After seat time in the new Volkswagen Tiguan 140 TDI Highline, Richard Berry says it offers an interesting alternative to the medium SUV category leaders, Mazda's CX-5 and Toyota's evergreen RAV4. His road test and review includes specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The Volkswagen Tiguan 140 TDI Highline is such a Volkswagen. And that’s the reason you should buy it. The End.
Sorry, what? More of an explanation? Well, the old Tiguan was good, but this completely new one which came out late in 2016 is better. More? After the Golf the Tiguan is Volkswagen’s next biggest seller. What about compared to its rivals?
Yes, well it’s a mid-sized SUV that’s not overly expensive which puts it up against the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4 which are far more popular in Australia – like doubly popular. Wait, yes those are both excellent SUVs, but the Tiguan is different even if its job is to do exactly the same thing.
So what’s so special about the Tiguan and is it worth buying the fanciest one - the 140TDI? It’s a diesel, too. All right then… here’s why.
We’ve already covered the arrival of the second generation Tiguan and its new looks – but to save you digging through it now what you really need to know is it’s bigger. So much bigger that it’s moved out of the small SUV segment into the mid-sized category, but it’s still nowhere near as huge as the Touareg that sits above it in Volkswagen’s SUV range.
So if you see a Tiguan and it looks cute and curvy, that’s the old one. If you see a Tiguan that appears kind of big and angular, it’s the new one.
The Tiguan is now 4486mm long (60mm more than the old car), 1839mm wide (+30mm) with a wheelbase of 2681mm (+76mm), but even with that increase in dimensions it’s still smaller than a CX-5 (4540mm long) and RAV4 (4605mm long).
The prestigious exterior is matched by a cabin which outclasses everything else in the segment.
There are six different variants of Tiguan (seven if you count the manual entry level car), but you can tell a 140TDI Highline by the stacks of chrome on the grille and around the headlights. Spot the 140 TDI also by its dark tinted back side windows and deeper-red tail lights, while another giveaway is the 18-inch alloy wheels – all the other Tiguans have 17s as standard.
It’s a prestigious looking SUV with elegant styling and a tough, wide stance. Yup, it’s conservative and a somewhat emotionless in its design, but this is a Volkswagen not an Alfa Romeo.
The prestigious exterior is matched by a cabin which outclasses everything else in the segment with excellent seating, high-end materials and superb build quality.
Volkswagen’s design beauty is also in its well-built-for-purpose nature and that means excellent practicality.
The new Tiguan’s longer wheelbase means more cabin space and folks in the back seat now have about 3.0cm more kneeroom. That doesn’t sound like a lot but it means even a 191cm tall statistical outlier like me can sit behind his driving position with a hand’s width gap from knee to seatback.
Headroom in the back is excellent, too – I was able to make a fist in the space between my noggin and the roof.
Storage space is outstanding. Those seat backs have fold-down airline style trays with cup holders – but you don’t have to buy the 140 TDI to get these as they come on all but the entry-spec Tiguan, so do the two cup holders in the centre armrest, along with the two adjustable cup holders up front near the gear shifter.
There are giant bottle holders in all the doors, a cooled glovebox, a big storage bin under the centre console armrest, the front passenger has a drawer under their seat and a net in the footwell plus there’s a dash-top storage box. But wait, there are two overhead storage lockers for the front and rear travellers. There was a bit of a 'whoooah' moment when these were discovered.
The 140 TDI Highline is the only one to get the auto-tailgate as standard – and that’s the function that opens the boot with a sweep of your foot under the bumper. It’s a little, life-changing luxury.
The rear seats are on a slider and when moved all the way forward but still upright boot capacity is 615 litres (VDA). That’s more than 200 litres larger than the CX-5’s luggage space, almost 30 more than the RAV4 and even beats the Nissan X-Trail's cargo capacity. It sounds obvious but remember as the back seats slide forward the rear legroom decreases.
Lighting is excellent throughout the cabin with two map lights over the dash and two over the second row and lighting in the boot.
The Tiguan we tested has five seats and Volkswagen will add a seven-seater Allspace version to its range in 2018.
Price and features
The 140TDI Highline is the diesel Tiguan King and its market list price of $49,990 makes it $18K more than the Trendline entry-spec Tiguan.
What does the 140TDI Highline get that other Tiguans don’t? There’s keyless entry with proximity unlocking (worth the extra money); LED headlights (worth it); fancy LED design in the taillights (meh); DRLs (worth it); the tinted 65 per cent light-absorbing rear glass (definitely worth it), 18-inch wheels (worth it). This grade also gets VW’s top notch audio system and sat nav, plus voice command function (worth it); illuminated door sills (ooooh, pretty); LED interior ambient lighting (aww, more pretty); the auto boot (absolutely worth it); comfort sport bucket front seats (worth it); power adjustable driver’s seat (what about the front passenger, too?); heated front seats (worth it); shifting paddles (worth it); and leather upholstery (worth it).
Standard features the 140TDI shares with the two variants below it in the range include chrome roof rails, three-zone climate control, auto parking, front and rear parking sensors, 8.0-inch display with reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speakers for the sound system, auto headlights and wipers, and a cool flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The Bluetooth system works well and it’s a cinch to set up.
Our test vehicle featured the optional $2000 Driver Assistance Package which apart from adding adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert and blind spot warning brings the Active Info Display which is an awesome 12.3-inch screen that replaces the ‘ye-olde’ speedo and rev counter with a completely virtual set-up. Worth the two grand.
Our car also had the optional ($700) Caribbean Blue metallic paint.
If you think $50K is a lot to spend on a mid-sized SUV, remember this is the top-spec diesel Tiguan and the less expensive grades below it come with a lot of the same equipment. Also keep in mind that it’s not overpriced compared to the rivals - the top spec equivalent Mazda CX-5 Akera with all-wheel drive (AWD) and a diesel engine costs more at $50,410.
Engine and transmission
The 140TDI Highline has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine – the same diesel that’s in the 110TDI variant only it's tuned to make 30kW more power at 140kW and 60Nm more torque at 400Nm.
The transmission is a seven speed dual-clutch and performs so much better than Volkswagen’s DSGs from five years ago, so don’t be put off.
All Tiguans apart from the entry-spec 110TSI Trendline and Comfortlines are AWD, VW calls its system 4Motion.
After spending a week with the 140TDI and doing everything from commuting to the city and day care pick-ups, to trips to the national park our Tiguan told us it was drinking diesel at a rate of 10.2L/100km. Volkswagen says we should have expected 5.9L/100km, but I'd suggest that figure could only be achieved with a person far more sensible than me behind the wheel.
The smaller Skoda Yeti is built on the old Tiguan platform and having driven it back-to-back with the 140TDI Highline you can really feel how far on-road performance has come.
The 140TDI changed the way I’ve been road testing cars. I enjoyed driving it so much I took it on the extended 150km bushland road loop I normally reserve for sports cars. Now I’ve done that I need to take everything else on the same route regardless of their 0-100km time, because the Tiguan has come along and set a new benchmark for mid-sized SUVs.
Fair dinkum, the Tiguan performed as well as some of the sports cars did on the same roads. The grip is excellent from those 235/55 R18 Continental Contisport tyres and when you throw in the all-wheel drive system it’s so impressive how hard you can push the Tiguan hard through corners without losing any traction. The balance and stability in the platform is superb, the suspension keeps handling sharp and the ride the composed.
One of my few complaints as far as driving is concerned is that ride can be a bit hard and I’m wondering if that’s because Continental tyres are known for having harder walls. I drove other Tiguans with the 215/65 R17 Michelin Primacy 3 rubber and found the ride to be more comfortable and cushy.
The steering is accurate and has great feel to it and the DSG works almost seamlessly – it does however want to change up quickly in normal drive mode to save fuel and that can lead to a bit of turbo lag when you then want to accelerate. Sport mode will hold the gears to stop that, or drive it using the paddles like I did.
In the pitch-dark bush those LED lights are so intensely bright that vision feels almost hyper-real in a good way. I’ve had to slow other cars right down on the same road at the same time of night because the headlights just aren’t good enough.
The virtual instrument cluster is amazing. You can scroll through various functions including the sat nav mode which reduces the speedo and rev counter to 50 cent piece size, and upsizes the nav to fill the entire display.
The active cruise control works faultlessly and will bring the car to a complete stop in traffic, then move away again when the car in front drives off.
Another bonus is the climate control in the back seat. With a toddler strapped into his car seat it’s good to be able to set his temperature knowing he’s not going to melt or turn into an icicle on the way up to Grandma’s.
Grunt from the diesel is pretty good: 140kW and 400Nm in a something that weighs only 1.7 tonnes is plenty for a mid-sized SUV, but off the mark it does feel a little bit sluggish until the turbo rushes into the party to give a 0-100km/h time of 7.9s. The Tiguan performs best when it’s under full steam with enough revs to keep the turbo working.
Diesels can be noisy, but the cabin is so well insulated I couldn’t even hear the CarsGuide camera guy standing at the window yelling at me to open his door.
The 140TDI Highline’s impressive braked towing capacity of 2500kg is up there with the best in the segment. In comparison the braked towing capacity of the AWD diesel Mazda CX-5 is 1800kg and the AWD petrol RAV4 can only do 1500kg. That’s a bit embarrassing - you know that a RAV4 couldn’t tow itself but the smaller and lighter Tiguan could tow a RAV4 easily.
Most Tiguans won’t head off road and you probably shouldn’t go too far bush in it as it’s a car-based SUV. But a good ground clearance of 201mm for the 140TDi Highline means it’ll happily do dirt and other unsealed roads that you’d probably avoid in a regular car.
The Tiguan has a five-star ANCAP rating, but then so does nearly everything these days, so look at what advanced safety equipment is being offered and you’ll see the differences. The Tiguan has some of the most advanced safety gear you’ll find standard on a car at this price. There’s AEB, lane assist, auto parking (parallel and perpendicular), the rear view camera with several views.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX points across the back row.
There are front and side airbags for the driver and a front passenger airbag, plus a driver’s knee bag, and curtain airbags covering the front and rear.
The five-seater Tiguan is built at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg factory in Germany, but the seven-seater Tiguan is expected to be built in Mexico.
The Tiguan 140TDI Highline is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty with servicing recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. It’s capped at $351 for the first service, then $541 for the next, $608 for the third, $964 for the next one and $351 for the fifth.
A quick comparison of the annual servicing for the equivalent Mazda CX-5 AWD Akera with the 2.2-litre diesel is capped at $322 for the first, $392 for the second, $322 for the third and $364 for the fourth then back to $322.