VW's R Performance division lights a 316bhp fire in the belly of the brand’s best-selling SUV

Find Volkswagen Tiguan R deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
Nearly-new car deals
From £26,525
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

It’s an obvious move – one we’ve often discussed here at Autocar. But for various reasons it has taken Volkswagen close to 13 years to bring the R name and the performance-enhancing modifications for which it is now quite well renowned to the Vokswagen Volkswagen Tiguan line-up.

There have been various R styling lines for the Volkswagen SUV down through the years, of course. But with a further developed version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine used by the Volkswagen Golf R and more recently introduced Volkswagen T-Roc R, the new Tiguan R is easily the most powerful and the fastest variant of Volkswagen’s best-selling SUV yet.

Torque vectoring is able to send up to 100% of available to torque to the outside wheel during all-out cornering, instead of the 50% seen in other Tiguan models. The result is a level of balance and cornering poise well beyond that of the standard car

Power peaks at 316bhp, with torque building to 310lb ft on a range of revs between 1200rpm and 5200rpm. To put this in perspective, the next most powerful petrol model in the facelifted Tiguan line-up develops a more modest 148bhp and 184lb ft.

Drive is sent through a standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with both manual and automatic shift modes and a newly developed version of Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system featuring a torque-vectoring function on the rear axle, which allows it to individually alter the amount of drive sent to each rear wheel.

Visual differentiation from the rest of the second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan line-up comes via a uniquely styled front bumper and other exterior elements featuring design cues similar to those seen on different R models, including standard 19in wheels. 

Back to top

Subtle changes brought to all new facelifted Tiguan models include a more advanced version of VW's MEB infotainment system, which supports wireless Apple CarPlay and live traffic data, multi-coloured ambient lighting and a touch-sensitive digital control module for the climate functions along with a number of typical R equipment upgrades.

There are R-specific digital instruments that change colour depending on the drive mode, sport seats and a multi-function steering wheel with haptic feedback controls – including an R button that allows you switch directly into Race mode – together with stainless-steel pedal caps and unique dashboard trims. Apart from some hard plastic panels below your usual line of sight, it’s a pleasingly functional and quality driving environment.

The Tiguan R is very straightforward to drive, with a broad set of characteristics depending on the chosen drive mode: Comfort, Sport or Race.

The engine, with its inherent smoothness and impressive flexibility, is at the very root of the dynamic appeal, delivering relaxed part throttle and truly urgent qualities under load. There’s great linearity to the way the transversely mounted unit revs, and the gearbox delivers lightning-fast shifts in any of the two more performance-oriented driving modes.

It never feels quite as determined as the lower-riding Volkswagen Golf R Estate, owing in part to its rather hefty 1746kg kerb weight. But the claimed 0-62mph time is 4.9sec, while not class-leading, gives it a good turn of speed when you go looking for it on deserted back roads.

The exhaust note, which is enhanced with a sound generator within the cabin, is engagingly raspy in Comfort mode. However, it is a bit overdone in race mode, where it crackles loudly on every lift of the throttle.

The reworked 4Motion four-wheel drive system provides outstanding traction and grip. The new torque vectoring function is able to send up to 100% of available to torque to the outside wheel during all-out cornering, instead of the 50% seen in other, less powerful Tiguan models. The result is a level of balance and cornering poise well beyond that of the standard car.

Back to top

There’s outstanding accuracy to the variable-ratio steering and, with reduced ride height together with firmer springs and dampers, admirable body control. By compact performance SUV standards, the handling is quite fluid, if a little lacking in outright feedback.

It’s the ride that really stands out, though. The adaptive dampers provide the suspension with great control and the ability to deliver acceptably compliant properties in Comfort mode and significantly more sporting characteristics in either Sport or Race modes, even on the optional 21in wheels fitted to our test car.

While it’s unlikely you’re ever going to head away from the bitumen with such a wheel and tyre combination, Off-road, Snow and Off-road Expert driving modes are also available.

We’re still waiting to hear how Volkswagen will price the Tiguan R in the UK. However, if the pricing of the outgoing 2.0 TSI, which it indirectly replaces in the Tiguan line-up, is any guide, it’s going to be a £40,000-plus proposition in the UK.

It enters a highly competitive class but, on the evidence of this first drive, the Tiguan R will provide stiff competition to the likes of the Audi SQ2, BMW X2 M35i and Cupra Ateca.

Just makes you wonder why it took Volkswagen so long.

Volkswagen Tiguan R First drives