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2018 Volkswagen Tiguan: Our First Drive in VW’s Redesigned Compact SUV

Car manufacturers love to tout the improvements between generational models, especially when the new vehicle is substantially different from the last. The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is one such model. It benefits from an extreme makeover, a five- or seven-passenger configuration and four trim levels.

The 2018 Tiguan’s substantial changes begin with this vehicle’s architecture. It’s built on a modular platform that has already yielded models such as the compact Volkswagen Golf and the seven-passenger Atlas SUV. Volkswagen says the platform allows for a variety of vehicle and powertrain choices.

Larger, More Upscale Exterior

In any case, the new model is 10.6 inches longer between the wheels, transforming this compact SUV from one of the smallest entries in the segment to one of the largest. This means the 2018 Tiguan is longer than such segment leaders as the 2017 Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and the Toyota RAV4. It has also moved ahead of the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, which is slightly smaller than the outgoing 2017 model.

For the Tiguan, Volkswagen added design elements from the Passat sedan and Atlas SUV, including the brand’s recognizable narrow grille with horizontal slats. The lower grille opening is larger and offset by fog lights. Much of the rest of the Tiguan’s exterior is typical of a small SUV with its high beltline and sweeping roofline. Wheel choices range in size from 17 to 19 inches and include aluminum-alloy designs.

At the rear, you’ll find wraparound taillights with LED accents. The liftgate raises high and well above the top of the heads of your average-sized consumer. Tiguan SEL Premium models add a foot-activated liftgate along with power-folding side mirrors with puddle lamps.

Roomy Interior with Three Rows of Seating

Inside, front-wheel drive models offer a three-row layout, while all-wheel drive models have two standard rows with a third-row upgrade available ($500). However, that third row doesn’t match the comfort and especially the legroom of the rest of the SUV. As a result, it is best used as a jump seat for youngsters.

Volkswagen typically ranks high for fit and finish, as well as materials used, and the 2018 Tiguan does not disappoint. My test model offered supportive and bolstered front seats and a near equally comfortable second-row bench seat. Large and easy to read circular instrument gauges, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and an available 8-inch touch-screen display panel are present. You’ll also find oversized door pockets up front, a small but deep storage compartment underneath the front armrest, and cloth, imitation leather or real leather seats, depending on the trim.

Move away from the base S model and the 2018 Tiguan brings in such features as keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a power driver’s seat and heated front seats. Other available equipment includes remote start, ambient lighting and a heated steering wheel. A panoramic sunroof is a $1,200 option.

Top Tech Features

Base Tiguan models come with a 6.5-inch screen and one USB port. All other models have an 8-inch screen and three USB ports. The standard infotainment package includes a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and Volkswagen’s Car-Net app suite, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation is on the top two trims, while a nine-speaker Fender audio system comes with the SEL Premium trim only.

All models have a rearview camera. Available safety features include adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, as well as lane departure warning, automatic high-beam control and park assist.

On the Road

Every 2018 Tiguan comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous six-speed. Despite the larger footprint, the 2018 Tiguan is 10 percent more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, delivering 22/27 mpg city/highway.

Volkswagen provided all-wheel drive models for a recent media roll out, mapping out mountainous routes that supply a fair share of switchbacks and the occasional gravel road. The turbo engine proved its capabilities even when ascending steep grades.

The SUV’s nimble handling was most appreciated when navigating the tightest turns, especially with rock outcropping present on the right and curiously absent guard rail protection on the left. Apart from the occasional white-knuckled gripping, steering is firm and supplies a desirable amount of feedback.

All-wheel drive models supply an “Active Control” dial with four settings: on-road, snow, off-road and custom off-road. The custom off-road mode permits the driver to modify the steering, engine and gearbox performance, in addition to hill descent assist and hill start assist. Ground clearance measures 7.9 inches, which is 1 inch less than the comparable 2017 Subaru Forester.

Shopping Considerations: 2018 VW Tiguan

The 2018 Tiguan is available in S ($26,245), SE ($29,980), SEL ($33,450), and SEL Premium ($37,150). Prices include $900 for destination. All-wheel drive (4Motion) is a $1,300 upgrade and available across the model line. Volkswagen’s sporty R-Line package, offered on the SEL and SEL Premium, becomes available in early 2018.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is a complete reset and is one of the only compact SUVs available with a third-row seat. Fully optioned models can cost about $40,000, and that’s well above the top end of the class. That said, the SE trim is an ideal place to start as it offers autonomous emergency braking with front assist pedestrian monitoring.

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