Volkswagen Tiguan R 2022 review
In the era of both the dominant SUV and the performance sub-brand, is the Tiguan R the ultimate car?
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New-brand Cupra (though not that new, given it's a performance-focused off-shoot of the VW Group – in much the way Skoda wears the brand's sensible shoes – that has been around in Europe for some time) reckons the Formentor will be its best-selling model in Australia.
Why? Because it kind of straddles the line between a VW Golf, T-Roc and Tiguan, with sporty hatchback styling but the space of a mid-size SUV (which is the vehicle category Cupra expects the Formentor to land in).
The Formentor will arrive with four variants (plus a limited-run launch edition), with three petrol models and one plug-in hybrid variant, all of which will be on sale from July.
That story starts with the V, which lists at $54,990 drive-away. You'll find a host of high-end features for your investment, including all-wheel drive, adaptive suspension, metallic paintwork, LED lights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch Sport alloy wheels, puddle lights, keyless entry and rear privacy glass.
Inside, there's keyless start, a 12.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a wireless smartphone charger, tri-zone climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with heating, front sports seats wrapped in cloth upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Next, there's the front-drive VZ, at $58,490 drive-away, which adds 19-inch Sport alloy wheels. You can then step up to the VZe plug-in hybrid, which ditches the drive-away pricing and lists at $60,990 (MSRP), which introduce and electric motor and battery that we'll detail later.
Finally, there's the high-performance VZx 4Drive (AWD), which is $66,490 drive-away, and adds 19-inch Performance alloy wheels, a power tailgate, quad exhaust tailpipes, a 340W Beats sound system with nine speakers, a sports steering wheel, heated front seats (including driver power adjustment and memory functionality) and Petrol Blue leather upholstery.
Cupra reckons the Formentor will be its best-selling model in Australia, but that speaks more to the fact that it lives in one our most popular vehicle segments than anything else.
The Formentor, you see, will likely slot into the booming mid-size SUV segment (though it looks lower and sportier than your typical high-rider), and comes across as a more aggressively styled answer to a vehicle like the VW Tiguan, sitting somewhere between it, and something like the T-Roc or Golf.
It's sportier, sure, but also more youthful, with a more sharply raked roof line, a more funkier front-end, much plastic meshing around the grille, and more aggressive swelling over the rear axles.
In the cabin, then, you'll find a simple, mostly black space dominated by a massive central screen, a second digital screen behind the steering wheel, and a gear-select system that's now a stubby toggle switch in the centre console.
It's a clean, functional space, and the seats are great, but, like the rest of the Cupra range, there is a sense of occasion that's somehow lacking from an interior that feels more functional than fancy.
According to Cupra's international spec sheets, the Formentor measures in at 4450mm in length, 1839mm in width and 1511mm in height - which means its about the same as the Tiguan, which comes in at 4520mm, 1859mm and 1668mm respectively.
Sure, it doesn't sound like much of a difference in height, it does its job with the Formentor, which definitely looks lower and sportier than its VW sibling.
Again, we're leaning on the international spec sheets here, but Cupra reports boot space of between 420 litres (petrol) and 345 litres (plug-in hybrid), which isn't particularly impressive. The Tiguan, for example, offers 615 litres from similar dimensions. We don't yet have maximum (rear seats flat) boot space figures for the Formentor.
Happily, though, rear space is more impressive. Head room is surprisingly generous - given the lower, sportier roof - and two adults can ride in the back in comfort, where they'll also make use of the USB charge ports and air vents.
Next up is the VZ, which is a front-drive offering with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that ups the grunt to 180kW and 370Nm, again with a seven-speed DSG automatic.
Then there's the electrified Formentor, the VZe PHEV, which combines a 110kW and 250Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with a front-mounted electric motor to deliver a combined 180kW/400Nm. It uses a six-speed DCT and delivers all-wheel drive.
Finally, there's the hi-po VZx, which goes back to a 2.0-litre petrol engine that now produces a potent 228kW and 400Nm. The seven-speed DSG is back, too, as is all-wheel drive, helping produce a sprint to 100km/h of just 4.8 seconds.
Cupra says the entry-level V variant will sip 7.1L/100km on the combined cycle, emit 159g/km of C02, and is fitted with a 51-litre fuel tank that demands 95RON premium unleaded.
The 180kW VZ somehow uses less fuel, at 6.9L/100km combined, and its emissions are pegged at 159g/km of C02.
The most powerful petrol model, the 228kW VZx, will sip a claimed 7.7L/100km combined, while its emissions are 175g/km. It gets a 55-litre tank, too.
Finally, the VZe plug-in hybrid variant will deliver a claimed 1.9L/100km on the combined cycle (provided you maximise battery usage, of course), with emissions pegged at 43g/km of CO2. The VZe's 12.8kWh battery should deliver a 52km-55km EV driving range, and can be recharged in around five hours using standard AC power.
It's a slightly odd feeling, climbing into a family friendly SUV - even a sporty looking one - in the pit lane of one of Australia's fastest motorsport circuits before burbling out onto the 200km/h-plus main straight.
It says two things about the Cupra brand, and the Formentor. The first is that this is clearly a brand that favours performance over practicality. The second? That Cupra was unable to secure Australian vehicles for this launch event, and the NZ cars it shipped over weren't able to be driven on Australian roads. So it was track time or nothing.
Happily, though, the Formentor is up to the challenge. There is a sizeable performance jump between the two models we tested - the entry-level 140kW version, and the fire-breathing 228kW variant - with the former feeling softer, slower and less dynamic at speed.
That's not a bad thing, really. I mean, how many Formentor owners are setting the navigation for their closest race track? Our taste-test was otherwise brief, and so how it will perform on the road near your place remains a mystery for now, but there is a satisfying quality to the Formentor's drive experience, with a smooth and quick-shifting automatic gearbox and a general solidity to the steering and ride quality.
But if it's the red mist you seek, then you'll definitely want to be shopping further up the Formentor family tree, with the VZx a seriously swift and potent SUV that will deliver plenty of on-road thrills should you find yourself on a twisting road or alpine hill climb.
Again, a race track can't delver the whole ownership picture, but the power delivery is pretty epic, the ride is on the firm side of sporty, and Cupra has done a stellar job of removing body roll from the go-fast Formentor, with the SUV sitting impressive flat as it hangs on through bends.
For the full picture, though, you'll need to wait until we get the Formentor family through the CarsGuide garage for a proper test.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
The Formentor wears a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and arrives with seven airbags - including a centre-front airbag - and a host of advanced driver-assist systems like autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross- traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, park assist, a reversing camera and safe exit alert.
The Formentor wears a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with three years of complementary servicing built into the purchase price, with five-year packs also available to purchase.
The Formentor is Cupra's jack of all trades, with sporty, stylish and spacious aspirations, all at once. Happily, it achieves all of them pretty well.
We'll need to wait until we get it through the CarsGuide garage for the definitive verdict, but early signs are good for anyone who's looking to inject a little driving excitement into the SUV experience.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
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