Lucky seven out to dom­i­nate

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

Since the demise of the Touran in SA, Volk­swa­gen has not had a seven-seater in the lo­cal mar­ket, un­less you want to go up to the much larger Kombi. In­ter­na­tion­ally it has the At­las, but as VW global brand boss Her­bert Diess sets out to make the Tiguan the world’s best-sell­ing SUV, a sev­enseater ver­sion is set to ar­rive in SA in the se­cond half of 2018 in the form of the Tiguan Allspace.

Al­ready VW’s third-big­gest seller (be­hind the Golf and Polo), the pol­ished, tech-savvy Tiguan now has a longer brother, with an ex­tra 110mm stuffed sur­rep­ti­tiously inside the wheel­base and the op­tion of a vari­a­tion of the Touran’s ver­sa­tile fold­ing third-row sys­tem to bolt into the rear end.

Oddly, the 4,701mm long Allspace is 215mm longer than the stan­dard Tiguan, which means there is 105mm tacked on be­hind the rear wheels to ac­com­mo­date the ex­tra space. And there’s plenty of ex­tra space, even with the third row as an op­tion. That’s be­cause VW’s re­search in­sisted the ma­jor­ity of buy­ers wanted the ex­tra space, but not nec­es­sar­ily the ex­tra row of seat­ing.

Keep it all stan­dard as a five-seater and the Allspace de­liv­ers a rear-seat bench that slides 180mm, just like the stock Tiguan, but gives an­other 54mm of knee room.

An­other ma­jor dif­fer­ence is that it de­liv­ers an­other 145l of lug­gage ca­pac­ity be­hind it (now 760l if the seats are max for­ward) and boosts the folded ca­pac­ity up from 1,655l to an as­tound­ing 1,920l. With all seats up and as far back as pos­si­ble, the rear lug­gage space is just 230l.

The third-row seats are de­signed for kids, rather than adults or even teenagers, and the head and leg-room is ac­cord­ingly lim­ited. And not for lit­tle kids, ei­ther, be­cause there are no Isofix points for the clip-in chairs. But to be fair on VW, they only call it a 5+2, in ref­er­ence to the just-in-case sta­tus of the third row.

Up front, the Allspace car­ries the same Tiguan story, with an im­pres­sive ar­ray of tech­nol­ogy buried within a dash­board that at once screams ex­act­ing de­sign, width and not a sin­gle trace of ex­cite­ment.

A fully digital ac­tive-info dis­play in­stru­ment clus­ter dom­i­nates the wide cabin and if that doesn’t de­liver enough in­for­ma­tion, there’s also an op­tional head-up dis­play and the enor­mous, dash-mounted, touch­screen cen­tral mul­ti­me­dia screen.

There’s also a ton of con­nec­tiv­ity, three-zone cli­mate con­trol air con­di­tion­ing, park­ing sen­sors, ac­tive cruise con­trol and a raft of ac­tive safety fea­tures, al­though of course VWSA has yet to de­cide on fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions for our mar­ket.

The beauty of the ex­tra length is that you only no­tice it at a se­cond glance, so clev­erly has it been in­te­grated into the Tiguan de­sign.

There’s a slight dif­fer­ence in the C-pil­lar to add the length, while the B-pil­lar re­mains the same and the rear door is a lit­tle longer.

There will be three petrol and three diesel fours (at least, there will be in Ger­many, again SA de­riv­a­tives and en­gines have yet to be con­firmed), plus front and all-wheel drive, though we only tested the 2.0l, tur­bod­iesel ver­sion with 176kW of power and a 2.0l TSI petrol mo­tor with 162kW.

There is also a 1.4l four-cylin­der petrol en­gine (with 110kW of power, a six-speed trans­mis­sion and fron­twheel drive) and a 132kW ver­sion of the 2.0l four cylin­der, which comes with all-wheel drive, a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion.

For those brave enough to push on be­yond Diesel­gate, the three-mo­tor diesel range starts with a 110kW ver­sion of the 2.0l turbo four, with ei­ther front or all-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed man­ual or a sev­en­speed dual-clutch gear­box.

It rises to a 140kW ver­sion of the same en­gine and tops out with the stonk­ing 176kW diesel, both of which carry all-wheel drive and a sev­en­speed dual-clutch as stan­dard.

The core goal of the engi­neer­ing team was to de­liver all of the ex­tra space and versatility with­out mess­ing up the Tiguan’s good road man­ners and be­nign bal­ance.

That has been achieved to an im­pres­sive de­gree.

While it could never be mis­taken for a sport­ing or re­motely in­ter­est­ing car to drive on wind­ing roads, it is a solid, de­pend­able, com­fort­able pack­age. That is prob­a­bly all it needs to move seven peo­ple ap­pro­pri­ately.

While the lesser pow­er­trains are likely to be the big­gest sell­ers (and, if the short-wheel­base Tiguan is any guide, the mid­dle power out­puts are likely to be the best all-round pack­ages), we weren’t given those op­tions to drive.

The petrol en­gine is smooth, with the en­gine’s ex­er­tions iso­lated to the point of be­ing nonex­is­tent inside the cabin, even though you could hear it work­ing and feel the car pulling strongly. It works well from all en­gine speeds, haul­ing up in a smooth, lin­ear way un­til it falls away be­yond 6,000r/min.

But it’s the strong­est diesel that’s the most im­pres­sive.

VW has pulled the sound lev­els

down un­til they equate to a petrol en­gine that’s not quite front line, and that’s im­pres­sive in its own right.

More im­pres­sive is how it gets around. Prod the throt­tle from any revs and it just jumps for­ward, even more en­thu­si­as­ti­cally if it is in sport mode.

There are enor­mous re­serves of per­for­mance, es­pe­cially at lower revs where it crunches out 500Nm from 1,750r/min.

VW says it’s good for a 6.7 se­cond sprint to 100km/h. And that’s not bad from a 1,880kg SUV with seven seats.

It’s also smooth and flex­i­ble, mat­ing su­perbly with the now­ma­ture seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion.

The ride qual­ity is ex­cel­lent, as it should be with a longer wheel­base, and the dy­namic engi­neers have done well to mask both the ex­tra weight and the ex­tra over­hang at the back.

It feels ut­terly com­posed ev­ery­where and as­ton­ish­ingly ca­pa­ble, though it never en­cour­ages you to push its han­dling en­ve­lope. Or its per­for­mance en­ve­lope. It’s just there, lurk­ing in the back­ground should cir­cum­stance re­quire it.

It’s hap­pier to cruise most of the time, ooz­ing from traf­fic light to round­about and back again, re­ly­ing on things like ac­tive cruise con­trol, push-but­ton park­ing, lane-de­par­ture warn­ing sys­tems and a host of other safety tech­nol­ogy to keep peo­ple out of trou­ble of their own mak­ing.

All of this ride, han­dling, per­for­mance, com­fort tech and good road man­ners are re­ally there as a life-sup­port sys­tem for a ver­sa­tile in­te­rior, which does its job very well.

It’s a lit­tle awk­ward to climb into the back seat for adults and even more awk­ward to sit there, so for­get we men­tioned it. Kids will fare bet­ter and be hap­pier, though it’s still eas­ier to climb into a Touran’s rear row.

But a Touran is no longer avail­able in SA and be­sides, it doesn’t pull the carpark cred like an SUV, does it?

In spite of its ex­tra length, the Tiguan Allspace han­dles well.

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