Test Drive: The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Has The Soul Of A GTI

Test Drive: The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Has The Soul Of A GTI
2012 Volkswagen Tiguan
Power: 200hp, 207 lb.-ft.
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged TSI
Fuel Consumption: 23mpg city, 30 highway (est.)
Estimated Price: $23,720 (base)
What do you get when you mix a tiger and an iguana? A mythical beast known for its magical powers? Gosh, no! You have the Tiguan, Volkswagen’s mash-up crossover that has attempted to package the best of the brand’s accomplishments, from sport compact spunk to rugged utility, all in a CUV designed to be just big enough for you and all your life’s needs. But does the enthusiastically named, recently face-lifted Tiguan mesh well with the rest of VW’s driver-centric lineup? With little reluctance, I headed all the way to Munich to find out.

New kid on the block

Still a relatively new kid in the crossover world, the Tiguan has been a hit in Europe. But drop the model name in front of your boys, and you might have a few of them look at you funny. First having arrived on our shores in 2008, I realized that I, an automotive journalist of more than a few years now, still hadn’t been in one. Would I be impressed with a ride meant to rival boring, lifeless vehicles like the RAV-4 or CRV? I was about to find out. Standing face-to-face with the new 2012 refresh, the Tig is clearly now an accepted member into the VW fam. Sporting the same twin split-strip chrome grille as virtually the rest of the lineup, the squatty CUV now shares the GTI’s playfully menacing smile, set off even further by its arched LED headlights. Though the profile remains virtually untouched from last year’s model, the brand cohesiveness is echoed around back, by taillamps that appear more svelte, and less bulbous than their predecessors.

Now with much more a resemblance to its cousins, the Tiguan seems to perch closer to the ground. Climb inside, and the feeling continues. In fact if you’re coming from something sportier like a GTI or GLI, you’d be hard-pressed to find many differences between cabins, save for a couple of extras to help control the Tiguan’s added capabilities. Being a fan of the sun – which I heard can be a bit shy it parts of Europe – I commanded the truck’s sunroof shade to roll way back, unveiling a panoramic roof that seemingly stretches the length of the cabin. Hitting the push-button start, it was time to see if this vehicle could also resemble its fam on the Autobahn.

GTI-Powered 

Up to this point in my life, I can’t say I’ve ever had the privilege of driving on Germany’s ribbon of merely suggested speed limits. In my daydreams I figured my first time might be in something a bit more exotic. But while I didn’t previously know the Tiguan, I was already quite familiar with what sits under its hood: Volkswagen’s 2.0L turbo TSI. A 200hp, 207 lb.-ft. of torque ball of fun that helps the GTI continue to be one of the most coveted hot hatches on the road. Of course, the Tiguan is a bit heavier, but on the highway, you’d never know. Completely oblivious to the metric system, I honestly can’t report exactly how fast I went, but hammering through its gears was an act that both myself and the car seemed to wholeheartedly enjoy. Alright, so what if a murdered-out 911 flew past me so fast that I felt I was moving backwards? That’s apples to some kind of super-fruit, son. Unfortunately, while German drivers are spirited, their actions are well-placed and methodical. Looking to test the Tiguan’s ability to zig, zag and avert catastrophe, I just couldn’t find a situation to duck out of, forcing me to pull my own maneuvers, quickly identifying myself as the American on the road.

Comfortable on the trail and through the twisties

Exiting the highway for the Austrian Alps, the journey finally got a bit twistier, and the Tiguan responded enthusiastically. Gripping the sport-trimmed steering wheel, I encountered little body roll through the curves, and dare I say it, enjoyed my crossover captaining a good deal more than I expected to.  As the route got more vertical, and a bit off the beaten path, VW’s accomplishments with the larger Touareg began to shine through. While it’s no off-roader, the Tiguan proved more than capable of holding its own on the trail; even if the Austrian hikers weren’t willing to share it with me.

The Tiguan is not perfect. Though available with a ton of  options that range from high-end technology to plush materials and trim, the price adds up quick. Its mid $20K sticker sounds enticing, but if you’re fancy, the final price could end up decisively higher. Still, if you’re being forced to leave your sport compact hatch or sedan due to work or family, you just might find it a suitable choice for an upgrade that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve given up all hope of ever having fun behind the wheel again. Because, if you don’t enjoy your time in the seat of the oddly named Tiguan, you’re definitely doing something wrong.

Tags: volkswagen, volkswagen-tiguan
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