► Tiguan R joins performance lineup
► 316bhp 2.0-litre provides plenty of power
► Joins Touareg and T-Roc in the R range
The UK’s R number is increasing. Not coronavirus infections, but high-performance Volkswagens. Topical. In fact, it’s 300% higher than it was a couple of years ago, and only increasing.
Wearing a mask and washing your hands is unlikely to stop Volkswagen from expanding its performance range, but that’s no bad thing. Though you can’t buy a Golf R any more, the letter’s now been applied to the Touareg and T-Roc SUVs, and it’ll be coming to the new Arteon fastback and shooting brake range too.
And now the facelifted Tiguan has had the same treatment. VW’s mid-sized family SUV has never been especially exciting, even in its most potent forms - but this is the first time a true performance variant has been available. Is it any good?
What are the mechanicals?
The Tiguan R uses the same powertrain as the forthcoming Arteon R. Under the bonnet is VW’s latest 2.0-litre turbo powertrain, here making 316bhp and 310lb ft. It’s suitably rapid - 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
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The transmission’s more interesting. Power is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed DSG auto, with up to 50 per cent heading towards the rear axle. But VW’s ditched the Haldex setup it used previously in favour of a new torque vectoring rear differential capable of splitting drive between the rear wheels via a pair of clutches.
It’s at its most aggressive in Sport or R modes, naturally, and monitors yaw rate and steering angle as well as accelerator position to determine how much power to send where.
What’s it like?
The Tiguan’s R character depends very much on which of its three driving modes you opt for. ‘Sport’ is the default, and thus it should remain - flip into ‘Comfort’ and though the ride is undeniably relaxed the gearbox shifts into an ‘Eco’ mode which saps any enjoyment whatsoever and makes the Tiguan R feel lethargic.
Keep the gearbox in ‘D’ in Sport mode and you’ll enjoy acceleration when you need it but a gearbox that’s more than happy to cruise in a high gear.
Driving modes can now be selected from a button on the steering wheel, and if you hold down the ‘R’ button you’ll immediately be put into the most aggressive of the Tiguan’s driving modes.
It’s here you’ll feel the effect of that new rear diff best. The system’s able to send 100% of rear torque to the outside wheel when you’re cornering hard, leading to cornering ability unthinkable in the standard car. It turns in sharply and barely understeers, while the steering is light and pinpoint accurate.
Despite the lowered ride height, 21-inch wheels and firmer dampers, the Tiguan R still rides well, too - comfort levels are more than high enough for this weapon to be used on a daily basis.
Here come the usual moans - it’s not as poised as a smaller, lighter hatchback would be with the same system. It rolls more and leans on its traction control to stop things getting out of hand. It’s rapid, but not especially playful - but that’s been a hallmark of VW R models since the beginning.
Any other tweaks?
An optional Akrapovic exhaust is available. Save it if you don’t want to be antisocial, but you shouldn’t panic too much either as a great deal of the noise in the cabin is artificial. The real thing does sound good, though.
Other improvements are the same as you’ll find across the facelifted Tiguan range - a new infotainment screen that works brilliantly, a touch-sensitive climate control panel and steering wheel that do not. Sorry, VW - physical buttons are easier to use on the move, and all the haptic feedback in the world won’t convince us otherwise.
The basic Tiguan platform remains the same. That means plenty of space - four adults can stretch out in comfort, five at a push, with a 615-litre boot that’ll fit all the flat-pack furniture your heart desires.
The front seats are new, though. They’re single-piece Alcantara and fabric affairs printed in a particularly fetching blue check. Supportive and supremely comfortable, fingers crossed they’ll appear on future VW R products.
Maybe the Tiguan’s been too long coming, but it’s been given enough thought and executed with the sort of German precision that makes us happy to have waited this long. No, it’s not as good as a hatchback would be - but as SUVs go it’s a cracker, and on the evidence of our first drive it looks set to seriously challenge the Cupra Ateca, Audi SQ2 and Mercedes-AMG GLA 35.
Prices haven’t been announced yet, but do look likely to approach the £45,000 mark - though VW’s finance packages are usually numerous and generous. If you’re one of many who feel a performance SUV is right for them, give this a serious look.