge, and includes LED exterior lighting, roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and start, leather seating, dual-zone climate control, power liftgate, Fender premium audio system, VW Car-Net security and infotainment services and more.

    Sealing the deal is a new fully-transferrable factory warranty protecting buyers against repair costs for any manufacturing defects up to six-years or 72,000 miles.

    Test drive in Colorado

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to test drive the SE all-wheel drive model in Denver, Colorado and the surrounding mountains. The Mile-High City was the perfect place to demonstrate the capability of the Tiguan’s peppy turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed direct shift transmission, and to get a feel for how the 4Motion all-wheel drive system performs on both paved and unimproved roads.

    Pricing for the all-wheel drive SE model starts at $30,380 excluding destination. While it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the Premium model, the SE is a nicely-equipped car, with standard keyless entry and start, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, leatherette seating, power driver’s seat and heated front seats.

    Looking at the numbers, the new engine might appear less powerful than block on the outgoing model (horsepower has dropped from 200 to 184), but torque is significantly higher: 221 versus 207 on the old model. The engine reaches peak torque at 1600 rpm: 100 rpm lower.

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    What this means is that power off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic is better. With the eight-speed automatic transmission replacing the former six-speed unit, fuel economy gets a significant bump: up to 27 miles-per-gallon on the highway for both front and all-wheel drive models.

    For those who live at altitude, turbocharging offers the additional benefit of minimal parasitic power loss, since the exhaust-driven blower forces air into the engine rather than relying on vacuum. Climbing above the mile-high mark on winding two-lane roads, the engine had plenty of power to keep up with traffic or pass the occasional slower vehicle along the way.

    Ground clearance is a touch under eight-inches, so the car has no problems clearing small roots and rocks along unimproved roads. I felt well in control of the car on a section of graded dirt road along the drive route, with all-wheel drive automatically sending engine power to the wheel(s) with the most traction.

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

    By using high-strength steel in key areas of the body, engineers were-able-to make the new body stiffer, translating to better response from the electric power steering system. A terrain-select system enables drivers to switch between modes for paved and dirt roads as well as snow to maximize traction. Eco, normal and performance drive profiles modify throttle mapping to favor fuel economy or performance.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of struts with coil springs up front and a multi-link setup in back does a good job of absorbing bumps in the road, while anti-roll bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering.

    All grades get good-size wheels, beginning with 17-inch rims on the base model and working up to 19-inch wheels on the SEL and SEL Premium. A R-Line package on the upscale grades includes 20-inch rims. Ventilated front and solid rear discs stop the Tiguan in firm, linear fashion.

    Engineers did a good job of minimizing, engine, wind and tire noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can converse with ease on the highway or enjoy the audio system. Visibility around the car’s perimeter is good: the standard backup camera makes it easier and safer to back out of parking spots in crowded parking lots.

    Blind spot monitoring is also standard on the SE. LED lights in the side mirrors illuminate when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier to weave through rush-hour traffic.

    Versatile interior

    Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

    Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

    Although the new Tiguan is larger and heavier than the car it replaces, the optional third-row of seating is rare in the compact segment, giving parents with growing families the option of driving a smaller car without any sacrifice in utility.

    Standard keyless entry and start on the test car saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob after dark, adding a measure of safety in urban areas. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support during the test drive. Manual adjustments on the passenger side are easy to reach and adjust.

    Unlike some competitors, the Tiguan does not offer paddle shifters for the automatic transmission. Considering the car’s mission, I don’t see this as a huge problem, although the paddles would make it easier to hold and release gears on steep hills.

    Both climate and infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Navigation is not available on the SE. Buyers who want that feature will need to upgrade to the SEL. The SE infotainment system includes three USB ports, an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth interface and satellite radio.

    The third-row seat is an option on both front and all-wheel drive models. Standard roof rails enable owners to add a luggage rack up top. There is plenty of room with second-row seats folded flat to stash a road bike. Because of the car’s high profile, cyclists will probably opt for a hitch rather than a roof-mounted exterior rack.

    Standard safety

    The Volkswagen Tiguan comes with dual front and side, front and rear side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and a rearview camera. Blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection are standard on the SE model.

    Like: A compact sport-utility vehicle with available all-wheel drive, a peppy engine that delivers good fuel economy and available third-row seating.

    Dislike: Navigation is not available on the S or SE grades.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Tiguan SE AWD
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $30,380
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 184 HP @ 4400 rpm
    Torque: 221 lbs.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 21/27 MPG City/Highway

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