What is it?
A year or so after its launch, and already the Tiguan occupies a happy little SUV niche: cheerily cheaper than a BMW X3, confidently plusher than the vaguely related Seat Ateca and just plain better than pretty much everything else in between. In its road test, we said it was dropped on a buyer expectation sixpence. That opinion hasn’t been shifted by anything we’ve driven in the meantime.
Confidence is high then for this, the engine bay range-topper; new to the UK model line-up. The 237bhp 2.0-litre bi-turbo TDI engine is already a constituent of the Passat range – but its introduction into the Tiguan feels like a more appropriate placement of its obvious potential, not least because it nudges the all-wheel-drive SUV deep into X3 xDrive30d territory.
Of course, it takes some serious gumption to hold a flame to BMW’s formidable diesel straight-six, so Volkswagen has duly extracted 369lb ft of torque from its four-cylinder unit, courtesy of the 200bar of combustion pressure being whipped up by its sequentially arranged big/small turbochargers. A bespoke cylinder head and gasket keeps the lid on the common 2.0-litre block, which still manages 44.1mpg on a rolling road while chastely emitting 167g/km CO2 in conjunction with a standard seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
What's it like?
We’ve driven the fire-breathing Tiguan in R-Line form abroad, and didn’t like it much for the presence of its ride-hobbling 20in rims. This car is the slightly less showy SE L model – meaning you get almost all the same standard kit (including adaptive dampers), only with higher-profile 19in wheels and slightly more anonymous styling.
That quality feeds directly into the Tiquan’s likeable Q-car character. The badge on the back has a dash of red, yet still just reads 2.0 TDI – and the motor makes a sound little different to the irascible drone of its lesser siblings. But it awakens in gratifying style: a judicious prod of throttle making light of the car's 1795kg kerbweight; a stamp forcing the SUV into a properly hurried diesel-edged surge.
The kick is sufficiently wallop-like for you to be vaguely grateful for four-wheel-drive in a straight line, and downright thankful for it when it comes time to hustle the car through a sharp corner. The extra performance is sufficiently lusty for the Normal drive mode to be found wanting in steering weight and body control, but Sport mode conjures up a bit more heft and has the dampers applying themselves far more effectively.
Throw in the DSG’s own very adroit S-mode and the impressively neutral balance of the 4Motion drivetrain, and the Tiguan can be driven very briskly indeed – and not without the lingering sense of satisfaction that you might associate with the similarly fast X3. It’s possibly not the car’s natural stomping ground, though - most owners though will surely be content with aligning a Comfort chassis setting with an agreeably enormous capacity for overtaking.
Should I buy one?
Not every mainstream SUV would be made better for the addition of substantially more power, yet there’s little doubt in the Tiguan that it works to the car’s advantage. Even if you drive it very casually and without troubling the underlying go-faster reservoir of twist, its presence sits contentedly in the back of the mind – sequestered next to the knowledge that you’re not going to get stuck in the snow or a muddy field, either.