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Photos: 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan S

Former VW GTI owners who need more space for a family will absolutely love the performance of the Volkswagen Tiguan S, but those looking for high-tech options will want to look further upmarket.

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Antuan Goodwin

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From all angles, the Tiguan S looks like an amalgamation of the full-size Touareg SUV and the Rabbit compact hatchback, with which the Tiguan shares a platform. Taking the best elements from each vehicle, the Tiguan is among the best-looking CUVs available.
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The almost full-width grille and swept-back headlamps make the Tiguan look wider than it is. Actually, the Tiguan is only slightly wider than the VW GTI.
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As tested, our Tiguan was a front-wheel-drive model. A 4Motion all-wheel-drive option is available, but for the environments in which the Tiguan usually finds itself, the standard drivetrain is sufficient.
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The suspension does an impressive job of keeping the tall and top-heavy Tiguan flat on the twisting roads. When the road surface gets bumpy, the long travel and soft suspension tuning keep the driver isolated and comfortable.
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Storage space in the rear is sufficient, but with the privacy shelf cutting into the space, there's not much more space than is present in the Rabbit. Removing the shelf and flattening the rear seats, however, opens up enough space to carry two bicycles with the front tires removed.
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The 200 horsepower 2-liter TSFI engine is the Tiguan's crown jewel. The turbocharged and direct-injected powerplant supplies power that makes the small SUV feel like a hot hatchback. At low engine speeds, however, lag in the power delivery is evident.
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As fantastic as the Tiguan's exterior and powertrain are, the interior is equally boring. Every surface is covered in the same black plastic that, while not visually offensive, feels out of place in such a sporty vehicle.
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The Tiguan S lacks tech options, which is reflected by the simple, buttonless steering wheel.
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The gauge cluster is attractive, with nice blue illumination at night, but the trip computer doesn't give the driver very much information. Stepping up the Tiguan SE or SEL will upgrade the trip computer to a more functional unit.
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The Tiguan's six-speed automatic transmission features three forward modes: Normal, which is tuned for comfort; Sport which, raises the shift points to keep the turbo spinning; and Tiptronic, which allows the driver to control the shifting. Being a standard transmission, the shifts are a bit on the slow side, but a six-speed manual option is available.
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Just aft of the electric parking brake switch is the Auto Hold button. The Auto Hold feature holds the brakes after the pedal is released, keeping the car stationary. When the gas pedal is depressed, the brakes release and the vehicle moves. We can see the feature being useful in hilly areas on models equipped with the six-speed manual, but with our automatic transmission, the feature was more annoying than useful. Fortunately, it's easily turned off.
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The standard audio system is fairly simple and low tech. The single-disc CD player accepts MP3 CDs, but navigating the folder with the single-line display is cumbersome. There's an Aux-In hidden in the center console and AM/FM radio rounds out the available audio sources.

There are no available audio upgrades at this trim level, but stepping up to the SEL will replace the system with a 300 watt Dynaudio system.

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The eight-speaker standard audio system sounds acceptable. High tones are slightly muddied and at high volumes, the sound is overwhelmed by distorted bass.

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