The compact CUV market has grown exponentially over the last few years, and I completely understand why. The vehicles in this market offer the confidence of AWD, the maneuverability and fuel economy of a car, and the utility of an SUV. There really isn’t much else for the average consumer to ask for in a vehicle. Where many of the players in this market fall short is with the enthusiast crowd; those of us who do ask for that extra little bit of style and performance. While I absolutely love the idea of having a smaller, efficient vehicle with a capable AWD system for my winter commutes, I’ve found a complete lack of fun or excitement in almost all of the compact CUVs I’ve driven. From that perspective, it’s almost as if VW built the Tiguan R-line with all the bored commuter enthusiasts like me in mind. Could the Tiguan R-line be the perfect commuter? Delivering all the practically of a compact CUV, with the sportiness and exciting driving dynamics of the infamous Volkswagen GTI?
The R-line package ($2750) takes the otherwise mundane Tiguan Highline and adds a sport tuned suspension, some gorgeous 19” alloy rims wrapped in massive (255/40/R19) Pirelli Scorpion tires, GTI-style flared wheel arches, a leather wrapped flat bottom steering wheel and Bi-Xenon headlamps along with some R-line badging and other flare. All of these add-ons certainly make the Tiguan R-line look the part; I do believe that the Tiguan R-line is the best looking vehicle in this class and my Pepper Grey with Saddle Brown leather tester was just the way I would have ordered it.
My tester also came with the Technology Package which adds navigation, a rear-view camera and an upgraded sound system. While all great features, the touchscreen interface used to control everything is far from best in class; it lags, freezes up and sometimes has a mind of its own. The Bluetooth is no better, and for some reason almost every time I got into the Tiguan, it paired to my phone and would automatically start playing the same song from my phone’s playlist – very annoying. The navigation system works well and the map is very clear, but it’s crippled by the frustrating touch screen. The rear view camera does redeem things a little bit as it’s one of the better I’ve seen in terms of clarity and display angle. Most notable though is the upgraded Dynaudio 300W digital audio system, it sounds spectacular regardless of what genre you’re playing. In my view, the sound system alone is worth the $2300 price of admission for the technology package.
So the Tiguan R-line has the looks and the features, however glitchy they may be, but does it have the driving dynamics that enthusiasts have been looking for in a compact CUV? I’ll admit, it’s been awhile since I’ve driven a Volkswagen and the first thing I noticed was the apparent roughness of the engine. On start-up the 200hp 2.0L turbo sounds a little bit like an old diesel, and even at idle it has a certain lumpiness to it. However, get on the open road and any harshness is quickly forgiven. Throttle response is brisk and the engine offers adequate power across the power band.
Slide the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic (the Volkswagen name is “DSG”) into sport mode and it’ll keep the rpms right in the sweet spot to keep the little turbo happy. This is where the Tiguan R-line really shines. It accelerates with more authority than I’ve experienced in any compact CUV and the R-line sport tuned suspension coupled with the huge Pirellis and the grip of the 4-motion AWD system makes this quite possibly the most fun you can have in a CUV.
In the VW I quickly began to remember how much fun the highway on and off ramps taken in my daily commute can be. The steering is tight and offers just enough road feel to encourage a little spirited driving, and I adored how light and maneuverable it felt in city traffic. As expected, the highway ride was a little rougher than most of the competition, but certainly not beyond reason and well worth the trade-off for the sporty suspension and grippy low profile tires.
As usual though, there are a couple of downsides to all this sportiness. The first being the fuel mileage, with my typically conservative driving style and running on the recommended premium fuel in the 2.0L turbo, I expected better fuel economy results than what I got. Over my week of commuting I averaged 9.7L/100km. Even keeping the transmission in the normal setting, I struggled to keep the fuel consumption down on city streets as no matter how gently I drove it always seemed a little rev happy. This is why I actually would have appreciated an eco mode to help keep the rpms down while bumping along in city traffic. While this average isn’t exactly dismal, when compared to the fact that it’s only slightly better than the average I got out of a V6-powered Hyundai Santa Fe XL, it does seem a little out of line.
The other area the Tiguan R-line falls a little flat is the interior. Typically Volkswagen, the overall fit and finish is quite nice, but it seems to be lacking a little bit in the functionally department. My tester came in at just over $42,000 and at that price I expect to have a power passenger’s seat, so I was surprised to find my passenger struggling with a silly pull handle to recline the seat. Also, the front seats only recline to about a 45 degree angle, not any further. While this may be a welcomed treat for rear seat passengers, it can be annoying for anyone wanting to take a nap in the passenger seat during a long haul. I didn’t find the driving position any better either, it feels like the armrests are both much too low to be useful and the telescopic steering wheel won’t tilt down far enough to accommodate use of the low armrests while driving. Over the course of the week I spent with the Tiguan I never really did find myself a properly comfortable driving position.
At the end of the day, the Tiguan R-line couldn’t be any more Volkswagen. It offers performance and practically all in a neat little package, but you’ll have to make a few sacrifices. If you’re already a member of the enormous VW enthusiast community, then you’re absolutely going to love the Tiguan R-line. If you’re looking for a vehicle with the practically to haul around a young family and add a little more excitement to your mundane commute, then the Tiguan R-line is definitely worth a serious look.
2013 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line Gallery