Volkswagen Tiguan R is a feast of speed and family practicality
Now injected with the ‘R’ vibranium, the Tiguan is a hot-hatch eater with family-sized comfort
Making a sporty SUV or crossover used to seem like a silly idea, considering their weight penalties. With the Volkswagen ‘R’ nameplate now a romantic symbol for performance motoring in the brand, it is now applied to the sober Tiguan.
It is not easy to spot, though, such is the subtle warpaint, especially in this Dolphin Grey colour, which is one of only three hues available. The other paint options are Oryx White and Lapiz Blue, and the latter displays its wilder air scoops better. The subtle sporting makeover includes a round quartet of tailpipes exclusive to the model, and it rides on 20-inch Misano alloy wheels. The test car was fitted with the optional 21-inch Estoril alloy costing R17,000.
The vehicle remains faithful to the family crossover recipe of practicality, but the hot hatch-baiting performance and handling are an entirely new venture for this range.
Passengers sit on leather-clad seats with electric operation for the front pair, and the rear ones fold down flat to increase boot space from 520l to 1,655l. The tailgate is electric too, adding to its user friendliness, and upfront is a digital interspace of a colourful main screen display and driver’s information binnacle, underscored by the new-style capacitive buttons for a few functions.
Like other VW products you have to fork out more money for the niceties including a powerful Harman Kardon sound system as a R12,000 option, but notable standard luxuries in the car include navigation, voice control, wireless Android Auto and Apple car play, auto on/off lights and a panoramic sunroof. Inductive phone charging and head-up display form part of the options for R16,400 in total.
The Tiguan R packs 234kW and 400Nm with 4Motion all-wheel drive, making it a powerful and racy crossover with driving modes. These are Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual. On the road be in no doubt it is quick, with plenty of pulling power for daring overtaking manoeuvres or silencing doubting Thomases.
Spend R69,000 more for the Akrapovic sport exhaust and you get glorious Bwaara-rah-rah-rah noises, especially when you activate the aggressive launch control. VW claims of 5.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, while we managed 5.3 seconds testing at Gerotek with a Vbox. Top speed is 250km/h.
Push it hard on a road with twists and turns as I did at Gerotek’s dynamic handling track, and the Tiguan R surprises more with above-average driver involvement and alacrity. The steering wheel is communicative enough, and it stays locked onto a chosen line no matter how many times you persuade the front to wash out, or the rear to step out. It’s engineered for driving on the ragged edge.
Just don't expect it to save you from high fuel bills in any of the performance modes. In Comfort it hushes down, and the transmission, steering and damper settings turn gentler while returning 9.5l/100km. This figure shoots up higher in the performance modes. There is also a mode for negotiating rougher terrain but this was out of the question owing to its low-profile tyres.
Though the Tiguan R impresses, it was not without foibles. The electronics started acting up on occasion, with the display screen switching out of menus unprovoked, and the capacitive volume buttons generally balked at my commands. But VW is reportedly putting back physical buttons in its next-generation cars.
Outside this, there have been grumblings from some about its nearly R1m asking price, but considering how potent and entertaining it is while being practical, it feels like a German performance bargain.
The bulkier size ultimately disadvantages some agility, but the skillful Tiguan R driver should be able to keep up with hot hatches at full tilt whether on road or track. It’s that good!
Type: Four-cylinder turbo petrol
Type: Seven-speed DSG
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 5.1 sec (claimed), 5.3 sec (as tested)
Fuel consumption: 8.8l/100km (claimed), 9.5l/100km (as tested)
Electronic stability control, traction control, ABS brakes with EBD, six airbags, front fog lamps, park distance control, electric windows, heated electric mirrors, LED headlights with daytime running lights, touchscreen infotainment system, voice control, Bluetooth, USB-C ports, auto on/off lights, panoramic sunroof, driving modes, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitor, cruise control, park distance control front and rear
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Three years/120,000km
Service plan: Three years/45,000km
Lease: R21,339 a month
*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Volkswagen Tiguan R
WE LIKE: Performance, handling, practicality
WE DISLIKE: Electronic glitches
VERDICT: A hedonistic fusion of fun and function
Motor News star rating
Value For Money *****
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works ALL4, 225kW/450Nm — R929,844
BMW X2 M35i,225kW/450Nm — R940,481
Audi RS Q3, 294kW/480Nm — R1,195,900
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