VW stuffs seven people in the compact Tiguan

Volkswagen finally learned that we Americans like our personal transportation on the larger side of small. Yes, we love small crossovers such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Chevrolet Equinox, but unlike Europe, where these offerings feel more like full-sized SUVs, we want them even larger. Enter the second generation Volkswagen Tiguan. It joins the mid-size Atlas in VW's crossover portfolio as the company scrambles to catch up with buying trends here in the United States.

The Tiguan is available in S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium trims, with either front-wheel or Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel drive. Like the larger Atlas, VW builds the Tiguan on its newish Modular Transverse Matrix platform.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

The Tiguan comes standard with front-wheel drive. VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive system will cost you extra. 

Volkswagen

The new Tiguan measures nearly 15 and a half feet long, over 10 inches more than the previous version. All that space lets VW give the front-wheel drive Tiguan standard three row-seating. The all-wheel drive is available with third-row seats for an extra $500. While that third row is only suitable for very, very, very small kids, it means you could conceivably take you, your spouse, your parents, your sister and her three-year old twins on a road trip without strapping anyone to the roof.

Digital tech

Although the base model Tiguan sports a 6.5-inch touchscreen, all other trim levels get an eight-inch touchscreen running VW's latest infotainment system. Regardless of screen size, the system responds quickly and graphics are crisp. Navigation is pretty slick, with a predictive feature based on places you've visited most often.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

Just click that App-Connect button to push your phone interface right to the center console screen.

Volkswagen

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, which project a smartphone's interface on the touchscreen, come standard in the Tiguan. The subscription-based Car-Net Security and Service is available on the SE trim and above. You can remotely unlock doors, get emergency services and check vehicle diagnostics. The service also includes Family Guardian, with a notification sent to the car's owner if a pre-set speed is exceeded or if the car has traveled outside a pre-determined boundary. It's like a slightly less comprehensive version of GM's Teen Driver technology. 

By far the coolest tech is the Digital Cockpit, available only on the top of the line SEL Premium trim. Similar to Audi's Virtual Cockpit, it replaces the traditional gauge cluster with a fully customizable 12.3-inch screen. Between a virtual speedometer and tachometer it displays a variety of information like audio, fuel economy or navigation. I found it really cool that I never had to look over to the center screen to see the map.

A helping hand

If the only standard driver's aid you're looking for is a rearview camera you'll be satisfied with the base S model. However, if you want to nerd out on the latest and greatest, you must spend a few more dollars.

SE trim and above have Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Traffic Alert standard. For the former, two rear-facing radar sensors warn of approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes with an illuminated symbol in the side mirror. With Rear Traffic Alert, these same sensors detect cars coming from the side when the Tiguan is reversing, automatically applying the brakes if the driver doesn't react to an audible and visual warning.

With adaptive cruise control, standard on the SEL trim and above, the Tiguan can truck along at a set speed until it encounters a vehicle in front of it. Then a forward-facing radar maintains one of five set distances to that lead car and can even bring the Tiguan to a complete stop. If the lead car moves forward within three seconds, the Tiguan follows on its own, no input from the driver needed.

The top trim SEL Premium has Lane Departure Warning with Lane Assist standard, which can provide an alert and active countersteer if the Tiguan strays outside its lane. The driver can override the system with the turn signal or a bit of force applied to the steering wheel.

Other perks on the SEL Premium include ParkPilot, for audible and visual warnings if the Tiguan is getting too close to stationary objects while parking. And ParkPilot automatically hits the brakes if you're about to hit something while parking.  Overhead View Camera, offering a 360 degree bird's eye view around the vehicle is also standard on the SEL Premium model.

One choice only

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

An eight-speed automatic transmission puts the power to the pavement. 

Volkswagen

If you don't like options you'll love that the Tiguan only comes with a 2.0-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine. Its 184 horsepower is about average for the class but at 221 pound-feet of torque, the VW bests competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 when it comes to twisting capacity. Power gets to the pavement through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and in addition to Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom on-road modes, there are also modes for Snow, Off-road and Custom Off-road. 

EPA fuel ratings for the front-wheel drive are 22 miles per gallon in the city, 27 miles per gallon on the highway and 24 miles per gallon combined. Expect slightly lower numbers in all-wheel drive equipped Tiguan. Meanwhile, the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue achieve much higher fuel economy due to their fuel-efficient continuously variable transmissions.

On my press drive through the Rocky Mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado, the Tiguan proved to be more of a cruiser than a turner, though I managed to coax some athletic behavior from it when I kept up with a RAV4 traveling at a good clip in front of me on a twisty road. Still, the Tiguan displayed a fair amount of body roll, light-touch steering and a transmission that is eager to upshift, even while climbing mountain passes to 8,500 feet in elevation. Fortunately there is a Sport driving mode that firms up the steering, and the transmission can be shifted manually from the stick to keep the engine at peak power. The Tiguan performs better on the highway and in suburban driving, where the ride is smooth and comfortable. Most buyers won't mind the lack of sporty dynamics, as the Tiguan toddles along with minimal fuss.

Our designated drive route took us down a six-mile dirt road, a rarity for press events. Switching to Off-road mode lessens the throttle response to mitigate wheelspin and the electronic stability control allows for more fun. While the dirt road was well-maintained and not rough, it did get muddy towards the end. The Tiguan handled the chatter of any washboard sections I encountered without too much vibration and I was able to maintain traction and even stop with minimal sliding. The ABS has unique programming in Off-road mode that locks up the wheels just a tic to build up dirt in front of the tire, helping to bring the Tiguan to a stop.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

All Tiguan models feature LED taillights.

Volkswagen

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan will be available late-summer 2017. While the base S price of $25,345 is pretty good, it's still a bit more expensive than the base 2017 Ford Escape and base 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. And things get pricey quickly, with 4Motion all-wheel drive adding $1,300 and the Driver Assistance Package adding $850. If you want a fully-loaded Tiguan with all-wheel drive, be prepared to shell out $37,550. If you want a sporty look you can wait a bit for the R-Line package, which will be available later in the model year, but it will add at least $1,495 to the bill. The current 2017 Tiguan will also be available for the remainder of the year. 

Volkswagen is trying its best to get in the competitive crossover game and with the debut of this new Tiguan and its big brother the Atlas, VW is on track to become a power player in the segment. The Tiguan is ideal for those with small children looking for third row seating without having to resort to a larger vehicle. That Digital Cockpit is the bomb diggity and the Tiguan rides smooth and easy. It's the biggest little crossover around.

Discuss: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T S FWD

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