At first glance, you’re forgiven for mistaking Volkswagen’s Tiguan R as the more mild-mannered and eminently popular family SUV from which it’s derived. Hit the accelerator though and you soon realise not all is as it seems.
Here’s a ‘quiz night’ trivia question for you – what’s the world’s most popular Volkswagen? Historically, you might be thinking ‘Beetle’ or even Golf, but in contemporary times, the Tiguan SUV is actually the German carmaker’s top seller by far.
And, offering an attractive blend of European styling, build quality with ample every-day practicality for the family, that makes perfect sense. But how do you make a much-loved SUV even better? Well, Volkswagen have the answer for that too and have just given their most popular vehicle the R treatment.
20 years on from the debut of the Golf R, Volkswagen has expanded its ‘R’ performance portfolio bringing an entire range of dynamic driver focused models – all sporting that iconic letter – to the kiwi market. The Tiguan R is certainly one we’ve been eager to try out locally.
And good reason behind our anticipation for the Tiguan R is it’s now the most powerful Tiguan ever produced. With the same turbocharged 2.0-litre tsi engine in the Golf R, the Tiguan delivers 235kw peak power, to put that in context, that’s 73kw more power than the Tiguan tsi R-line all wheel drive which itself is now slouch.
The Tiguan R also delivers more torque, 400nm in fact and you can feel every bit of that from the first moment you press the accelerator. The 0-100km/h sprint can is achieved in just 5.1 second, remarkably for a vehicle of the Tiguan’s family wagon proportions, that’s only 0.3 seconds longer than the Golf R. Top speed is governed to 250km/h.
Using the popular Tiguan range as its base, the ‘R’ model delivers all manner of impressive onboard comfort and convenience features. The vehicle’s Discover Pro System is equipped with aspects like a 9.2” colour touchscreen, 2x UBS-C ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and built-in Satellite Navigation with turn-by-turn route guidance. While the 10.25” Active Info Display in your instrument binnacle showcases your rev counter, vehicle status and full navigation view. It’s a very intuitive and modern environment that’s easy to use without distraction.
Of course, it’s all topped off with signature ‘R’ design elements too like extra detailed performance gauges and blue stitched elements in the premium nappa leather upholstery covering very comfortable sports seats.
Outside, Volkswagen’s impressive IQ matrix led headlights illuminate the road ahead and the Tiguan R features the same advanced safety systems you’d expect from any current generation Volkswagen. This includes modern day technology such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control with travel assist and lane keep, as well as trailer stabilisation technology to keep you on the straight and narrow when you’re towing.
And speaking of towing, the Tiguan R is set up to be a great companion for active Kiwi’s, the car’s stronger performance enables a hefty maximum braked towing capacity of 2,200kg, this is one serious lifestyle weapon.
Presumably you wouldn’t try to set any acceleration records while towing the family boat, but it’s proof positive Volkswagen aren’t just paying lip service to the legend of the ‘R’ badge, the Tiguan R is engineered to impress.
As you’d expect, the Tiguan R features Volkswagen’s 4motion all-wheel-drive system, pushing power through all four wheels and ensuring better grip on even the slipperiest winter roads or indeed on the rutty gravel trails we tested it on.
The Tiguan R’s ability to get up and go when it counts is also helped along by Volkswagen’s 7-speed DSG gearbox with launch control. That’s right. This family-friendly SUV features traditionally track-focused tech like launch control.
There is more performance tech onboard, lifted straight from the Golf R hot hatch too. Most notably is R performance torque vectoring which is part of the 4motion all-wheel-drive system
This technology distributes drive not just between the front and rear axles, but also variably between the two rear wheels so, essentially it is delivering 100% of the available torque to the wheel on the outside of the bend – delivering maximum stability under extreme performance conditions. Or just on that windy backroad to the bach.
You don’t have to be the driving enthusiast in the family to benefit from this either, the added control in wet conditions is impressive, delivering a tenacious feel on the road that’s reassuring for anyone behind the wheel.
Further engineering adjustments included in the performance focused Tiguan R include 10mm lower suspension and R-specific adaptive dampers and an aluminium spaceframe. This definitely sharpens the responsiveness and driver engagement, despite the SUV body configuration, the Tiguan R wouldn’t embarrass itself on any race circuit.
Speaking of, just like in its hot hatch Golf R sibling, there’s an ‘R’ button on the steering wheel. ‘R’ stands for ‘race’, and ‘race mode’ pushes the sporty abilities of this impressive SUV front and centre, changing drive parameters such as suspension and steering feel to cater for the enthusiast driver.
As much as ‘moving’ is important in the Tiguan R, so is stopping. Behind the 21” Estoril alloy wheels on the 1st edition Tiguan R we tested, is an R performance brake system with new 2-piston calipers and drilled discs to accompany the sure-footed sporty drive without compromise in safety of driver and passengers.
There are two versions of the Volkswagen Tiguan R available on New Zealand roads, the entry level Tiguan r is priced from $80,990 + on roads + clean car fee, while this ‘1st edition’ is priced from $85,990 + on roads.
Regardless of specification, this impressive SUV truly represents practicality with the pulse of a performance car. Like every version of the much-loved Tiguan, the ‘R’ delivers on space and practicality but here, it’s the pace that really sets it apart from the competition.