DENVER — Right up front, Volkswagen’s chief product spokesman told us that the company must regain the trust of consumers and rebuild the brand in the wake of its diesel engine cheating scandal. It was no muss, no fuss and no beating around the bush.
The same mantra can be applied to the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan that he gave a presentation about. It was the second-generation Tiguan and the improvements were straightforward and two really lift the bar for competitors.
Remember, the Tiguan goes to market as a compact SUV, yet it can be equipped with three rows of seats. The new version is 10.6 inches longer and has up to 58 percent more cargo space. Third row seating is standard on front-wheel-drive models and optional on the all-wheel-drive models.
The Tiguan has four trim lines: the S, the SE, the SEL and the SEL Premium. All can be equipped with all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive.
They upgraded or as VW said they updated the Tiguan’s engine too. It is still a 2.0-liter directed injected turbocharged four-cylinder. But increased air flow and a lengthened combustion chamber without actually lengthening the combustion chamber lowered fuel consumption while increasing torque.
The engine made 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volkswagen said mileage for the front-wheel-drive Tiguan rose to 22 mpg in city driving, 27 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined. For all-wheel-drive models, mileage rose to 21 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined.
A new modular read flexible platform, dubbed the MQB, or Modular Transverse Matrix, made the Tiguan wider and lower than the model it replaced. But the new model did not look squat. A row of Tiguan SUVs sitting in front of the hotel here looked contemporarily styled, they did not look like oversized sport utilities and their lines were clean.
All the trim lines were represented. Wheels ranged in size from 17 to 20 inches and come with different designs. Some models had panoramic roofs and some did not. There were front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. They all had LED daytime running lights and some had LED headlights.
On the all-wheel-drive models, front-wheel-drive is the default setting. But not only can torque be sent from front to back as needed, it can also be directed side-to-side.
There was a no-nonsense look to the Tiguan. Lines were straight, creases were sharp, the grilles were relatively slender and horizontal and there weren’t any severe curves in the sheet metal. Much like the product presentation, the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan was straight to the point. The vehicle looked good. And it was practical.
It had a 26-degree approach angel for all-wheel-drive models, a 23-degree departure angle and 7.9 inches of ground clearance; all indications of its off road capability. The roof rails could hold a maximum of 200 lbs. and it could tow up to 1,500 lbs.
We ended up in a front-wheel-drive 2018 Tiguan SE with a Panoramic Sunroof. It was grey inside and out. Pricing information said it was $30,280 but it was unclear whether that included the $900 freight charge.
The drive route took us through the city streets here. The Tiguan did not dwarf other vehicles on the road. Its traffic manners were acceptable. Sight lines were good, it was not so big as to creep over lane lines, setting off the alert and acceleration from traffic lights was pretty good.
From the passenger seat, there was not much road noise, wind noise at street speeds was non-existent and importantly the engine was not working hard. Before we forget, the stop-go system was smooth and it restarted the engine quietly.
The Mile High City is a slogan but it is also fact, the elevation here is 5,280 ft. And we think Volkswagen’s selection of this city was significant. They never said so but the elevation showcased the 2018 Tiguan’s power, particularly the low end torque of the “updated” four cylinder engine.
We made it to Baseline Road and then to Flagstaff Road and on to Gross Dam (gravel) Road. It was all up. These were two lane aggregate surfaced streets that were comprised of tight turns, switchbacks and breathtaking views that would make you gulp for air literally and figuratively.
It was here that we had the chance to take some notes on the 2018 Tiguan’s interior. Like everything about the new Tiguan, it was straightforward; the infotainment screen was flush with the dashboard mimicking a smart phone or iPad.
The climate controls were under the info screen housing, the face of the dash was soft touch and two large circular instruments with a TFT screen between them were in front of the driver. There were control buttons along each side of the gear shift template in the center console. But at this elevation it wasn’t wise to take our eyes off the road for too long. This is where we could hear when the engine started working harder.
From there, the route got rougher, literally. We turned onto a gravel road, Gross Dam, where the turns were even sharper, there was less grip because it was all gravel and sometimes the surface was so undulating that it mimicked that of a washboard.
There wasn’t any twisting in the chassis, steering was accurate, the brakes were good and the engine worked even harder but it wasn’t straining. This was the most difficult part of the route. The Tiguan got up and over sharp hills, around switchbacks and its braking on steep declines happened without causing any alarms.
However, this road was where we wished we had been able to get an all-wheel-drive Tiguan for a better feel of the back end. There were a couple of places where we heard a ticking in the engine, like an old diesel, and earlier in the drive the engine ran a little rough. We attributed it to the engine having not warmed up yet. Also, these vehicles were early production models since at the time of the drive; the 2018 Tiguan would not go one sale for two-months or in mid-summer.
And we both thought that Volkswagen didn’t have to do this: layout such a challenging drive route for the 2018 Tiguan. But that’s what you do when rebuilding the brand. The eight-speed transmission was solid and sure, it never hunted for a gear once and there was plenty of opportunity for missed shifts during this drive.
The front-wheel-drive Volkswagen Tiguan S trim line starts at $26,245, for the SE it is $29,980, the SEL starts at $33,450, and the SEL Premium starts at $37,150. For the all-wheel-drive trim line the numbers are $27,545 for the S, $31,280 for the SE, $34,750 for the SEL and $38,450 for the SEL Premium. All prices include the $900 freight charge.
There were creature and safety comforts galore including satellite radio, a backup camera, cross traffic alert, an overview camera system, lane keep alert, lane keep, voice controls, blind side alert and more depending on the trim line of the Tiguan.
Our test vehicle did not have a navigation system but we plugged in our iPhone, got into CarPlay, clicked on our Google Maps and bam, we were able to see where we were and where we were going as well as get directions if we needed them.
The Tiguan had plenty of equipment but a couple of things stuck out. There was an eight-inch capacitive touch screen. The radio had knobs for volume and tuning. There was an available premium audio system and the adaptive cruise control system had a stop- go function. It would stop if the vehicle in front stopped and it would go if the vehicle resumed forward movement within three-seconds.
Power stats were based on regular gasoline, the second row seats slid forward seven-inches and the backs would tilt. With all the jostling on the unpaved part of the route, the seats were comfortable and when got out we didn’t feel beat up. The ergonomics were really good. By the way, we were at more 8,000 ft.
But what really caught our attention was the six-year/ 72,000 mile warranty on powertrain components—including the engine, transmission and the optional all-wheel-drive system. Volkswagen didn’t say so but that is a new and more salient but silent definition of “German Engineering.” And it is how you either build or rebuild a brand; by putting your money where your mouth is. The 2018 Tiguan is the second Volkswagen to market with this warranty.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.