VW Tiguan 162TSI Highline road test and review
What's this then? The Volkswagen Tiguan GTI?
Yes, basically. But they're calling it the slightly less catchy "162TSI Highline".
Since VW's all-new Tiguan landed last September it's been lauded by the press, picked up numerous awards and sold 3400 units, and now here's one with its engine borrowed from the venerable Mk7 Golf GTI. That means a sizzling 162kW and 350Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder in the sensible family packaging of a five-seat SUV.
Cracking engine, yes, but it's not going to be as quick as a Golf GTI, right?
Ha, wrong. This halo Tiguan may be some 300kg heavier than a Golf GTI, but thanks to its all-wheel drive and seven-speed DSG auto gearbox (the Golf GTI uses only a six-speed DSG), the high-riding Tiguan will match its hot hatch cousin at traffic light grands prix, both hitting 100kmh in just 6.5 seconds.
Nice. Suppose it's expensive though?
Well, that's a matter of opinion. Before on-road charges the Tiguan 162TSI weighs in at $48,490, meaning it'll be the wrong side of $50k to drive away.
Sounds a lot for a mid-size SUV sporting a VW badge, but the brand is gunning for premium buyers here on account of the model's performance, technology, safety and interior luxury inclusions.
And can it match the likes of BMW's X3, Merc's GLC and Audi's Q5 SUVs?
If you're a badge snob, then no. Let's be honest, there's a decent dose of cachet that comes with VW's more upmarket German rivals, but on specification alone the Tiguan 162TSI does look the value proposition.
Shoppers of these top-spec Tiguans typically buy additional upgrade packages, and if you tick every available box - Driver Assistance Package ($2000), R-Line Package ($4000) and electric panoramic sunroof ($2000) - your total comes to $56,490 before on-roads.
VW happily points out that this is a price gap of "greater than $5000 to the nearest German luxury competitor." Helping you out, that's the BMW X3 in entry-level 20i trim.
Start digging into like-for-like spec and performance and you're closer to a $20,000 gap, VW says, suggesting it's the $74,315 BMW X3 28i which rivals the 162TSI for goodies and 0-100kmh time (also 6.5 seconds).
What are its other high-spec mid-size SUV rivals then?
All-wheel-drive petrol competition includes the Mazda CX-5 Akera ($47,410), Nissan X-Trail Ti ($45,190), Renault Koleos Intens ($43,490), Toyota RAV4 Cruiser ($45,400) and Hyundai Tucson Highlander ($45,450).
None of these match the Tiguan for power or performance; you have to hop in a Ford Escape Titanium ($44,990) or Subaru Forester XT Premium ($47,990) for more kW, but the VW will still hit 100kmh first.
Is the Tiguan 162TSI a bit of a weapon on the road then?
Not exactly. It's still an SUV remember, so although it shares the same MQB platform and motor as VW's Golf GTI, the Tiguan's higher ride height and added bulk means it's not a truly thrilling drive in the way the planted hot hatch Golf is. Simple physics, really.
Your average Tiguan 162TSI buyer won't lose sleep over this though, as it'll be purchased as a practical all-rounder with plenty of fizz rather than as a back road hero. And it is simply very bloody good at nailing the all-rounder bit.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine is a silky thing with chunks of low down torque to get you up to speed rapidly. The seven-speed double-clutch auto accompanies it well, working in the background with minimal fuss.
Pulling away from standstill (such as out of junctions) it didn't respond as quickly as I'd have liked once I'd stomped on the throttle, but a handy Sport mode and paddle shifters help boost response.
Once the sporting Tiguan is cruising along, if you drop a cog or two the four-cylinder bares its teeth and hauls you along with a decent exhaust note accompaniment.
Does it still ride like a family SUV should?
If you mean comfortably, then yes indeed. When we tested the other Tiguans in the range last year we found them to be competent and confidence-inspiring both on bitumen and the unsealed stuff, and it's no different here.
Riding on 18-inch wheels the 162TSI absorbs bumps well with the occasional reminder it errs on the firm side over the bigger lumps or holes. Trade off is it is a balanced and grippy thing if thrown into the corners, and on some loose unsealed stuff the Tiguan impressively kept its line, rarely even hinting at losing traction.
It's a brilliant chassis, and the cabin feels superbly insulated.
You mentioned the R-Line package before, does that mean bigger and more uncomfortable rims and tyres?
The $4000 optional R-Line package truly adds a sporting flavour to the SUV, and yes, it gets bigger 20-inch rims with skinnier rubber to go with its body kit and spoiler, gloss black flashes, plenty of R-Line badges and some stainless steel finishes.
You also get adaptive chassis control and progressive steering, the former being key here as it uses adjustable dampers to ensure you don't trade off too much ride comfort with the bigger rims.
Should I lay down the extra $4000 for the R-Line package?
I would, but it's your money. Without question though, opt for the $2000 driver assistance package. Key with this is VW's 12.3-inch high-resolution Active Info Display in place of your conventional speedo and tacho dials.
If you've ever seen a Virtual Cockpit in modern Audis it is the same sort of thing - a wonderful futuristic goodie where you can scroll through screens featuring all your vitals, infotainment and navigation.
The pack also includes adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, lane change assist and rear traffic alert.
One could argue all this should be standard for the 162TSI Highline's price, but as it's not, this $2k addition is a must.
What do I get included in the base price then?
Plenty. Worth bragging about are an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, voice operation, sat nav, tri-zone climate, gearshift paddles, keyless access, auto tailgate, electric driver's seat, Vienna leather, LED lights and decent active safety like lane keep assist, city emergency brake, multi-collision brake and park assist. Oh, and handy tray tables for rear seat passengers. Nice touch.
And to differentiate you from "lesser" Tiguan models, the 162TSI scores an integrated exhaust trim with dual exhaust behind the rear bumper.
Let's talk practicality then, as it is an SUV.
Compared to the previous generation Tiguan this one is a giant. Far better cabin and boot space, plus the layout, quality feel and ambience is definitely at the semi-premium end of things. It's a lovely place to drive and be driven; the second row of seats giving ample room for three adults.
VW is quick to point out the Tiguan has over 50% more luggage space than the mid-size SUV sales leading Mazda CX-5, courtesy of clever sliding rear seats allowing 615-litres of cargo space. Seats folded there's a mighty 1655-litres of load space - amusingly even more than VW's own larger Touareg SUV with its rear seats down.
Hmmm, this is all sounding very good.
It is. You can get in an entry-level 2WD Tiguan with pretty skinny spec for $32k and you still have a very good mid-size SUV, but this 162TSI Highline is something to truly desire.
If you have the funds - many do, as over half of Tiguan Highline orders have been with both the option packs included - this is the pick of the range despite prices creeping over $50k.
It's as quick as you'd ever need an SUV be in the real world, has a confidence-inspiring chassis and impressive style and build quality inside and out. Not to mention comprehensive tech and safety if you tick some boxes.
VW says this car is putting luxury SUVs on notice. Forget your German premium badge snobbery and it genuinely is.
What matters most
The good: Wonderful engine shared with the Golf GTI means it's a genuinely quick family SUV, refined road manners on sealed and unsealed roads, quality finish, striking looks especially in R-Line trim.
The not so good: Acceleration response can be a bit tardy from standstill, it's a great value package but starts to nudge into a price range of the traditional premium SUVs with options picked, it feels overwhelmingly competent rather than a great fun drive.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year capped price servicing program. Services are every 15,000km or 12 months.
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 18/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 18/20
Model: Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline.
Details: Five-door five-seat all-wheel-drive mid-size SUV.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 162kW @ 4500rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1500rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG automatic.
Performance 0-100kmh: 6.5 seconds.
Towing capacity: 2500kg (braked).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $48,490 (R-Line package adds $4000).