The Interstate Express is back!
Last week, Ishan and I were discussing Spiti. The remote region once required a proper 4x4 SUV to access but can now be traversed through in hatchbacks, thanks to the paved tarmac and improved infrastructure. Heck, you could probably be brave enough to take an EV up there, with charging stations coming up in many places. That said there is still the matter of crossing half of India to get there from our Pune headquarters. After spending a few days with the new Volkswagen Tiguan, I reckon it would be my pick for that drive though. Before I tell you why let's talk about its updates for 2022.
Styling wise, the familiar silhouette remains but now features a more modern appeal. The square-ish headlamps have been replaced by sleeker units encompassing adaptive Matrix LED headlamps (called IQ light). This cool tech uses 24 adaptive LEDs that light up not just corners as you turn but also adapt to the weather and driving conditions. I found it pretty useful and less straining on the eyes while navigating unlit roads. The revised front end also features a larger grille and sportier bumper with a large air dam. Fog lamps have been removed for a cleaner look and you don't really miss them thanks to the brilliant Matrix lights.
There are not many changes to the side, save for a chrome accent below the mirror, chrome strip across the doors and new, 18-inch alloy wheels. A distinct optional feature on the wheels is the self-aligning logo that ensures the Volkswagen logo is always straight – something I’ve only seen on a Rolls-Royce prior to this! At the rear, the tail lamp unit’s shape has been retained but features new Audi-styled 3D LED inserts. The new rear bumper gets chrome inserts that house two faux exhausts. The update also includes a lot of chrome accents all round, given Indian buyers’ affinity for the shiny stuff. I quite liked the understated black cladding all round too.
Inside you get the familiar and sporty-looking, all-black dashboard with key updates for 2022. There’s a new 10-inch, high-resolution, all-digital instrument cluster and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports gesture control too. Oddly, while it gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the Tiguan does not offer the connectivity wirelessly unlike the Taigun! Also, I wish the updates would have included a crisper audio setup given that far more affordable SUVs and hatchbacks now get premium sound systems. Ambient lighting is a nice touch though.
I reckon focus is on having a better tactile experience, given the fewer buttons and push for touchscreen units like the new touchscreen controlled climate control unit and new steering wheel. The driving mode dial remains though, neatly tucked away behind the gear lever. Volkswagen might have gone with a more understated elegance theme with the updated dashboard but personally, I would have preferred a more cheerful unit like the one on the Taigun. The lack of a 360-degree camera is a glaring omission too.
The Tiguan also has a lot of clever storage spaces like the centre console that has two hidden cup holders and hooks on the B-pillars. Despite the all-black interiors the cabin feels airy thanks to a large panoramic sunroof so you should be comfortable travelling long distances. The leather seats are quite supportive and kept me fresh even after a long day’s drive. The boot on the other hand is large enough to hold cargo that would be enough for a week-long excursion.
Our test vehicle came with optional accessories such as the large utility roof box, footboards, portable cooler and folding tray and coat hanger that clips to the back of the front seats. I like that the roof box is aerodynamic enough to not upset high-speed dynamics. I would skip the floorboard though given that the climb up to the cabin isn't high.
Unlike before, you can only have the Tiguan with Volkswagen’s four cylinder, 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor delivering 190PS and 320Nm, mated to the seven-speed DSG. Engine refinement could have been half a notch higher in my opinion, but acceleration is very quick – despite the Tiguan’s size and weight. More importantly, the motor masks speeds and lets you cover distances very impressively. The gearbox offers relaxed shifts in normal mode but switch to Sport and shifts are noticeably quicker and you can also hold on to gears for longer, ensuring quick getaways. Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel add to the sporty quotient too. There are four driving modes on offer - Snow, Road, Off-Road and Off-Road Custom. These change steering responses and engine and drivetrain characteristics to suit the terrain. You can even customise on-road and off-road modes.
It is not just engine performance that is impressive here though, as the dynamics are as sporty as you would expect from a Volkswagen. The Tiguan feels like a large SUV but a responsive one from behind the wheel, thanks to a steering that’s direct and weighs up nicely at speeds. The Tiguan is in fact a brilliant handler, also thanks to the sporty suspension setup that ensures body roll around corners is minimal despite the higher centre of gravity due to the roof box.
Then there is the 4Motion AWD system that detects slip and distributes power between the front and rear axles, so you are not lacking in grip. Despite its appearance, the Tiguan is surprisingly capable in mild off-road situations thanks to AWD and the electronically locking differential. I feel I could have taken it further off-road, had the ground clearance been higher and the tyres more off-road biased. Of course, the ride quality is excellent too, despite the firm suspension. The suspension reacts to road imperfections quickly and while it feels firmer at lower speeds, the ride gets better at higher speeds, a typical trait of Volkswagen’s cars. The Pune-Bangalore corridor is currently undergoing repairs where the top layer has been scoured off. While other SUVs slowed down, I was able to go flat out through the sections as the Tiguan soaked up imperfections brilliantly. It brakes well for an SUV too.
The Tiguan comes in just one fully-loaded Elegance variant, priced at Rs 31.99 lakh ex-showroom. It comes with a four-year maintenance package for an additional Rs 63,558, which interestingly reduces maintenance costs by as much as 23 percent! Extended warranty options start at Rs 31,499 and can be had for up to seven years or 1,50,000km. At its price though, the Tiguan is more expensive than the top-spec diesel AWD variants of the Jeep Compass (Rs 29.34 lakh) and Hyundai Tucson (Rs 27.47 lakh).
That said, I reckon the Volkswagen Tiguan holds a special niche in the SUV scheme of things though. It is an SUV that will do interstate runs in double quick time and keep you fresh by the end of it too. It has this inherent ability to compress distances. You can drive around all day comfortably at triple-digit speeds and be surprised by the distances covered by the end of it. The lack of some features which even SUVs half its price come with is a bit of a bummer, but when it comes to sheer cross-country abilities, the Tiguan is sure hard to beat.