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Volkswagen Tiguan R 2022 review

The Tiguan R makes so little sense that it comes full circle and actually makes a lot of sense. (Image: Tom White)
EXPERT RATING
8.3
In the era of both the dominant SUV and the performance sub-brand, is the Tiguan R the ultimate car?

We live in the era of not only the dominant SUV, but of the performance sub-brand.

Volkswagen, of course, is famous for its Golf R super hatch, with stratospheric performance rivalling only the most premium of rivals, like the Mercedes-AMG A 45.

But what happens if you want the excitement of the R badge in something more practical, say, a family-friendly mid-size SUV.

Enter the first ever Tiguan R, part of a three-pronged expansion of VW’s R sub-brand into SUV land. Soon it will be followed by the smaller T-Roc and larger Touareg. So, is this first offering a promising beacon of things to come, or does R belong with the Golf alone? Let’s find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The Tiguan R assumes its place at the pinnacle of the mainstream mid-size SUV space, wearing a before-on-roads starting price of $68,990. It’s a fair jump from the next variant down, the 147TDI R-Line ($57,490) but in the grand scheme of things it puts our performance hero in an interesting spot.

This is mainly because it doesn’t have any direct rivals. There’s yet to be an N version of the Hyundai Tucson, a GR version of the Toyota RAV4, nor is there a Honda CR-V Type R.

Up front are LED matrix headlights. (image credit: Tom White) Up front are LED matrix headlights. (image credit: Tom White)

In fact, to get close to this Tiguan’s level of performance, you have to look to cars like the BMW X3 M40i (from $115,471), Mercedes-Benz GLC 43 (From $123,324) or even within the VW Group, to the Audi SQ5 (From $110,400) or Porsche Macan (From $84,000).

This leaves the Skoda Kodiaq RS as the closest you can get to the VW in the more mainstream sphere, and even then, the larger seven-seat Skoda costs a whopping $74,990 for less power and torque.

The 9.1-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tom White) The 9.1-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tom White)

Not a bad niche for VW to create, then. A lot of your money goes into the Tiguan R’s running gear, which we’ll look at later, but standard gear is as high as you’d expect, too.

Standard stuff includes a bespoke body kit complemented by enormous 21-inch alloy wheels, LED matrix headlights, keyless entry with push-start ignition, a 9.1-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but no wireless charger), and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, tri-zone climate control, full Nappa leather interior trim, interior ambient lighting, a sport brake package, puddle lamps, a heated steering wheel and electric adjust for the front two occupants.

There's a heated steering wheel. (image credit: Tom White) There's a heated steering wheel. (image credit: Tom White)

Missing from the standard list is a Harmon Kardon premium audio system which was to be standard, but due to production constraints was put on the options list instead, at $1000, while a panoramic sunroof costs $2000.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Tiguan range recently underwent a major facelift, which brought a mild but tasteful overhaul inside and out. The R takes it one step further with enormous wheels, bespoke bumpers with contrast black cladding, a squared-off rear spoiler, and of course the signature R quad exhaust, but even still, I think more could have been done.

The 21-inch wheels house sport brakes. (image credit: Tom White) The 21-inch wheels house sport brakes. (image credit: Tom White)

From many angles I think the full fat R plays it far too safe. Where are the big air dams? Ventilation to assist airflow? A bit more of a stanced out rear wing? It looks almost more premium than sporty with highlight choices including chrome windowsills and silver mirror coverings. As a result, to me at least, it’s a bit too close to the R Line which sits below it.

The Tiguan R measures in at 4520mm long. (image credit: Tom White) The Tiguan R measures in at 4520mm long. (image credit: Tom White)

I suppose there’s a logic here to play it safe and keep even the R as a bit of a ‘sleeper’ which won’t attract disapproving stares at school drop-off.

Inside is much the same. It keeps the nice cabin feel of the rest of the Tiguan range, while upgrading the seat trim to Nappa leather with a few blue-tinged R-themed highlights. Again, I feel like more could have been done. The seats aren’t as bucket-like as they are in the Golf R and the expanse of dash, although nicely finished, has always been a bit plain in the Tiguan void of eye-grabbing patterns or shapes.

Still, the cabin has been catapulted into the digital era courtesy of its large screens and now fully touch-based instrument controls.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Put simply, the Tiguan is one of the most practical SUVs in the segment. The cabin is simply huge no matter where you sit, with the paired back design elements inside leaving plenty of space for knees, elbows, and arms. Even headroom is superb in the front and back seats with the sunroof option in place.

Up front there’s a huge bottle holder and bin in the door, a big cutaway in the centre console with flip-out bottle holders, and a small bay under the climate unit. It fits a phone perfectly which makes it a bit of a shame there’s no wireless charger here. Your connectivity options include two USB-C ports and a 12V outlet, so make sure to bring a converter if you're still on the USB-A train.

The Tiguan R interior has a nice cabin feel. (image credit: Tom White) The Tiguan R interior has a nice cabin feel. (image credit: Tom White)

Further up the dash you’ll find the touch-operated climate panel. It’s upsetting to not have a simple dial to reach for here for when you’re concentrating on the road, but as far as touch interfaces go, this one is pretty good with big, obvious touch zones and plenty of single-press shortcut functions.

The multimedia screen suffers the same plight, with no simple volume or tuning knobs, only touch shortcut panels on one side. The screen is also nice and crisp with high-resolution hardware, but this also creates a small issue as some touch elements on phone mirroring software become very small and hard to jab while you’re trying to drive.

The back seat offers plenty of room behind my own seating position. (image credit: Tom White) The back seat offers plenty of room behind my own seating position. (image credit: Tom White)

The back seat offers plenty of room behind my own (182cm) seating position, and again, huge bottle holders in the doors and three more of varying sizes in the drop-down armrest. The second row is on rails, even in the R, so boot space can be boosted or rear seat space can be prioritized depending on your needs. There are also several pockets on the backs of the front seats in varying sizes, as well as USB-C and 12V power outlets.

The rear win for rear passengers is the third climate zone with its own touch panel and directional vents and I’m impressed to find all the soft trims in the doors are maintained, too.

  • Cargo capacity is rated at 615-litres VDA. (image credit: Tom White) Cargo capacity is rated at 615-litres VDA. (image credit: Tom White)
  • The boot can comfortably our demo luggage set. (image credit: Tom White) The boot can comfortably our demo luggage set. (image credit: Tom White)

Boot volume measures in at 615-litres (VDA) which is on the upper end for the mid-size SUV space, reasonably easily consuming our three-piece CarsGuide demo luggage set with a little space to spare. There are also convenient cutaways on either side behind the wheel arches for storing smaller objects. Under the boot floor the R has no spare, just a tyre repair kit.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

Yep, the Tiguan R gets the latest version of Volkswagen’s famed EA888 four-cylinder turbocharged engine, with a bump on power outputs compared to its previous incarnations. This time around the peak figures are 235kW/400Nm, which is said to propel the over 1700kg Tiguan from 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds. With launch control mode, it feels it.

The 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder produces 235kW/400Nm. (image credit: Tom White) The 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder produces 235kW/400Nm. (image credit: Tom White)

There’s more though, power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a new version of the brand’s '4Motion' all-wheel drive system.

The new system has two clutch packs in its rear differential instead of one, allowing it to send drive to each of the rear wheels independently for better agility when cornering.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The Tiguan R has a relatively trim claimed fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km for a mid-size SUV with an angry engine. To its credit on my real-world test (track not included for obvious reasons) it achieved a decent figure of 10.1L/100km.

There's the signature R quad exhaust. (image credit: Tom White) There's the signature R quad exhaust. (image credit: Tom White)

All high-performance versions of the EA888 engine require top-shelf 98RON unleaded fuel. The Tiguan has a 58L fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Tiguan has the full gamut of available safety equipment, with active items including freeway-speed auto emergency braking, low-speed manoeuvre auto braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, driver attention alert, and a park assist function.

It also scores a tyre pressure monitoring system as well as the standard dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points, and has a total of seven airbags (the usual six plus a driver’s knee).

The Tiguan range is covered by a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but it is to the 2016 standard when the pre-facelift model was tested.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Like all VWs the Tiguan R is covered by a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the duration. It’s on par with most of its rivals in the mainstream SUV space, although more are now joining the seven-year bandwagon.

It is also notable Volkswagen does not extend its warranty to limited non-timed track use, as Hyundai has chosen to for its N-branded performance models.

On the servicing front the Tiguan is most affordable with one of the pre-paid service packs. The five-year one costs $3100 over five years, or $620 per year for the life of the warranty. Not cheap, but then it is a performance car.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

The Tiguan R is silly in all the right ways. Immediately from the get-go it sounds and feels angry, with plenty of punch from the snarling engine. It’s no secret the punchier you go with the engine option, the better Volkswagen’s dual-clutch automatic transmission is, and that's certainly the case here. The Tiguan takes off with immediacy, and snaps through the gears in an efficient and rapid manner.

Grip levels are astounding from its wide tyres and re-worked all-wheel drive system. Just driving it on the road makes it near impossible to feel the magic at play. The new rear differential system needs to get to track extremes to really be experienced. The way in which it is able to bring the Tiguan’s bulk around by sending extra drive to the outer rear wheel is truly impressive.

As a result, it is entirely possible to break the normally front-biased SUV into grin inducing slides or have it holding on for dear life in the corners as gravity does its part.

The Tiguan R starts at $68,990, before on-road costs. (image credit: Tom White) The Tiguan R starts at $68,990, before on-road costs. (image credit: Tom White)

Again, it’s mind bending to sit this high in a car which performs this well. A fact made more appealing by how under control the R is when it comes to body roll. Suspension magic indeed.

On the topic of ride, and while the R has those enormous 21-inch wheels, the ride seems no worse than it is in the R-Line. Of course, the tyres reach their limits sooner on truly deep potholes, but the level of comfort and control on most everyday corrugations and undulations is to be admired.

As with all Tiguans, visibility is superb thanks to the abundance of glass, and the steering is wonderfully weighted in any drive mode.

On the downside, this SUV which weighs in some 200 kilos more than its Golf hatch relation is never going to be as fast as it doesn’t get a corresponding boost in power, but on my judgement it’s at least 80 per cent as much fun, so there’s that.

It doesn’t feel truly crazy, with boatloads of control on offer, and it doesn’t quite have the presence or reach the performance heights of the 2.9-litre V6 versions of the Porsche Macan, but it finds its place in a largely dull mainstream SUV segment.

Verdict

The Tiguan R brings a boatload of fun to an otherwise tame mid-size SUV segment, and I love it for that.

In a lot of ways there’s nothing unexpected here – it really is just a Golf R shoehorned into a larger and more family-friendly package. If anything, I think it plays it safe when it comes to the styling and interior treatment.

Still, there is no cheaper way to get these kind of SUV thrills, so big points to Volkswagen for getting ahead of the competition and doing it so well.

Pricing guides

$54,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$40,990
Highest Price
$68,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
110TSI Life 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP $41,490 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan 2022 110TSI Life Pricing and Specs
132TSI Life 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $45,490 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan 2022 132TSI Life Pricing and Specs
147TDI Elegance 2.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $54,490 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan 2022 147TDI Elegance Pricing and Specs
147TDI R-Line 2.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $57,490 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan 2022 147TDI R-Line Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality9
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving9
Tom White
Journalist

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