Building Momentum With A Mid-Life Refresh

2012 Volkswagen Touareg front2012 Volkswagen Touareg rear

The Tiguan's updated hardware hides beneath a modest exterior updo that's surprisingly effective. The front fascia adopts VW's latest corporate look, with a twin split-bar grille and new headlamps that look markedly more assertive than the somewhat saggy fixtures they replace – particularly in SEL trim, which incorporates U-shaped LED arrays, a change that recaptures some of the aggression lost when the Concept Tiguan of 2006 made the transition to production. In profile, little has changed other than the addition of a chrome lower trim strips, and out back, reshaped two-piece taillights look less globby, with more intricate "Double L" internals. To our eyes, the new look is at once more cohesive and premium, and the refined Tig has a more confident stance, particularly when outfitted with optional 19-inch Savanna alloys.

Interestingly enough, ours is one of two front-end looks for the 2012 Tiguan. Known as the 28° Track & Style nose (you can't make this stuff up), it has a light-duty plastic skid plate and slightly improved arrival angle (name aside, VW specs suggest the arrival angle is actually 24.3°, but we don't see many people off-roading their Tiguans anyway). The other front fascia, known as the 18° Sport & Style, incorporates a bluffer face, with a larger center air intake and a Leno jut to its lowermost region. European customers will get their choice of front-ends depending on which model they choose, but U.S. customers will have to be happy with the style seen here.



Much to our quiet relief, the interior of the 2012 Tiguan is largely the same as its predecessor, which is to say comfortable, clearly laid out, and well-constructed. There's a new steering wheel with multi-function switchgear, a crisper and more colorful data display nestled between the tachometer and the speedometer, an updated gearshift lever and top-spec SEL models get a thin fillet of matte silver trim on the door cards. That's about it. Those fearing the same sort of decontenting and discount materials inflicted upon the 2011 Jetta have nothing to worry about – the 2012 Tiguan still errs on the premium side and observed fit-and-finish in a variety of test models was first-rate.

Sadly, we can't give you the complete goods on the new Tiguan just yet, because even though we drove a whole range of examples, they were European-spec models with all manner of powertrain and option combinations that we won't see in America. We powered out of Munich and into the heart of the Austrian Alps driving everything from the innovative 1.4-liter twincharger (which is both supercharged and turbocharged to deliver 158 horsepower and 177 pound-fet of torque) to our 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder backed by a six-speed manual and 4Motion all-wheel drive, both wearing Sport & Style togs. We even spent time in an automatic-equipped 2.0-liter TDI diesel 4Motion, the subject seen here in our photographs. Since we won't get any of these powertrain combinations (as before, we'll have a choice of a base front-wheel-drive model with manual transmission or uplevel trims with front-or all-wheel drive paired exclusively with the updated six-speed automatic), we'll have to wait to give you our full impressions.



Alright, we'll give you one observation that's likely to come as a surprise: In this application, the 2.0-liter TDI needs work. We've been delighted with the flexibility and driving characteristics of this very same diesel in other VWs (including our own long-term Jetta), but if an oil-burning Tiguan is to come to the States, it's going to need a trip to manners school. While likely acceptable to a European audience used to diesel power tradeoffs, we found the TDI to be surprisingly coarse sounding – acutely so upon start-up (despite ambient air temperatures in the mid-60s). Once underway, it's possible to forget about the noise, vibration and harshness after a while, enjoying the TDI's 168 hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque output, but the start-stop feature caused us to revisit our misgivings about the engine's refinement every time it kicked in. Officials reconfirmed that the company is actively considering offering a TDI model stateside, so we hope they sic their engineers on the problem, as some extra sound insulation and a bit of tuning would probably address our concerns. Cornering the market on a high-mpg compact diesel CUV certainly strikes us as worth the added effort.

From our vantage point, the Tiguan's other chief impediment to bigger sales has been its price. The 2011 Tiguan may boast a more sophisticated engine and a nicer interior than many of its competitors, but its $23,720 base price is well north of its larger chief competitors, the Honda CR-V ($21,895) and Toyota RAV4 ($22,475), not to mention cheaper offerings like the Kia Sportage ($18,295) and Nissan Rogue ($21,460). Volkswagen hasn't tipped its hand on pricing ahead of the 2012 model's September on-sale date, but it's likely to at least hold the line, if not decrease a bit.

2012 Volkswagen Touareg rear 3/4 view

Bigger changes will have to wait until the next-generation Tiguan, a model that's likely to be very different from what you see here. For one thing, the all-new model is widely expected to be built not in Wolfsburg, but in Chattanooga at VW's new plant. Building in the U.S. will help make a much lower price point possible, and this successor will almost certainly grow a bit in size to fit U.S. tastes – likely sprouting a long-wheelbase variant with three rows. What's more, we hear from several sources that the next Tig is unlikely to see the sort of interior cost-cutting that's drawn fire from auto critics and brand loyalists. According to what we've heard from several sources, Jonathan Browning, VW of North America's new CEO, is understood to be unhappy with the Jetta's accommodations, so a repeat performance with the Tiguan is unlikely.

In the meantime, we don't see anything here that will stop the current generation from continuing to build momentum. It's more refined, better looking and cheaper to run, and it still packs the heart of a GTI.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 78 Comments
      murciered
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm not the biggest fan of the new front fascia that VW is implementing as a standard throughout their model line-up. It just looks so "standard" and boring, IMO.
        Timotheus
        • 3 Years Ago
        @murciered
        It's as if they think bland and boring will sell big. Like they learned nothing from the CC or can't take a page from Hyundai's latest offerings.
      Kumar
      • 3 Years Ago
      The updates make it look much better, but it needs a tdi option to make it stand out.
      QAZZY
      • 3 Years Ago
      I, for one, do not mind VW's new corporate face. It's nice, but not flashy like Hyundai (they're still nice, just a tad too flashy for me). Crossovers are popular, and it makes sense for VW to introduce, a cheaper more efficient one, since that's what the consumers want.
      torqued
      • 3 Years Ago
      "2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder backed by a six-speed manual and 4Motion all-wheel drive". 6-speed manual and AWD is a winner. Bring it here in both gas and diesel, please. I wonder how many people will cross shop this with the Mini Countryman? Even with the MPG improvements, the countryman gets better mileage, but it's smaller and the interior layout is very polarizing. I happen to own the MIni because it's one of only a few cars to offer AWD and a manual transmission. If the Tiguan had offered this, it would have been in the running.
      B
      • 3 Years Ago
      Come on, Autoblog...do a report about VW's plans to improve their reliability. They're relatively nice cars (current Jetta excepted) but don't hold up well and cost a lot to repair and maintain. If they're going to avoid turning off a generation of car-buyers (as they have me), their reliability strategy is way more important than a few tweaks to an existing model.
      1:23pmEST
      • 3 Years Ago
      The comments are heated around the price of this vehicle and its value compared to its Japanese competitors. I agree with all who are arguing that for the money you should stick with the Japanese or Korean models. If money is your supreme motivating factor then VW is not your best choice. However, the Tiguan has something that not one Japanese or Korean model offers (in the 20-20k price range)- a feeling of substance and quality. This is not the quality that can be determined by statistical reliability. Rather, this is the quality that can only be discerned. Only by sitting in the VW and being aware of the environment, can you sense the quality it has to offer. It is the opposite of the Hyundai Tucson with all of it's space-ship like techno style and gadgetry. If you are striving to move up the ladder, if you were born with less and now want more, then you'll want to go with a Korean model (Tucson or Sportage), both of which offer "more." If you have more refined tastes, and aren't hungry for all of the toys, and if you simply want a well-constructed, safe, clean looking and feeling car, with entry-level elegance, than the Tiguan might be your choice. The Honda CRV is outright dull and lackluster. A great choice of a pragmatist, of an accountant, of a miser. Not everyone holds reliability over feel. That is why VW has a market. And, in my opinion the Tiguan is much more aesthetically pleasing than anything else in the market. Since I only have one car, I want a car that is pleasant on my eyes, that is attractive. I don't seek just the utility of it. I seek a relationship. I want to like it- not just for it's promises (of low TCO or reliability), but for what it is right now. I want the "now" of the car to be attractive, not just what my mind thinks of the car. I was raised in a family with high-end luxury cars. Due to my lifestyle choices my budget does not reflect the budget that I am accustom to. The VW is the only car in the pack that has the feeling of a higher-end luxury vehicle. Sure, it is a spartan, simple rendition of one, but it still sends enough cues to the driver that it is worthy of being driven.
      CarCrazy24
      • 3 Years Ago
      Bring the diesel, watch it sell like hotcakes
      marco
      • 3 Years Ago
      Generally speaking I have not been a big fan of Volkswagen's new corporate face, but this Tiguan is drop dead SEXY to look at. Honestly I think this is the best application of the new corporate face yet.
      Ridoca
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nice washing machine, does it have a good spin cycle? Seriously though, exterior aside, the interior looks pretty bad and reliability is VW=terrible...bet hey, at least it's much too expensive for what it offers :D Not trying to hate, but I really don't see how this box on wheels could sell anywhere close to what they would like in the US.
        ANDREW
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ridoca
        Ive owned 12 Volkswagens out of the 14 of the cars Ive owned..I would never drive anything else...ive never had one with "terrible" VW reliability...Volkwagen must be doing something right with all the Tiguans and everything else they sell thru out the world..odd that it is just the American market that has this tedious gripe..Das Auto
          DontTrustPoliticians
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ANDREW
          > NightFlight >@ Keven Fitzpatrick >Of course I won't use personal ownership experiences because I flat out refuse to purchase a VW >product. Want to know why? Read on.... Just as I thought - a rookie... >Night flight doesn't actually use personal ownership experiences...funny. That's because NightFlight is what we mechanics call a "keyboard mechanic" - doesn't turn a wrench, but he's an expert on all things automotive... ...Courtesy of someone who has owned 5 VWs over the past 30 years (3 owned currently).
          NightFlight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ANDREW
          @ Keven Fitzpatrick Of course I won't use personal ownership experiences because I flat out refuse to purchase a VW product. Want to know why? Read on.... My best friend had a 2008 GTI that spent 45 days in various dealerships in the two years that he owned it. Electical problems, DSG replaced but problems still continued, and vehicle stalling issues. VWoA finally lemoned the 100% stock, non-abused vehicle after having to pursue legal action. After what he went through with the "legendary" VW customer service in both the dealerships and from corporate, I wouldn't touch a VW with a 10 foot pole. My mother had a late build MK4 Jetta GLX VR6 that was horrific, it was sold in less than a year and a half. Monthly unscheduled trips to the dealership will sour the ownership experience especially when they treat you like crap at the dealership. This car had many electrical issues, window regulators, and a gremlin that would drain the battery if the car wasn't started for more than two days. Four co-workers have had LEMONED VW products, all late model (2005+) vehicles. Two Touaregs, a Passat, and an A4. Is that enough proof for you? I actually went to test drive a MK6 GTI but I couldn't bring myself to like it because of horror stories as well as that stupid E-Diff.
          NightFlight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ANDREW
          Das Auto is rated at or near the very bottom according to JD Power, Consumer Reports, and TrueDelta. Also, if you look at other countries that have an equivalent to what is mentioned above, don't rate VW as highly reliable either. Canada and the UK are two other countries that I know of that rate VW about midpack (UK) or lower (Canada). I guess statistically sound data (facts) mean nothing to you.
          Keven Fitzpatrick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ANDREW
          Night flight doesn't actually use personal ownership experiences...funny.
          WillieD
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ANDREW
          Sounds like you get a new one every 2-3 years.
      You guy
      • 3 Years Ago
      VW has an obsession with the 1992 Camry. VW 2011 = Toyota 1992, Sadly. Proof: http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2009/12/27/12/02/1992_toyota_camry_4_dr_xle_sedan-pic-7277975376245305556.jpeg
      NightFlight
      • 3 Years Ago
      Price is still too high and still not worth the added increase in cost. You have to spend $28,000 to even be able to add the option of 4Motion, and that is just silly. It still requires premium fuel. When optioned up, it bumps up against true luxury brand CUVs like the Q5, XC60, GLK, RDX, etc. It won't make sense in the US until VW can get the pricing strategy to make sense to consumers. There is a reason why its sales are pitiful, and 3,000 in one month with a TON of cash laying on the hood isn't impressive.
        mitchman06
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        Yeah, VWs configurator will make you shake your head. The low priced models don't make sense, the high priced models don't make sense. AWD should be available on all trim lines. The Tiguan is simply too expensive.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        [blocked]
          bh
          • 3 Years Ago
          As long as other automakers can offer a strong car at a strong price, there's no reason VW should get away with offering only one at a time.
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          NightFlight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ Justin Do you own a VW or something? Sounds like you need to hit other competitors online configurators. The price at the LOW end is $2,000 more compared to the CR-V (best selling SUV for going on six years in a row) for a smaller vehicle with far less cargo capacity that is less efficient and requires premium fuel. The interior honestly isn't $2,000 better than the CR-V, and certainly not when you start adding options. $2,000 isn't a small chunk of change. Again, being forced to spend $28,000 to get AWD is ridiculous. AWD isn't even offered on the base model, if that isn't a typical VW BS upsell, I don't know what is.
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          You guy
          • 3 Years Ago
          The Tiguan can't compete with a base model Forester @ 20-21k. It has LOADS of standard equipment Volkswagen makes you pay extra for. I'll be the first to admit I'm a Subaru fanboi. Suck it.
        escrimador582
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        The price makes sense to me. 28k is still 7 grand less than the audi, volvo, acura. I test drove a CRV and it was absolutely horrible. If the XC60 you really want is a bit out of reach and can't bear to putt around in a CRV, then theTig is a reasonable compromise.
          NightFlight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @escrimador582
          Then you have no idea of what you are talking about. $28,000 for a MID LEVEL trimline is insane, you might want to actually compare the features of the competition at the corresponding trim lines before you say that it isn't that bad. The CR-V isn't "absolutely horrible" in any single respect, at all. If it were, it wouldn't be the best selling SUV in America for the past six years. Garbage doesn't sell in the US anymore. It isn't the best at any one thing, but it is pretty good at everything. Sure, it doesn't have a soft touch dash like the Tiguan, but it surely is cheaper and more reliable.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @escrimador582
          [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          @escrimador582
          [blocked]
        Alex Rodriguez MacFa
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        The biggest reason VW doesn't sell well in the US is reliability and maintenance issues. VWs were always considered a step higher than the Big 3 and the Nippon 3. The current 2011 Tiguan feels much more elegant and well build than the competition. The price of the fully loaded Tiguan runs some $4K more than a fully loaded Rav4, but it has panoramic roof, HIDs premium sound and state of the art sound. I think more people would actually pay this premium if VWs were as reliable as its Asian counterparts. Unfortunately VWs are really expensive to operate. I think building the Tiguan in North America would greatly decrease its price and compete better with its rivals. At the right price and with German engineering, people might be lure into VW's Teutonic ride.
          mitchman06
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex Rodriguez MacFa
          Are you serious??? $4,000 is a HUGE chunk of change, that isn't just a little bit more expensive, that is significantly more money. You also forget that another reason why VWs don't sell well is a very high total cost of ownership and poor residuals.
          Alex Rodriguez MacFa
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex Rodriguez MacFa
          State of the art Navigation system I meant
        chickenflauta
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        I dunno. VW only moves about 30,000 units per month in the US. To have 1/3 of them be Tiguans, given the VW's shortcomings in fuel economy, and price and size for American tastes, I think that's pretty noteworthy.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          Blake
          • 3 Years Ago
          Hybrids aside, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets 24. But yeah, other than that, 23 mpg city is decent relative to the rest of the class.
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