REVIEW: Volkswagen Tiguan R is an impressive blend of sporty and practical

Published May 5, 2023


Pretoria - The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s best-seller globally, providing owners with diesel, petrol and hybrid options, with either all-wheel or two-wheel drive, and now it has completed the line-up with a Tiguan R performance version.

I suppose it had to happen. Given the world’s predilection for SUVs and because performance hatchbacks and sedans don’t command the attention they used to, most manufacturers have a performance SUV of sorts in their stable.

I know performance and SUVs are an anomaly but the masses want them and if you want to stay ahead of the curve as a business, you need to quench the demand.

VW went ahead and bolted the Golf 8 R’s four-cylinder turbo engine with 235kW and 400Nm under the bonnet, driving all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, or large handy paddles, which will get you to a top speed of 250km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.1 seconds.

That’s pretty impressive and, fortunately, VW has kept things sober on the outside, with only R badges, quad exhaust pipes and blue brake callipers setting it apart from its more humble siblings.

Standard, it comes with 20-inch Misano alloys but our test unit was fitted with the optional 21-inch Estoril rims with low profiles that gave it crazy grip around corners but proved to be firm, even in comfort mode, on our unmaintained bumpy roads filled with potholes.

The interior, as you would expect from a car with a base price of R1 014 900, is well specced. It has blue stitching, quality Nappa leather trim and soft-touch surfaces, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and heated seats. The Discover Pro touch-screen infotainment system with satnav is Apple CarPlay and Android auto compatible.

The digital instrument cluster is customisable and can be set to your preferences. There’s nary a button or switch with almost everything set by touch which proved to be finicky, especially while driving. Thankfully, VW is bringing back some of them which will certainly make things easier.

There’s a host of USB-C ports. There is also cruise control and a panoramic sunroof, and the tailgate is electronic.

A welcome touch is the cooled cubbyhole.

While the Tiguan R might be sporty, it works well as a family vehicle too, with ample space for passengers in the rear. When the seats are all the way back, there are 520 litres of boot space, more than enough for four peoples’ overnight bags.

You won’t be flinging it around corners fully loaded, more for the rear passengers’ sake rather than its inability to do so but, as befits a performance VW, it’s a fun car to give a bit of hard right foot.

Put it into Race Mode and the dash changes to blue and the exhaust gives a pleasant burble (enhanced by the audio system) that will crackle and pop as you gear up and down.

The elevated driving position is comfortable, as are the seats and gearbox. Everything else that’s been tightened up responds accordingly.

Like I’ve said before, performance and SUVs are a bit of an anomaly but kudos to the engineers who have combined all the elements well to allow the Volkswagen Tiguan R to defy the conventional.

It will surge away from a standing start. If you are pottering around in Comfort Mode and change to Sport or Race to pass slower traffic, the result is equally impressive.

It’s well poised and provides plenty of grip, with nicely weighted steering, and it will gladly follow driver inputs without any resistance.

Various drive modes have various background colours, so apart from blue, there’s also green for comfort, red for sport and yellow for “off-road”.

Yes, it’s got that too but I doubt owners are going to be spending Sunday afternoons tackling 4x4 courses, especially on those large rims.

In comfort mode, we returned figures of 9.4l/100km. Play hard and those figures will increase significantly.

The Volkswagen Tiguan R is a good all-rounder that’s equally at home providing driving thrills, cruising on holiday or doing the school run even though it’s expensive (you can add optional extras to the tune of R200 000) and is aimed at a niche buyer.

IOL Motoring