Volkswagen’s styling refresh of the Tiguan last year didn’t elicit a jaw-dropping “wow” from anyone. Some probably didn’t even notice the broader grille and front bumper.
But the tweaks brought a fresher look for the Tiguan SEL R-Line, with a nod to bright new LED lights in front and rear, and redesigned alloy wheels. Flashier updates can also be found in the cabin, which now has a digital gauge display, flat-bottom steering wheel and racy pedals with aluminum inlays.
Small families benefit from great rear-seat legroom, cargo space and the option of a third-row — not found among the segment leaders. But take note: The third row is for small children only, and only available in models without all-wheel-drive.
Now don’t be fooled by the racy R-Line tag (R stands for racing-inspired) and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The five-passenger Tig is more about a comfortable, competent ride than sneaking in a fun run after you drop the kids at band practice.
Every Tiguan gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that rounds up 184 horses of power and 221 pound-feet of torque. Attached to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the run (er, casual jog) to 60 mph is a lackadaisical
9.2 seconds. But it has enough low-range pep for errands around town.
A softer suspension setup (struts in front, multilink in rear) translates to a poised highway cruiser, and it’s an adequate handler despite a fair amount of body lean on corners. Steering is light and responsive, which improves maneuvering in tight spaces, but this nifty Vee-Dubya also has a self-parking system for parallel and perpendicular spaces.
The R-Line has selectable drive modes for on-road travel, including Normal, Sport, Eco and Custom. Sport adjusts the throttle and shift points but not enough to really liven up the drive. There are no paddle shifters, but manual shifting is available at the shifter.
Not that anyone will venture into jagged territory, but it also includes Off-Road, Off-Road Custom and Snow modes. They are complemented by special screens to monitor off-road angles, risk and performance.
Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate tow capacity of as much as 1,500 pounds, enough for a motorcycle, personal watercraft or snowmobile. Under normal conditions, EPA estimates say expect around 28 mpg on the highway, 21 around town, for a combined average of 24 mpg.
Inside, leather upholstery is now available in three shades: black, gray and a new light brown called Noisette. Door panels are two-tone and cup holders on the doors are felt-lined; a nice touch, though there are cheaper plastics elsewhere. Faux wood accents look good enough to avoid questions.
Front seats are heated/ventilated (all Tigs get heated seats now), are supportive and fully power adjustable. A smallish center console is situated too far back, unfortunately, to be used comfortably as an arm rest.
Rear seats are roomy, recline a bit, and slide as much as six inches for more legroom or to expand cargo space. Speaking of which, cargo space is super tight (12 cubic feet) with the third row in use. Otherwise, there’s a decent 37.6 cubic feet behind the second row. Fold the second row and it grows to 73.4 cubes, about average for the segment.
The driver gets a new steering wheel with touch-slider controls and a 10.3-inch reconfigurable, high-resolution digital instrument display. Borrowed from VW’s flagship Arteon,
the package includes maps and data as well as typical gauges.
The latest version of Volkswagen’s MIB3 infotainment system has bright and crisp graphics, but there’s a learning curve. It does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can enjoy your own apps and music. And an available Fender audio system can blare 480 watts of sound across nine speakers.
A panoramic sunroof brightens the five-seat cabin during the day, while ambient lighting (15 colors to choose from) adds mood when the sun goes down.
Safety features include blind spot monitors, forward collision alert and automatic braking. Optional are adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
A major redesign in 2018 launched the Tiguan as a serious competitor in the compact-crossover segment; The latest style tweaks and tech upgrades prove the Tig plans to keep pace with its foes.
Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald
What’s all the excitement about? Styling updates and a 10.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster in the cabin.
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbo four with 184 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque, mated to 8-speed automatic transmission
How’s the performance? Sluggish off the line but a competent handler and highway driver
Fuel economy: EPA estimates 28 mpg highway, 21 city, for a combined 24 mpg