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  • First Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8 SEL Premium

    Midsize sedan adds active safety and infotainment

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    2017 Volkswagen Passat

    If you’re looking for a German sport sedan but don’t have a German sport sedan budget, consider the 2017 Volkswagen Passat, priced from $22,440: stylish and solidly built with a full roster of active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist. Power comes from a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers wanted more power can opt for the 280-horsepower V-6.

    The Passat is front-wheel drive, but it’s extremely well balanced front-to-back. Drivers needn’t worry about a floating rear end.

    The test car is the 1.8T SEL model priced from $30,995. The upscale grade comes loaded with comfort and convenience features including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED automatic headlamps, power folding heated side mirrors, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery, a 6.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth interface and satellite radio.

    VW Car-Net is standard on the SEL, adding smart phone apps, navigation and emergency roadside assistance. Final MSRP including the $820 destination charge is $31,815. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen CC Sport

    Entry luxury sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    2017 Volkswagen CC

    While most people don’t think of Volkswagen as a luxury brand, the automaker does produce some luxury vehicles: the sporty CC coupe-sedan among them. The CC is an older platform as Volkswagen vehicles go, but still worth a careful look for its timeless styling and appealing road manners.

    With its long nose and bullet-shaped passenger cabin, the CC is a sport sedan in the true European tradition, priced below products from many of its competitors. Pricing for the Sport model tested starts at $34,475 excluding the $865 destination charge.

    Power comes from a turbocharged two-liter engine rated at 200-horsepower and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All grades including the base Sport come loaded with comfort and convenience features including keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats, leatherette seating, six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth interface and bi-xenon headlamps. Final MSRP is $35,340. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Jetta 2.0T GLI

    Sporty compact sedan adds spice to the daily commute

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    The GLI is the premium sport grade for Volkswagen’s Jetta compact sedan. Priced from $27,895, it comes loaded with safety and convenience features including a rearview camera with park distance control, blind spot monitoring, keyless start, Bluetooth interface, Fender premium audio system, satellite radio and cruise control.

    Eighteen-inch alloy rims are an upgrade from 16-inch wheels on the base model. Automatic headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof make the GLI an appealing yet affordable package. Final MSRP is $28,715. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Midsize sport-utility vehicle with room for seven

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    2018 Volkswagen Atlas

    Volkswagen’s newest family member, the Atlas, is a midsize SUV based on the automaker’s MQB platform first introduced in the current-generation Golf. Volkswagen is building the Atlas along with the Passat at its newly expanded Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant.

    Like the Golf and Passat, the Atlas is a front-wheel drive vehicle, and as with the new Golf Alltrack wagon, is available with all-wheel drive. Although the Atlas competes in the same segment as the Volkswagen Touareg, the vehicles are quite different.

    The premium Touareg is available only as an all-wheel drive vehicle, and with two rows of seating as opposed to three for the new Atlas. While the Touareg can tow more- up to 7,716 pounds as opposed to 5,000 for the Atlas equipped with the V-6 engine, the Atlas holds more on the inside: something that should appeal to growing families with active lifestyles.

    It’s also more affordable. The front-wheel drive four-cylinder model that arrives in dealerships later this year starts at $30,500, while the V-6 front-wheel drive base model starts at $31,900. Buyers can add all-wheel drive for $33,700 excluding destination and handling. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Sport

    Four-door hatchback delivers the goods

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

    If you’re looking for a car that’s cool, yet affordable, with peppy performance plus good fuel economy, take-a-look at the newest Volkswagen Golf. The current version that debuted for 2015 is the first constructed on the automaker’s new modular global architecture, giving the chassis more torsional rigidity for better steering feedback.

    The sporty GTI comes with a two-liter turbocharged block that delivers 210-horsepower while averaging 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The Sport grade comes standard with a performance package including brakes from the Golf R, a limited-slip differential, 10-horsepower boost (when using 91-octane fuel) and 18-inch wheels. Base price is $26,695 excluding the $820 delivery charge.

    Options on the test car add red exterior paint, plaid cloth interior, six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and summer performance tires, all at no cost. Final MSRP is $27,515. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL with 4Motion

    Active lifestyle wagon with German performance

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

    2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

    Volkswagen’s new Golf Alltrack sport wagon is the masculine yang to the Subaru Outback’s more feminine yin. Athletic performance comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine and available six-speed manual gearbox on all grades. Like its Subaru competitor, the Alltrack boasts a versatile easy-to-clean interior with a spacious cargo bay for larger gear, and enough ground clearance to clear the tea kettles on unimproved roads.

    VW product planners hope the Alltrack’s available panoramic sunroof and slightly lower roof height than the Outback will lure existing Subaru owners into its showrooms. Roof rails are standard on every Alltrack grade to facilitate overhead cargo carriers and roof racks.

    2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

    2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

    The Alltrack is based on Volkswagen’s popular Golf Sportwagen. Although its sibling is available with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the Alltrack’s higher ground clearance makes it more capable on uneven trails. A drive-select mode system automatically engages downhill descent control when the driver chooses the off-road setting.

    The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged engine develops 170-horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque from engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm for excellent low-end acceleration. The DSG automatic model that launches in October starts at $26,950 excluding an $820 destination charge while the six-speed manual version available in January, 2017 is priced from $25,850. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible R-Line SEL

    Open-air fun for four

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible

    Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible

    Volkswagen is known as the most affordable of German performance brands. The R-Line version of its Beetle convertible brings this driver-focused approach to one of America’s favorite drop-tops.

    The third-generation Beetle maintains the classic lines of the original car but with a more aerodynamic focus. The convertible’s folding soft top is actually lower when in place than the roofline of the hardtop car. A single button near the rearview mirror retracts the top and rolls down the windows in less than ten seconds and can operate at up to 30 miles-per-hour.

    Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible

    Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible

    The R-Line SEL model tested gets the larger of two available engines: a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder block rated at 210 horsepower, mated to a six-speed direct shift automatic transmission.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Fender premium audio system, climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather seating, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. Volkswagen has expanded its Car-Net infotainment system options, enabling owners to access Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as well as a variety of smartphone apps though the car’s head unit.

    Base sticker for the upscale SEL is $36,050: final MSRP including destination is $36,870. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan S

    Sporty compact crossover
    By Nina Russin

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    With new compact crossovers flooding the market, it’s easy for models to get lost in the crowd. A few, however, stand out: among them the Volkswagen Tiguan. Volkswagen’s talent for engineering fun-to-drive cars is the reason. With its peppy two-liter turbocharged engine, the Tiguan appeals to both the practical and emotional sides of vehicle ownership.

    The test car is the front-wheel drive Tiguan S, priced from $24,890. Standard convenience features include 18-inch alloy rims, automatic headlamps with daytime running lamps, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth interface, folding and reclining rear seats, keyless entry with push-buttons start, rearview camera and eight-speaker audio system.

    Final MSRP including the $855 destination charge is $25,755.

    Test drive in Phoenix

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    Over the past week I drove the Tiguan throughout Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as on a rural road through the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. I had the opportunity to test the Tiguan in rush-hour traffic, load up the cargo area and see how well the car handled moderate changes in altitude.

    The Tiguan’s turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a nice pairing, with the transmission delivering seamless, linear shifts throughout the power band. The turbocharger gives the engine great power on the low end, with peak torque available from 1700 rpm. I heard what sounded like lifter tick which is odd since the engine has hydraulic lifters, but didn’t find the noise bothersome. Volkswagen recommends but does not require premium unleaded gasoline for optimum performance.

    The electric power steering system is very well tuned, with on-center performance close to a hydraulic unit. There is none of the numb feeling competitive units seem to suffer from. A 39-foot turning circle makes it possible to perform U-turns on wider surface roads.

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

    Construction on some stretches of rural road prevented me from pushing the Tiguan as hard as I would have liked. Having said that, I noticed no tendency for the front-wheel drive platform to push in the corners. Drivers living in four-season climates can opt for all-wheel drive to improve traction on wet roads.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of struts and coils mounted to an aluminum subframe up front and a four-link system in the rear. The suspension does a good job of absorbing jousts from pitchy hills and off-camber turns without feeling overly harsh. Large vented disc brakes up front and solid rotors in back provide firm, linear stopping power.

    Versatile interior

    Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

    Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

    The Tiguan’s versatile interior with fold-flat and reclining rear seats makes it a good choice for buyers with active lifestyles. Keyless entry and start is an unusual feature in vehicles in this price range. I found manual driver’s seat adjustments easy to use, with good lower lumbar support.

    The center stack screen is on the small side but I was able to clearly see the rearview camera image. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from both front seating positions and intuitive to operate. It’s a bit of a disappointment that the Tiguan does not come with satellite radio even though owners can use their smart phones to extend listening options.

    Leatherette upholstery is attractive, though I would prefer cloth living in an area where hot summers can make it uncomfortable. The heated front seats were another nice surprise for our cooler mornings at this time of year.

    The Tiguan’s low lift-over height makes it easy for smaller drivers to load up the back with bicycles, camping equipment and other large cargo.

    Standard safety

    The Volkswagen Tiguan comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps. Intelligent crash response automatically shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lamps after a serious collision.

    Volkswagen builds the Tiguan at its Wolfsburg, Germany assembly plant.

    Like: An affordable, fun-to-drive compact crossover with available all-wheel drive for good four season performance.

    Dislike: Satellite radio is not standard equipment. Cloth upholstery is not available on the base model.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volkswagen
    Model: Tiguan S
    Year: 2016
    Base price: $24,890
    As tested: $25,755
    Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 5100 rpm
    Torque: 207 lbs.-ft. @ 1700 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg city/highway

  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 2.0T SE

    Peppy compact sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    Volkswagen Jetta GLI

    Compact sedans are go-to cars for first time buyers because of their affordability. A well-designed model can take its owner through college and starting a new family. While there are plenty of options on the market that are safe, fuel efficient and competitively priced, fewer that fill those squares are also fun to drive.

    Volkswagen’s talent is in offering European performance without the price tag of a German luxury brand. The compact Jetta, priced from $16,215 is a prime example. Nicely styled and well engineered, the Jetta is a package that will serve its owner well through whatever changes life might throw at him. Plus it’s a hoot to drive.

    The Jetta is the only compact sedan available with two green options: a gasoline-electric hybrid and turbo-diesel. Buyers can choose between three four-cylinder gasoline engines (one being the hybrid) as well as the TDI, mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

    The test car is the upscale GLI SE, priced from $28,020 excluding the $820 destination charge. Buyers who don’t like to haggle at the dealership with appreciate the monospec pricing strategy. The car comes fully loaded, including a power sliding sunroof, keyless entry and start, Fender audio system with satellite radio, rearview camera, heated front seats and split folding second-row seat, rain sensing wipers, daytime running lamps and LED tail lamps. Final MSRP is $28,840. Read the rest of this entry »