Words by Aninda Sardar
Photography by Rohit G Mane
There’s no better way to start a weekend than with a road trip. And the thing with road trips is the better the vehicle the more you enjoy. This time around our road trip took us from India’s IT capital, Bangalore, to the heart of India’s coffee region, Chickmagalur. And what we drove on this wonderful road trip was Volkswagen’s all new SUV, the Tiguan.
What is it?
This is the third generation of the Tiguan, even though this is the first Tiguan that Indians will see. The first one was in 2007 with the second generation of the SUV following five years later. Exactly half a decade after the second generation, pat comes the third generation of the Tiguan. Do you see a pattern develop? I wonder. This is also the first vehicle from VW’s famed MQB platform to come to India. It is an SUV that VW will be pitting against the likes of the BMW X1, the Audi Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Be that as it may, we reckon that the vehicle will actually end up being compared to the likes of the Hyundai Tucson.
Dimensionally, it’s a tad larger than the Hyundai SUV, with an overall length of 4486mm, a width of 1839mm and a height of 1672mm. Even the wheelbase is larger at 2677mm. Visually, though this extra bulk is not so apparent. It comes across as a somewhat understated and classy but elegant SUV that you’d like to have in your garage. It doesn’t seem to have the stylish flair of the Korean but we suspect that it is the VW that will age more gracefully and remain pleasing to the eye long after competitors begin to look dated.
On the inside, the range-topping Highline version we drove feels plush and premium even though the use of beige leather or dual tone would probably have offered a better perception of the cabin’s roominess. The seats are nice and comfortable and provide decent all round support, even over long distances as we found out on the drive from Bangalore to Chickmagalur.
The Tiguan is also well endowed with creature comforts that buyers in that segment are likely to look for. To that effect, there’s a large and responsive touchscreen, cruise control, ambient lighting and a panoramic sunroof. What is missing though is a sat-nav unit. You can of course pair your mobile phone with the system and cast your Google maps screen on the infotainment screen but the absence of an integral sat-nav feels like an odd omission.
The heart of the Tiguan
There is only one powertrain option for the Tiguan. It gets VW’s 2.0 TDI turbo diesel mated to the brilliant seven-speed DSG. Power is sent to all four wheels via an intelligent AWD system. Peak power is rated at 141bhp with max torque being 340Nm, which are more than enough for this near 1.8-tonne five-seater SUV. The engine does suffer from a fair amount of turbo lag though and there is a rush of power that comes in once you’re past 1700 revs. As is the norm these days, and in keeping with its SUV nature, the Tiguan gets four driving modes. Frankly, we didn’t get to test any of them except the Road mode since we didn’t really have access to any of the other terrain.
The transmission continues to be a star and sifts through the cogs with a dexterity that is yet to be matched by any other automatic transmission in its class. And then, things become better as you pull the selector lever down to engage Sport mode. In Sport, the Tiguan holds its revs for longer and pulls harder in each gear before shifting up, making for sprightly acceleration. It cuts through the wind quite well too and we could easily manage to get up to an indicated 170kmph without effort. The only downside is that you can hear the sound of the engine filtering into the cabin a bit more than it should.
Fun to drive…
For its size, the Tiguan is surprisingly agile. It’s a tall vehicle, so it comes with some body roll but nothing that’s unsettling. Driving on the narrow twists and turns around Chickmagalur the Tiguan didn’t feel like a big SUV. The butch SUV manages to shrink itself from the driver’s point of view, which feels nice. Quick changes of directions on the few switchbacks are easily taken care of and out on the straights of the four-lane highway to Bangalore, she feels rock stable. There is only the slightest hint of understeer when you’re pushing it beyond 130kmph on a sweeper.
Suspension set up is very nice and provides an optimum balance between able dynamics and a pliant ride quality. The steering, though mildly lacking in tactile feedback, is light and easy to use even when filtering through crazy small town traffic en route to Chickmagalur.
Value for money
Here’s the trick bit. There’s no doubt that as a product the Tiguan is convincing and is certainly a cut above its peers when it comes to the critical aspect of being able to deliver equally on driving pleasure, passenger comfort and practicality. So, on the face of it the Tiguan offers a great deal of value. Unfortunately, the Tiguan’s target audience lives in a spectrum. At one end is the X1 or Q3 customer who has the option of buying a more premium even if less practical vehicle. At the other end is the Tucson consumer who has access to as much practicality as the Tiguan if not more (perhaps not as much driving pleasure). VW’s task would be to convince one set, namely the BMW and Audi customer, on the value for money count while the other set will have to be convinced that VW offers a more premium proposition than the Hyundais of the world. The company’s pricing strategy – the Tiguan Highline is priced at over Rs 31 lakh, ex-showroom in Delhi, which puts the SUV smack in the centre of the spectrum, certainly seems to indicate such a thought process. So, is it a hit or a miss then? As a product there is no doubt it’s a hit. As a purchase proposition? Well, that would depend entirely on whether the man who walks into the showroom is willing to be convinced.