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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Tiguan review - Engines, performance and drive

Strong refinement, with a firm but controlled ride

The Tiguan is based on the VW Group's MQB platform, and it’s easy to spot the chassis’ traits here. The steering is precise and nicely weighted, which means you can make the most of the impressive grip on offer. However, the Tiguan doesn’t have the personality of the competition, and actually isn’t as enjoyable to drive as some of its rivals.

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Part of that stems from the chassis. We've tested the car fitted with Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers, which deliver plenty of comfort in their softer setting over undulating country roads, harsher bumps and potholes still send a shudder through the chassis. 

The Skoda Kodiaq has a similar chassis, but its extra body mass and wheelbase length mean these impacts aren’t quite as noticeable as they are in the Tiguan, while the damping in a Mazda CX-5 is plusher and better controlled at higher speeds over rough roads.

However, the primary job of an SUV of this type is to be comfortable, practical and easy to live with, so cars like the Tiguan aren’t the most engaging or sporty to drive anyway.

The seven-speed DSG gearbox has closely stacked ratios which give the VW an advantage when accelerating. Only in its overdrive seventh gear does the Tiguan feel sluggish.

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The biggest benefit of the adaptive dampers is the improvement in ride quality over the standard set-up: most of the time, the VW soaks up bumps with a soft-edged plushness. VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system features an Off-Road setting that tunes the traction control for maximum grip, but the lack of ground clearance and the use of summer tyres mean you won’t want to venture too far off the beaten track. The VW also leads when it comes to refinement, with good suppression of both wind and engine noise.

Engines

Here, the diesels make the most sense; they're refined and offer the best mix of economy and performance.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel takes 9.4 seconds to get from 0-62mph, which is quick enough, but it oddly feels flatter than less powerful rivals, backed up by our own independent performance figures. If that bothers you, the more responsive 187bhp unit should do the trick.

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The 2.0 TDI unit feels relatively strong, although it trailed a Mazda CX-5 from 0-60mph when we tested it. Plus, its in-gear performance wasn’t as peppy as the CX-5’s; it was nearly a second slower than that car from 50-70mph in top gear.

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It’s also not as refined. The Mazda features clever new piston pin tech that highlights the diesel rattle produced by the Tiguan, especially when the unit is cold or at higher revs. Despite using the same engine, a Skoda Kodiaq is quieter through the rev range and at a cruise. 

The Tiguan's manual gearbox is nice, though. The action is very similar to the Skoda’s, isolating you from the harsher feedback, but providing just the right level of interaction. 

VW has taken its beefy 237bhp 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine from the Passat and slotted it into the Tiguan. The results are profound - a full 500Nm of torque means its extra performance over the 187bhp model is most noticeable once the car’s rolling, even though it gets the SUV from 0-62mph in an impressive 6.2 seconds and on to a 143mph top speed. Nothing from Mazda, Nissan or Ford gets close, and that performance puts it in the ring with cars like the Jaguar F-Pace.

However, that does mean that this version of the Tiguan is very expensive, not least because this engine comes only with the most lavish trims. It's also not as economical as the less powerful TDI models, and unless you really must have this level of performance or need to venture off-road, we don't think it's worth the extra it costs to buy and run. 

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