THE cost will be in the billions when VW inevitably pays its fines, settles a mountain of lawsuits and makes Dieselgate go away. Of much greater importance is the long, hard road it faces to rebuild credibility.
I’ve been testing the new Tiguan 110TDi Comfortline allwheel drive diesel, a beautifully designed and engineered wagon and reasonable value at $42,990.
The Beloved couldn’t care less. She likes the Tiguan but not VW. “I wouldn’t buy one of their cars now. They duped everyone and don’t respect their customers,” she says.
She’s unmoved when I explain that all car companies tell porkies when they think they can get away with it. I know when I’m losing an argument. Let’s look at the car. The Tiguan now competes in the mid-size SUV class. Interior space is comparable with Subaru’s Forester, though the VW’s roofline is lower, its rear seat narrower and its boot slightly larger.
Cabin decor is 20 shades of grey — typical VW — with a few sprinkles of gloss black and fake alloy trim. Plastics and fabrics are high quality, fit and finish are excellent and high contact hardware such as door handles, wands and the leatherwrapped wheel feel premium Euro to the touch.
You sit in a firm, generously VW TIGUAN 110TDI COMFORTLINE padded pew, with (more typical VW) faux-quilted cloth upholstery. The seat is quite low for an SUV, so short people and older folks will find access easy. The head restraints have height and lateral adjustment.
The Driver Assistance option ($2000) on our test car includes customisable digital instruments, which look flash, are easy to read and put the navigation map right in front of your eyes.
VW has obviously thought about what families want in a mid-size SUV, because the Tiguan has clever, practical touches everywhere.
A squillion handy storage compartments include a covered dash-top box, passenger footwell net, front seat drawers, big bottle holders in all doors and an extended roof console.
The flat rear bench is split 60-40, has Isofix and tether strap restraint anchors, an adjustable backrest and slides fore-aft. Legroom is fine for adults but if you regularly carry three rear passengers you probably need a wider wagon. Vents and temperature controls, flip-up rear tables, front seat pockets and a 12V outlet make this a happy kid space.
Its low, easy to load boot floor extends to almost 1.7 metres using levers near the tailgate to flip the rear seat backs down. The longer floor is stepped. Another 12V outlet, hard load cover, net and a couple of bag hooks are all useful. The smooth, quiet 2.0-litre turbo diesel will trundle along in traffic all day, barely going above 2500rpm and returning single-figure fuel consumption.
It’s sleepy in Eco mode. Normal and Sport are more energetic — relatively. This is non-performance motoring. VW’s seven-speed DSG works more smoothly with diesels than with petrol engines; here, it displays none of the hesitation from rest that it has in other models.
Volkswagen claims best-in- class safety for Tiguan and at base model level this is correct.
The Driver Assistance option is worth taking because it also adds safety features to rival any luxury SUV.
Area View, for example, includes blind spot monitoring and 360 degree perimeter cameras, so when manoeuvring in tight spaces you can see what’s going on all around the vehicle. Rear cross-traffic alert with obstacle detection is also included.
Automatic reverse and parallel parking is standard but In seventh gear at 100km/h the 2.0-litre ticks over smoothly and almost silently at 1700rpm. On a long highway run it averaged 5.1L/100km.
Rolling acceleration is respectable and the sevenspeed quick to kick down into the 2000rpm-4000rpm sweet spot when you want a bit of extra shove. Radar cruise control is part of the Driver Assistance option.
VW claims a maximum towing weight of 2500kg. This is ridiculous, because the Tiguan’s maximum towball download, which should be about 10 per cent, is just 100kg.
Agile and well-balanced in corners, it’s actually fun to drive, which you can’t say about many of its rivals.
On rough roads, it’s totally secure — the snow and off-road drivetrain modes, which adjust the traction and stability control, front-rear torque split and other parameters for optimum grip on less adhesive surfaces, give it similar confidence on dirt.
All-wheel drive diesel Tiguans are relatively heavy, with firm suspension, so the ride is a touch lumpy and fussy, but it absorbs big hits with ease. Just as Golf MkVII set a new benchmark for hatchbacks, so does the Tiguan for mid-size SUVs. Killer product won’t by itself restore the company’s shredded reputation but, as a gesture of atonement, the Tiguan shows that VW is trying very, very hard to win back some love.