2022 Volkswagen Tiguan First Test: Front-Drive Is … More Fun?!
We haven’t been particularly impressed with the current-generation Volkswagen Tiguan’s powertrain or dynamic prowess. In a first test of an AWD 2018 Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion, we found the compact crossover’s 2.0-liter 184-hp turbo-four and eight-speed automatic didn’t respond well when pushed, and we later called the engine “sluggish and underwhelming.” There’s also been general disappointment in its handling abilities. So imagine our surprise when this updated—but same generation—2022 Tiguan SE R-Line Black came across as a “pretty sporty little SUV” in the words of our performance test team.
What’s the Tiguan SE R-Line Black? And What’s New for 2022?
In addition to the 19-inch trim-specific wheels and tires, the Tiguan SE R-Line Black is also equipped with black roof rails, R-Line bumpers and exterior badges, and body-color side sills. The cabin is outfitted with faux leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The trim level also includes parking sensors, 15-color LED ambient interior lighting, the R-Line touch-control steering wheel, and a panoramic sunroof.
More generally, the second-generation Tiguan lineup has been updated with a minor face-lift that gives the crossover a tougher and more contemporary look. Exterior changes include a lower-slung front bumper, wider grille, redesigned standard LED headlights, new lettering on the liftgate, and new wheel designs. Heated front seats and a digital gauge cluster—an 8.0-inch screen on most models, 10.3-inch on the SEL R-Line—is newly standard inside every Tiguan.
What’s It Like to Drive?
Volkswagen assured us we’d notice refinements made to the refreshed Tiguan’s drivetrains. Away from the test track, we’ve already noted that both FWD and AWD 2022 Tiguans are quiet and comfortable in more prosaic driving situations. And if we go back and look at our impressions of the 2018 Tiguan AWD, its refinement and composure were lauded, but countered by a suspension that felt out of sorts when tasked with broken pavement.
In the 2022 Tiguan FWD, power delivery is fluid, if a little noisy. The SUV’s turbo-four seems to want attention, and sometimes accelerator inputs elicit more sound than actual thrust. But the eight-speed automatic was faultless, and in Sport mode it’ll actually hold on to a gear all the way until redline. Shifts were smooth, with very little power gap between shifts.
There’s good visibility from the driver’s seat thanks to a high seating position and an airy greenhouse. The captain’s chair is also well bolstered, and an ample dead pedal made sure we could brace ourselves even further during spirited driving. Our team was split on whether the light steering weight was a good or bad thing, but it is accurate and linear. We didn’t get much jostling from the suspension this time around, but we also largely ended up on smoother roads.
The Tiguan FWD models are the only ones with third-row seating, but the 2022 update didn’t bring any more space back there. It’s still a bench seat for kids, and small ones at that. Adults should stick to the first two rows. Better yet, keep the third row folded most of the time and take advantage of the Tiguan FWD’s 33.0-cubic-foot cargo area. (If you opt for the two-row-only AWD model, room behind the second row grows to 37.6 cubic feet.)
Our 2022 Tiguan test vehicle came with its seats upholstered in Cinnamon leatherette and a dashboard and carpeting in contrasting black, we’d argue the most upscale-looking motif offered (although the Storm Gray theme looks nice, too). It’s not quite as premium as leather, but the fake stuff is still pleasant to the touch. There’s also lots of textured plastic, but it’s mostly fine.
Although the interior of the Tiguan SE R-Line Black aims for upscale in terms of aesthetics, it lacks distinctiveness. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily—controls are where you expect them to be and mostly work the way they’re supposed to.
Cabin ambient lighting and a wireless phone charger aren’t available on the 2022 CR-V until the top Touring trim, but they come standard on the Tiguan SE R-Line Black (which roughly aligns with Honda’s EX-L trim). The Tiguan also has the bigger touchscreen and 40/20/40 second row (the CR-V is equipped with a 60/40 second row). The CR-V EX-L boasts eight speakers, the Tiguan SE R-Line Black just six. The touch controls for the Tiguan’s climate control system could be less annoying, but the forward-canted bottle holders in the door panels are both smart and appreciated.
How Quick Is the Tiguan SE R-Line Black FWD?
Prior to this experience, we had never tested a front-drive example of the current-gen Tiguan. Without the mechanicals for powering all four wheels and not just the front ones, the Tiguan is roughly 90 pounds lighter. It’s still one of the largest and heaviest vehicles in the segment, but our 2022 Tiguan SE R-Line Black FWD managed the sprint to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. It also ran the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds at 85.9 mph. The quickest the Tiguan AWD could do was 0 to 60 in 8.6 seconds and a quarter mile of 16.5 seconds at 81.5 mph.
Performance and the Figure-Eight Course
Does FWD and being lighter mitigate the Tiguan AWD’s generally lackluster handling? On the test track, it seems to. The SUV holds lateral g’s on the skidpad nearly as well as the 2021 CR-V AWD Touring, at an 0.82 g average to the Honda’s 0.84 g. Here we’re looking for the highest result possible before traction lets go.
On our figure-eight test that measures a combination of acceleration, handling, and braking, the Tiguan’s time of 28.1 seconds at 0.60 average was closer to the front-drive CR-V’s 27.7 seconds at 0.62 g than the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited FWD’s 28.9 seconds at 0.57 g. Here again, we’re looking for a high g number but also want it coupled with a quick time.
And compared to the Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion, the FWD model again shines. The AWD version musters only 0.77 g average on the skidpad and a time of 28.3 seconds at a 0.58 g average. In fact, it was in figure-eight testing where we noticed the 2022 Tiguan FWD really awakened. Road test editor Chris Walton noted how there was “just enough resistance to body roll to feel sporty around the skidpad.”
Not into the numbers? Just know this FWD model’s improved handling will likely translate to improved confidence and control on the road.
Where the Pounds Matter
Good body control also helps the Tiguan FWD in braking. With an average of 126 feet, it was consistent in 60-0-mph stopping distances and 8 feet shorter than both the Tiguan AWD and the 2019 RAV4 Limited FWD, the latter of which happens to weigh hundreds of pounds less than the Tiguan FWD. The CR-V FWD is also significantly lighter than the Tiguan, but it comes to a halt from 60 mph in just 118 feet.
The Tiguan’s mass hurts it most in fuel economy. Whether it’s the 2022 CR-V FWD’s 28/34 mpg city/highway from its 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four or the 2021 RAV4 Limited FWD’s 27/35 mpg from its 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-four, both get better EPA ratings and not coincidentally weigh less than the Tiguan FWD. The 2022 Tiguan SE R-Line Black FWD is rated at 23/30 mpg city/highway.
The 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan SE R-Line Black’s size makes it stand out in the segment and an asset for hauling around people and stuff. But it comes with a fuel economy penalty that only gets more acute for heavier AWD models.
That the FWD model is more fun to drive than the AWD is a good thing for families or anyone else with the keys to one. Opting for the Tiguan FWD saves a tiny bit on sticker price and fuel costs down the road. The tradeoff, of course, is lesser abilities in the dirt and muck or in inclement weather, where the Tiguan with 4Motion AWD is more competent.
For the money, there are better-equipped compact crossovers in the segment. The top-ranked CR-V is a good place to start. It has more space for people up front and better fuel economy, and the 2022 CR-V EX-L FWD trim (the highest level with a FWD option) is more than $1,400 less than the 2022 Tiguan SE R-Line Black FWD.
If the wireless phone charger and ambient lighting are must-haves, they’re standard on the top-trim AWD CR-V Touring, but the sticker price is an additional $2,685 beyond the Tiguan SE R-Line Black’s. Ultimately, this Tiguan will best serve the brand faithful or those seeking lots of cargo space in a compact SUV. Consider the smidge more fun behind the wheel an added bonus.
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