► Updated Tiguan SUV revealed
► Torque-vectoring, 319bhp R confirmed
► Sensible 243bhp eHybrid PHEV, too
What is 'the people's car'? Volkswagen says that, in 2020, it's the Tiguan; in 2019 alone, move than 900,000 were built, making it the best-selling car in the entire VW Group. So any update, any change to the formula is a critical moment.
A thoroughly revised Tiguan for 2021 reflects that; the first official pictures show a front-end that brings the SUV closer to the rest of the VW family, and tidied up bumpers and trim to keep it fresh from all angles, and a migration to the new brand design and bold badging that's in-vogue for so many marques now.
It isn't just the exterior that's been cleaned up. As you might expect, the powertrains mostly focus on emissions and cleaner motoring, from dual-AdBlue systems (twin-SCR) for reduced NOx to a full plug in hybrid model (the eHybrid, breaking the GTE nomenclature of other VWs, but retaining a GTE mode).
Hot new Tiguan R, for fast families
There's one powertrain that's new to the Tiguan and not focused on fuel-saving first, and it's in the all-wheel drive, torque-vectoring, cross-country racing R. That's not to say it isn't green - efficiency is crucial for getting 319bhp from the revised 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder - but there's a Race mode, rather than a prominent Eco one.
Visually, the Tiguan R goes further than the R-line 'sports' appearance package, with 21-inch 'Estoril' alloy wheels, R-specific bumpers and arch extensions, and a rear diffuser. Upgraded dynamic chassis control (DCC) adaptive suspension places it 10mm closer to the ground, with more powerful brakes, featuring 18-inch discs (barely) concealed by the immense wheels providing stopping power to match the expected performance.
Across all version of the Tiguan, the refreshed interior reflects a greater focus on in-car technology and driver assistance, though it's not quite as dramatic as the Innovision cockpit or the Golf 8.0's dominant dual-display setup. More processing power and connectivity for the latest 'MIB3' infotainment system translate into over-the-air software updates, voice control and direct music streaming services for the driver. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.
Modernising the Tiguan further, the control surfaces are now touch panels instead of hardware buttons, some offering multiple functions; the same ability is reflected in the new optional steering wheel controls.
Striking a balance between touch-screen modernity and common-sense, though, the climate control panel is still a separate entity - just touch sensitive, rather than poke-sensitive. All-new Golf-style controls have been mapped across an older generation of interior, and it remains to be seen how effective this will be.
There's a lot more going on underneath the reassuringly functional dashboard design; upgraded driver assistance and autonomy, with a touch-sensitive steering wheel for driver detection, and upgraded LED matrix lighting. The latter includes scrolling indicators front and rear, 'greeting' animations and dynamic illumination of the road ahead. It even has illuminated USB-C ports.
VW claims the upgraded Travel Assist includes better 'soft' verge detection, making the lane keeping more useful in rural environments - complementing the predictive adaptive cruise control which uses GPS and road signs to adapt to bends, roundabouts and junctions. Improved pedestrian awareness for the autonomous emergency braking adds to the safety features when using the semi-automous modes.
So, there's an R for those who want to drive, and for everyone else the Tiguan will do more of the driving for you.
Practical performance: Tiguan eHybrid
The Tiguan plug-in uses the proven combination of 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and 13kWh battery pack, offering up to 31 miles of zero-emission electric range. The combination isn't exactly low-power, either - it develops around 243bhp, but reflecting the desire to reduce local emissions starts in E-Mode when fully charged.
While speaking at a digital presentation over VW’s PHEV plans, Dr. Kai Philipp – the brand’s project manager for electrified powertrains – told us that ‘surveys with Volkswagen customers have shown that a total electric range from 50 to 70 km (31-43 miles) fits the need of our customers.’
It also fits the current benchmark for plug-in cars to save a meaningful amount through the UK's benefit-in-kind taxation system, so that's convenient...
Why not use the newer, 1.5-litre TSI EVO engine with cylinder deactivation tech? Philipp explained that the 1.4 TSI has been specifically designed to be part of a PHEV.
That PHEV rollout also includes a Golf ‘eHybrid’ for continental Europe, and an Arteon PHEV – both in four-door coupe and shooting brake estate shapes.
Traditional power: petrol and diesel options
As VW's best-seller, it makes sense to cover the most bases with the powertrain, particularly as this is a 'world-car' that is offered - and produced in - a wide variety of territories. For Europe and the UK, you can expect a relatively narrow range of engines, optional 4Motion all-wheel-drive, and competitive pricing somewhere between Seat and Audi's five-seater SUVs.
TDI engines benefit from 'twin-dosing' SCR (AdBlue) for lower NOx emissions.
There are four trim levels - Tiguan, Life, Elegance and R-Line; all feature LED lighting, autonomous emergency braking and a minimum of 6.5-inch infotainment, with features such as adaptive cruise control, roof rails, climate control joining the specification on Life.
Higher-end models get larger infotainment, a 10-inch digital instrument display and additional convenience features. Advanced IQ features - such as the LED matrix headlights - are reserved for the highest specifications, though that may vary with the option packages offered in the UK.
One option that is confirmed is a 480W Harman/Kardon sound system.
Is the Tiguan R the most-sensible VW Group performance SUV?
It looks like the Tiguan R may be relatively formulaic, rather than something truly outstanding - though we'll reserve judgement until we've driven it and uncovered the effectiveness of the torque vectoring system.
Mules of a five-cylinder petrol version seen hooning around the Nurburgring appear to have been abandoned in favour of an identikit 'R' package shared with the new Arteon and Golf 8.0, and it's likely to feature in an upgraded Cupra Ateca as well.
We think Audi may have not liked the idea of no longer having a monopoly on making fast cars warble within the Group.
The eHybrid and R models do hint at the possibility of up to 402bhp from an 'R Plus' - though that remains a rumour for the Golf, and just conjecture on our part for the Tiguan.
When is the new Tiguan due to go on sale?
The new Tiguan range is expected to be available before the end of the year. with orders possible from around September.
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