Volk­swa­gen Tiguan SEL TSI 4Mo­tion VS. Volvo XC60 T5 AWD


Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents - Chris­tian Se­abaugh

The small stuff mat­ters for these two $40K lux­ury crossovers.

Details mat­ter, es­pe­cially when it comes to lux­ury. When you can get leather in a Ford Fi­esta, those hop­ing to com­pete in the lux­ury space need to sweat the small stuff to suc­ceed. Volvo and VW both have got­ten the mes­sage.

Long viewed in this coun­try as al­ter­na­tives for lux­ury and main­stream buy­ers avoid­ing a “tra­di­tional” choice, both brands have been mak­ing ma­jor ef­forts to­ward in­creas­ing mar­ket shares. For Volk­swa­gen, this has meant more pre­mium trim lev­els and a new com­pact cross­over promis­ing Ger­man de­sign and per­for­mance at a value price. For Volvo, it’s new CUVS that stand for the ideals of Scan­di­na­vian lux­ury.

The 2018 Volk­swa­gen Tiguan SEL TSI 4Mo­tion and the 2018 Volvo XC60 T5 AWD rep­re­sent this shift, and al­though one was de­signed to steal sales from Toy­ota and the other from Audi, there’s enough over­lap that we de­cided it was a good idea to in­vite them to com­pete as part of our $40,000 “Is Lux­ury Worth It?” chal­lenge.

For buy­ers look­ing for a more lux­u­ri­ous main­stream com­pact cross­over, the new Tiguan is a pretty com­pelling op­tion. VW has pre­vi­ously crossed the line be­tween main­stream and lux­ury brands (any­one re­mem­ber the Phaeton or W-8-pow­ered Pas­sat?), and with the toptrim Tiguan SEL, VW looks like

it’s found the sweet spot. The Tiguan has at­trac­tive new sheet­metal and a lengthy list of stan­dard fea­tures, in­clud­ing an Audi-es­que dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter and driver-as­sist fea­tures. It has the lux­ury front cov­ered, too, with a heated steer­ing wheel, heated seats, a Fender au­dio sys­tem, and a full-length panoramic sun­roof. Our at­trac­tive whiteon-black-on-orange Tiguan SEL tester stick­ers for $38,950, its only op­tions be­ing the $5,160 Pre­mium pack­age and the $500 third-row seat.

If any au­tomaker has suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the es­tab­lished lux­ury par­a­digm, it has to be Volvo. Flush with cash af­ter be­ing pur­chased by Chi­nese au­tomaker Geely in 2010, Volvo has in­vested heav­ily in new plat­forms, new en­gines, and new de­sign­ers poached from Bent­ley and other com­pa­nies. The re­sult is vis­ually stun­ning ve­hi­cles, among them our 2018 Volvo XC60 T5 AWD Mo­men­tum.

Well-equipped from the fac­tory with leather, Volvo’s Sen­sus in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, and a full suite of safety gear, prices start at $42,495, just over our cut­off. But once you get into the realm of de­cently equipped large-com­pact or small-mid­size lux­ury crossovers, it’s hard find­ing a ve­hi­cle un­der $40,000. We couldn’t find a Volvo XC60 with­out op­tions on dealer lots, so we asked Volvo to send us one rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what you’d find shop­ping.

Our lightly op­tioned tester in­cluded me­tal­lic blue paint (white is the only no-cost color), the Vision pack­age (which turns that ac­tive safety hard­ware into driver-as­sist tech), and an op­tional in­te­rior trim. To­tal price is $44,690, about $95 per month more than the Tiguan over the course of a 60-month loan. OK, so we bent the salary-cap rules. For some folks, an ex­tra hun­dred bucks a month is a bridge too far. For oth­ers, it’s close enough that they’d at least con­sider it. This price gap also gives VW a $5,740 head start in our value com­par­i­son.

Both crossovers are about the same length and weight. They also sport sim­i­lar drivetrains, but the VW is the less pow­er­ful of the two. Its 2.0-liter tur­bocharged en­gine makes 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque and sends its power through an eight-speed au­to­matic to an all-wheel-drive sys­tem. Largely thanks to its low power and high weight, the Tiguan was merely ad­e­quate at the track, need­ing 8.9 sec­onds to ac­cel­er­ate from 0 to 60 mph and 4.7 sec­onds for the ever-im­por­tant 45–65-mph pass­ing test. Han­dling per­for­mance is com­pet­i­tive with its main­stream brethren, lap­ping our fig­ure-eight course in 28.1 sec­onds while av­er­ag­ing 0.58 g. The Tiguan’s fuel econ­omy ratings are com­pet­i­tive,

too; it nets an Epa-es­ti­mated 21/27/23 mpg city/high­way/com­bined and an 18.8/31.9/23.1 Real MPG score.

The XC60 is more pow­er­ful; its 2.0-liter turbo-four makes 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is routed through an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box to an all-wheel-drive sys­tem. The ex­tra power helps the XC60, which weighs about the same as the Tiguan, per­form ad­mirably at our test track. It ac­cel­er­ates to 60 mph from a stand­still in 6.2 sec­onds and is quick in our 45–65-mph pass­ing test with a 3.4-sec­ond time. The Volvo is quicker in our fig­ure-eight test, too, post­ing a 26.6-sec­ond time at 0.64 g av­er­age. The ex­tra horse­power doesn’t seem to hurt fuel econ­omy much; it’s Epa-rated at 22/28/24 mpg, and we achieved 18.5/31.0/22.6 Real MPG in our test­ing.

Some­times a car doesn’t feel as slow out in the real world as it does on the track, but that’s not re­ally the case with the Tiguan. “I’m un­der­whelmed by this driv­e­train,” as­so­ci­ate edi­tor Scott Evans said. “Throt­tle tip-in is too sen­si­tive; you get a shove in the back like when a roller­coaster starts up the hill but then settles into a long, slow climb.” The Tiguan’s fuel econ­omy–ori­ented eight­speed auto seems to pay off at the pump, but it doesn’t help mit­i­gate the en­gine’s power prob­lems. The Tiguan’s gear­box is fre­quently caught skip­ping up to eighth gear early, fur­ther hurt­ing the VW’S poky per­for­mance. Shift­ing the VW’S eight­speed into its sport pro­gram­ming helps, but not much. De­spite its ac­cept­able han­dling per­for­mance at the test track, the Tiguan doesn’t re­ally ex­cite on the road in the same way most VW’S sedans and hatch­backs do. The Tiguan does at least ride nicely, but the down­side is it leans a fair amount in tighter cor­ners.

The XC60 is the sportier of the two. The en­gine feels pow­er­ful and re­spon­sive, and it hides any turbo lag well. Like the VW, the throt­tle is a bit overea­ger when leav­ing from a stop, but the eight­speed takes the edge off with smooth, quick shifts. The XC60’S ride aims more to­ward sporty, too, which like ev­ery­thing in life has its trade-offs. The up­shot is that the XC60 goes around a cor­ner wonderfully, with quick, di­rect steer­ing. The down­side is the ride is rougher than we’d oth­er­wise ex­pect from a Volvo. “The ride is a lit­tle heavy, like the springs are rather stiff,” Evans said. “It’s def­i­nitely sport lux­ury; I ex­pected more mag­ic­car­pet lux­ury.”

In­side is where the VW earns back some points from the Volvo. The Tiguan SEL with the Pre­mium pack­age seems de­signed to make a great first im­pres­sion. Hop into the driver’s seat, and it’s hard not to be im­pressed by the black and orange leather seats with match­ing door cards, the big dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter and in­fo­tain­ment screens, the

metal-ac­cented Fender speak­ers, and the mas­sive panoramic sun­roof, all of which give the Tiguan a lux­u­ri­ous feel.

Spend more than a test drive’s length in the Tiguan, and you’ll learn first im­pres­sions are fleet­ing. Lux­ury in­te­ri­ors are all about the details, and it doesn’t ap­pear VW paid enough at­ten­tion to them. Take the cabin’s de­sign for in­stance. If the Tiguan’s front seats are lux­ury apart­ments, the back are the city-man­dated af­ford­able hous­ing units, com­plete with sep­a­rate ameni­ties and a back-al­ley en­trance. The fan­tas­tic black and orange in­te­rior de­sign that flows seam­lessly from the driver-side door, across the dash, and onto the pas­sen­ger-side door doesn’t con­tinue into the rear seats. In­stead of the fun black and orange ac­cented with satin me­tal­lic trim, rear pas­sen­gers get the cheap seats with fea­ture­less door cards made of hard black plas­tic. At least the out­board seats get orange leather.

The front half of the cabin, though great-look­ing, isn’t off the hook, ei­ther. The dash is trimmed in two gray­pat­terned pieces of plas­tic that don’t match, the arm­rests are padded in the same rub­bery ma­te­rial that makes up the dash­board, and VW missed an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally drive things home with match­ing orange stitch­ing. Main­stream buy­ers would likely be OK with this, but lux­ury buy­ers sure won’t.

There are some un­for­tu­nate er­gonomic is­sues, too. “The front seats are com­fort­able, but the seat­ing po­si­tion is odd,” Evans, who stands 5-foot-9, said. “I feel like I have to get way up on the dash to reach the ped­als.” The is­sue is am­pli­fied for taller driv­ers. The rear seats also aren’t the most com­fort­able. The slid­ing sec­ond row is sur­pris­ingly nar­row and flat given the Tiguan’s foot­print, but it does at least feel spa­cious enough for adults. The third row is $500 worth sav­ing: dif­fi­cult to ac­cess and only large enough for a small child. It also eats up pre­cious cargo area. (Note: All-wheeldrive Tiguans get a choice of five or seven seats; front-driv­ers only come with seven seats.)

Get­ting into the Volvo feels like walk­ing up the stairs into busi­ness class in a Boe­ing 747—you feel spe­cial. The in­te­rior looks gorgeous, with white leather seats the fo­cal point along with pi­ano black ac­cents, satin metal, and wood trim play­ing equally im­por­tant sup­port­ing roles. “Usu­ally you’d worry about a stripped-down base-model lux­ury car, but this one is fan­tas­tic,” Evans said. “The ma­te­ri­als all look and feel au­then­tic, and they’re lib­er­ally ap­plied.” The XC60’S touch points all feel ex­pen­sive; even the plas­tics have a nice grain­ing to them. Volvo went so far as lining the in­side of the door cub­bies with a soft foam and car­pet­ing the cen­ter con­sole tun­nel.

The min­i­mal­ist cabin’s few con­trols “all have a heavy, solid feel to them,” Evans said. With so few but­tons, most of your in­ter­ac­tions with the XC60’S cabin will be through its ipad-sized in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which works wonderfully. It’s snappy and in­tu­itive, and like the VW, it in­cludes stan­dard Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto in­te­gra­tion.

True to tra­di­tion, the Volvo’s seats, both front and back, are sup­port­ive and com­fort­able. The XC60’S big win­dows and panoramic sun­roof give the cabin an airy feel. There’s plenty of room in back for adult pas­sen­gers and be­hind them a spa­cious cargo area with a low load floor.

There are a few misses in the XC60’S cabin. The dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter isn’t as in­tu­itive as the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, but it gets the job done. The hard backs of

The Volk­swa­gen Tiguan SEL makes a great first im­pres­sion, but get­ting into the Volvo XC60 makes you feel spe­cial.

the front seats—the only ob­vi­ous sign of cost cut­ting in an oth­er­wise im­pres­sive cabin—are also dis­ap­point­ing to see.

Both Volvo and Volk­swa­gen cabins are quiet. The Tiguan’s cabin is louder, but not by much. At full throt­tle it reg­is­ters at 23.0 sones to the XC60’S 21.3. At high­way speeds the VW nar­rows the gap, with our me­ters reg­is­ter­ing 16.9 av­er­age sones at 65 mph to the Volvo’s 16.1.

Cost is a pri­mary driver be­hind any ve­hi­cle pur­chase, so we asked our friends at In­tel­li­choice to run some num­bers to fig­ure out how much the Tiguan and XC60 would cost own­ers over five years. De­spite VW’S price ad­van­tage, the five-year costs of own­er­ship are close: the Tiguan’s $45,109 to the XC60’S $45,329. The Tiguan’s nar­row ad­van­tage can be at­trib­uted to Volk­swa­gen’s new 72-month/72,000-mile bumper-to­bumper war­ranty, which brings re­pair costs to $0 over six years, a year longer than In­tel­li­choice data cov­ers.

We started this ex­er­cise try­ing to an­swer whether the lux­ury badge was worth it for the same price. In this case, the loaded Volk­swa­gen Tiguan SEL car­ries a nearly six-grand price ad­van­tage over the Volvo. The Tiguan put up a strong ef­fort with its long list of fea­tures, at­trac­tive sheet­metal, and fun in­te­rior. But VW let us down with its lower-qual­ity in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als and cut cor­ners. And al­though it could have put some of that price ad­van­tage to work on those fea­tures, VW failed to de­liver the com­fort­ably ca­pa­ble driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that all lux­ury cars seem to cap­ture. And that’s a big­ger is­sue. With the XC60, Volvo de­liv­ers on the details, big and small, that com­pletely en­cap­su­late the lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence. When it comes to the Volvo XC60 Mo­men­tum, lux­ury is def­i­nitely worth the splurge. n

FUN HOUSE We love the front half of the Tiguan’s in­te­rior. Its Hal­loween color scheme is wel­com­ing.

CLEAN CLAS­SIC Volvo’s min­i­mal­ist in­te­rior de­sign lan­guage looks great in our XC60.

CUT COR­NERS Com­pare the VW'S rear seats with the fronts. The au­tomaker cut costs by scrap­ping the orange door cards and many me­tal­lic ac­cents.

HIGH QUAL­ITY The Volvo’s back seat is just as wel­com­ing as its front. Rear pas­sen­gers each get their own B-pil­lar-mounted A/C vent.

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