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A blog about the cars I drive

VW’s Tiguan shines in crowded segment

This review was first published in The Spokesman-Review

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan
“This is comfortable,” my companion said, buckling her seatbelt. “What is it?”

Diane’s interest in cars hovers somewhere between zero and meh. She’s mainly interested in whether a) she can manipulate the climate control system to satisfy her specific needs and b) the car will tempt me to misbehave.

So her enthusiasm for the 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan crossover was duly noted.

2015 Ford Mustang GT interior

Materials quality is first-rate. Dash panels align with precision. Seating is firm and supportive.

A compact crossover based on VW’s Golf platform, the Tiguan is the most European of the affordable compact crossovers. Its ride reflects the maturity of the Golf platform and the sophistication of VW suspension engineering. Cabin design is clean, understated and functional.

A turbocharged, 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides lively acceleration. The ride-and-handling package tilts toward comfort, though a sporty R-Line trim adds a sport suspension and 19-inch wheels.

Materials quality is first-rate. Dash panels align with precision. Seating is firm and supportive.

Bottom line, the Tiguan feels sufficiently different from the rest of the pack that it got Diane’s attention.

Tiguan doesn’t fall under the near-luxury rubric. In the base S trim, cloth seats are standard and driver-seat power controls are optional.

2015 Ford Mustang GT interior 2

In many ways, Tiguan is the class act in a segment that grows more crowded and more competitive every year.

But even the base S trim is well-equipped — heated mirrors, trailer prep package, Bluetooth connectivity, et al. For 2015, the standard-features list grows to include a rearview camera, a 5-inch touchscreen, Volkswagen’s Car-Net connected services and an iPod cable.

Underway, the Tiguan has the substantial feel of a German-built machine. Its responses are sharp, if not as immediate as those of one of its Audi cousins. Its all-independent suspension — front struts, multilink rear — is mounted in an aluminum subframe and deftly absorbs the impact of potholes and railroad crossings.

Coming from the Golf/Jetta side of the VW clan, Tiguan shares their reputation for reliability. Snow-country owners also praise its all-wheel-drive technology. The Tiguan’s available electrohydraulic AWD system includes a Haldex center differential that continuously apportions power to the front and rear axles.

Under normal conditions, 90 percent of the power goes to the front wheels. But when the potential for slippage arises — during acceleration, for instance — the Haldex can direct nearly 100 percent of drive torque to the rears.

In many ways, Tiguan is the class act in a segment that grows more crowded and more competitive every year. Its old-world charms exact a price, though. Its $27,000 sticker is well above its prime competitors’, all of which are larger and more spacious than the Tiguan. Fuel efficiency trails the pack and premium fuel is required.

The Tiguan’s 5-inch touchscreen display seems displaced from another era; it’s small and its graphics capabilities are limited. VW’s Media Device Interface is easily mastered and other controls work intuitively. Levers and switches exude a feel of quality and substance.

This could be a great time to buy. VW will realign pricing and trim-level strategies on 2016 Tiguans and in 2017 and all-new Tiguan will arrive. Based on VW’s new modular platform strategy, it’s expected to be larger, lighter and price competitive. A long-wheelbase model will target U.S. buyers.

I expect Diane will be all over it.

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan SE w Appearance package
Vehicle base price: $25,505
Trim level base price: $31,260
As tested: $32,125
Options: The SE trim with Appearance package is thoroughly equipped; our tester came without additional options.
Towing capacity: 2,000 lb
EPA rating: 23 combined/21 city/23 highway
Premium unleaded fuel specified

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