► Range-topping R-Line turns up Tiguan aggression
► Lowered sports suspension poses posterior threat
► Tested as base diesel auto – with added all-wheel drive
Upon our last encounter with the newly introduced, second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, race-winning James Taylor suggested it had about as much character as a filing cabinet. Does the range-topping R-Line trim level fare any better – or are the big wheels and body kit a poor attempt at compensation for a continuing lack of personality?
R-Line – that’s VW’s equivalent of Audi’s S line, right?
Pretty much. It aims to borrow a bit of second-hand glamour from the likes of the Golf R without actually offering anything much in the way of genuine performance enhancement.
In the case of the Tiguan, you get all the purposeful-looking excitement of a deeper front bumper with larger air vents, body-coloured sideskirts, a bigger rear bumper and black, cladding-style wheel arch extensions – necessary to accommodate the standard 20-inch alloy wheels. But in the case of this Tiguan, you get them in combination with a 2.0-litre TDI with just 148bhp – and what feels like barely enough gumption to get out of its own way.
So there are no performance enhancements at all for the Tiguan R-Line?
Ok, ok – R-Line does include lowered sports suspension, which lowers the ride height by ‘approximately’ 15mm. But the inclusion of this means you can’t option the £790 adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control that gives you a choice between firm and comfy settings elsewhere in the range. If you go R-Line, you go hard or you go home. Or something.
Switching off the cynicism for a moment, you can absolutely understand the attraction of this machine from a visual perspective. Finished in no-cost Pure White, with the reduced ride and lowering effect of the side skirts and bumpers, it has a chunky, Tonka Toy appearance that shortens the Tiguan’s profile and does wonders for the rather uninspiring styling of the standard car.
The R-Line motif on the seats helpfully reminds you of this from the inside.
It does look good – but is it anything more than a nerd with a punk haircut?
Ah, the actual personality issue. One notable development is that in spite of the 20-inch rims and the sports suspension, it still manages to avoid riding like a tea tray down a set of wooden stairs.
It is a little firmer than the already quite firm standard car, but accosted by potholes or cat’s eyes it huffs a bit rather than throwing an absolute strop, and not even nasty concrete surfaces really set it jiggling. Since it also shrugs off roundabout-exit camber changes while the chopped ride height reduces roll through the corners, it proves an able, generally unflappable way to rapidly cover ground. Impressive, though not liable to really get under your skin.
This dynamic dexterity – which includes a reassuringly meaty set of brakes – is particularly handy when you’ve only got the 148bhp engine under the bonnet.
Why’s that then?
This is the entry-level R-Line diesel, and although it’s got a not-insignificant 251lb ft of torque available 1750-3000rpm, with all-wheel drive and the optional seven-speed DSG transmission the kerb weight totals a surprisingly hefty 1846kg. Leaving you with a Tiguan that’s best driven in a manner that keeps the momentum up. The pricier 187bhp/295lb ft 2.0 TDI alternative should solve this problem, as will the forthcoming 237bhp twin-turbo version.
The 4motion all-wheel-drive system largely feels like an unnecessary luxury here – it certainly aids standing-start traction, but the engine calibration is such that you’re often left waiting a beat or two while the four-pot seems to gather its breath at this point, so it’s not as if you’re in a position to make the most of this. And surely no one is going off-roading on those rims. There’s a standard XDS electronic differential lock on the front axle, anyway.
The DSG adds automatic convenience, and proves smooth and snappy enough without being outstanding in either area. Engine refinement is similarly average.
Is the Tiguan still a filing cabinet on the inside?
It’s all very nicely coordinated in its shades of grey, but basically, yes. Still, the fancy digital instrument cluster is standard on R-Line (and SEL) models, and there’s an extensive amount of standard equipment – including slightly more exotic items such as trailer stabilisation, three-zone climate control, pyro-active bonnet for pedestrian protection, and infotainment units that speak both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as VW’s own Car-Net app language.
It’s spacious, too, with a sliding-tilting rear seat that can trade legroom for up to 615 litres of boot capacity before you have to fold those rear chairs flat (at which point up to 1655 litres is available). Shame the front seats aren’t that comfortable over long journeys – despite the promise of a new ‘second-generation’ seat structure. Our bums are clearly Mk1s…
It’s still desperately seeking something akin to genuine charisma, but in R-Line guise the new Tiguan does at least make buyers look like they’ve made a choice, rather than simply following the crowd into plain vanilla VW SUV ownership. And, currently, some 30% of all Tiguan customers are choosing to augment their practical, pragmatic choice of transport with this punkier appearance – despite a £2.5k premium over the next-best SEL model.
In this instance we’d trade the cost of the flashy visuals for a punchier engine – but if you can afford both it’s surely the way to go.
Read more Volkswagen reviews