2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium vs. 2018 Toyota RAV4, sort of: A bigger Tiguan takes on a steady-as-she-goes Toyota.
This week: VW Tiguan.
Price: $37,150 as tested (no options on the test vehicle). A base model can be had for $25,195, $26,295 for a base with 4Motion all-wheel drive.
Marketer's pitch: "The new king of the concrete jungle."
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the "good real-world fuel economy, well-crafted interior, comfortable ride," but not that it's "dull to drive" with an "overworked engine, tiny third row."
Reality: Bigger isn't always better.
Family size: Volkswagen seems to have renewed its focus on the American market. With the three-row Tiguan and the even-larger Atlas coming to America, the company seems to have realized this is the future over here.
What's new: It's a whole new Tiguan, but at first glance it still looks and feels a lot like the old one. But it's longer by more than 10 inches and now has an optional three rows of seats.
Friends and stuff: If a carmaker is going to offer a third row, then I have to get back there and see how it feels. I don't mind the embarrassment; I'm here to serve you, the reader.
As far as third rows go, the Tiguan's is not the worst. (I once called Mitsubishi Outlander's third row "suitable for dogs and really little kids.") Still, headroom, knee and legroom are all tight. The center row moves forward and back, which can help, and entry-exit is actually not too embarrassing.
A total of 65.7 cubic feet is available with the seats folded, but just 12 cubic feet in behind the third row, so those last two heads ride fairly close to the rear window.
Up to speed: All trim levels of the Tiguan come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that creates 184 horsepower. Car and Driver reports it takes 9.1 seconds to arrive at 60 mph. In spite of that, I found the acceleration to feel fairly brisk. I never did try it, though, packed with a bunch of Sturgis Kids.
The engine offers the familiar VW chug, love it or hate it.
Shifty: The eight-speed automatic transmission certainly helps in the acceleration department, transferring the power to the front wheels — no all-wheel drive on the test model — with just the right force.
The transmission offers a shift mode, which worked well despite randomly downshifting to 1 or 3 upon stopping, depending on its mood.
No stick shift is offered, sadly.
Getting a move on: One complaint I've had about Volkswagen's Drive-Sport-Shift setup is the standing start. The Tiguan was no better, and it seemed jumpy in Sport mode and lethargic in Drive. Shift mode worked most smoothly, except for the times the Tiguan started me out in third.
On the road: Volkswagens used to be notable for their handling, except for a Jetta redesign that brought us the Jettarolla. The Tiguan takes the Jetta approach, and it doesn't exactly fill a driver's heart with joy nor his skin with goosebumps.
The tall vehicle also seems to get to a roll point early as well. Sport mode does make for a little more fun, but I was surprised by how little.
Play some tunes: A new radio interface offers the same classic Volkswagen look but uses an ebony touch pad surround for the external buttons in place of actual buttons. Operation is fairly simple, with dials for volume and tuning helping things out.
Sound is very good but not excellent.
Driver's Seat: The command center offers comfort and flexibility. The seat feels supportive but not too firm.
Watching your speed: Volkswagens in general cut off some of the speedometer by the steering wheel when I adjust it to my liking.
Keeping warm and cool: The heater controls have a pair of temperature dials and a third for blower speed. Heat source is controlled by a series of buttons. Not the worst setup.
Night shift: The interior lights are soft and cast a nice glow. The headlights illuminate the roadway perfectly.
Fuel economy: I averaged 25 or 26 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat range of testing, nothing to write home about. The Tiguan drinks regular, which is nice.
Where it's built: Puebla, Mexico.
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability to be a 2 out of 5, despite 4s for 2016 and 2017. The Tiguan did have a 1 in 2015.
Volkswagen now offers a six-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty — offering some pretty solid peace of mind, I'd say.
In the end: Tiguan? Perhaps the Volkswagen Trade-off would be a fitting name.