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2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Road Test Review
A Sporty Crossover

by Bob Plunkett

Volkswagen of Germany ships to the United States a new compact-size crossover utility vehicle for the class of 2009 wearing a peculiar name: Tiguan.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

The moniker, chosen by German consumers in a public vote, is a mixing of animal names for tiger and iguana. The badge is difficult to pronounce and perhaps unusual to a fault. But we love the vehicle that bears this odd badge.

We get to steer a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan over Colorado canyon courses like U.S. 36 climbing into the Rocky Mountains to Estes Park, and we find the driving experience is way too much fun due to this vehicle's tight structure and precise mechanical components derived from German engineering.
The sleek five-door hatchback wagon, with seats for five in a well-stocked cabin, uses the platform of the subcompact Rabbit with FWD (front-wheel-drive) orientation or optional 4Motion electronically controlled AWD (all-wheel-drive) system and the muscle of a high-tech turbo-charged four-cylinder engine.

This turbo plant manages to nix the customary lag in timing for launch — that annoying lull of a second or more after pushing the accelerator while the turbocharger spools up before spitting out boosted torque to turn the wheels.

As a result, a Tiguan outfitted with the turbo in-line-four — labeled Tiguan 2.0T — leaps immediately off the line for a run up the gear ladder. All of the turbo muscle is manipulated through a good-feel manual six-speed transmission or the optional six-speed Tiptronic automatic with shift-it-yourself manual controls.

Stomp the go pedal and the Tiguan whips your neck back into the headrest and sprints to the fast lane. Drop the short stick down a gear on the manual transmission version and engine torque surges from the shift to higher rpms.

Volkswagen's tests of a Tiguan 2.0T indicate it can run from a standing start to the 60 mph mark in 7.8 seconds — that's not the speedy time of a high-powered and high-priced sports car but certainly lively enough for a CUV.

The four-pack — with turbocharger and intercooler applied plus VW's remarkable FSI (fuel straight injection) technology — produces 200 hp at 6000 rpm and torque of 207 lb-ft between 1700-5000 rpm. Crank the sport steering wheel an inch or two to the right or left and Tiguan cuts with direct action, changing to the next lane with quick precision, thanks to the electro-mechanical rack and pinion steering system.

Roll over pavement expansion creases and the sports-tuned independent suspension — MacPherson strut architecture up front with lower wishbones and aluminum subframe and a four-link arrangement in back with steel springs — blips the standard 16-inch (or optional 17-inch or even 18-inch) all-season tires in exacting up-down motions which mimic the ride quality of a sporty car. Brakes consist of large discs tied to smart electronic controls.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Rear
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Rear

Every issue has an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic braking assist (EBA), plus VW's anti-slip regulation (ASR) throttle checker and electronic differential locking (EDL) that modulates engine torque on front wheels to maximize tire grip. All of these acronyms are included as control components of the electronic stabilization program (ESP).

Now tackle a winding two-lane road, like Colorado 34 which heads northwest out of Estes Park down Big Thompson Canyon, and all of Tiguan’s mechanical systems come together in concert to produce superior handling traits honed to a hard edge.

Fact is, Tiguan has attitude.

The Tiguan's body structure is made of high-strength rails and beefed-up body panels united by tight bonding techniques such as laser-welded seams. This process forges a strong unibody framework that's incredibly stiff to resist torsional twisting when set to motion and forms a bedrock foundation to carry suspension and powertrain components.

Crisp styling for the exterior package of Tiguan features a strong prow and streamlined hood with lines sweeping up to the canted windshield and over an arching roof with side pillars dark to blend with tinted windows and create the impression of a sleek coupe.

The brash face reveals a chrome-streaked grille tucked between corner composite headlamps with honeycombed air intake vents and large foglamps cut into the deep fascia.

Flanks show muscular ripples on doors and bulges around wheelwells. A blunt rump has twin-lamp taillight assemblies wrapping around corners and a body-colored bumper punctuated by dual chrome-capped exhaust pipes.

Climb aboard a Tiguan and you'll discover a two-row passenger compartment with more room than a car in the compact class should contain plus a carpeted cargo bay in back that measures to 23.8 cubic feet with rear seatbacks up or as much as 56.1 cubic feet with seatbacks folded.

The cockpit plan positions a pair of bolstered buckets up front flanking a console and the back bench which holds three but fits best for two with a fold-out center armrest. Seat upholstery ranges from high-quality fabric to upgraded fine leather.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

Tiguan's three-spoke steering wheel is wrapped in leather and tilts and telescopes for a perfect fit. There are tabs to control the audio and trip computer.

Analog gauges in the instrument panel revolve around a large tachometer and speedometer. Each dial, girded by a silver bezel, flashes a black face with white lettering and a red needle.

Lots of equipment is stock to Tiguan, which skews to the three trims with Tiguan S, upgraded SE and top-end SEL.

Standard gear for a base Tiguan S includes air conditioning, eight-way manual adjustments for front seats and a folding rear seatback divided 60/40 percent, variable intermittent windshield wipers front and rear, cruise control, power windows and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD and eight speakers.

Options range from a power panoramic sunroof comprising 13 square feet to Stadt leather upholstery (a standard on SEL) and a touch-screen navigation system with 20-GB memory. The MSRP chart begins at $23,200 for Tiguan S with a manual shifter and extends to $32,940 for Tiguan SEL AWD with the automatic.


Description: Compact 5-door CUV
Model options: Tiguan FWD
Trim options Tiguan S
Tiguan SE
Tiguan SEL
Wheelbase: 102.5 inches
Overall length: 174.3 inches
Engine size: DOHC 2.0-L I4/FSI/T/I
Transmissions/speeds: Manual/6, Auto/6
Rear/front drive: FWD, AWD/4Motion (Haldex)
Steering: EPS rack and pinion
Air bags: 2 (front)
2 (side front)
4 (side curtain)
+ opt. 2 (side rear)
EPA mileage est. city/hwy: FWD A/6: 18/25 mpg
AWD A/6: 18/24 mpg
MSRP: S   FWD M/6: $ 23,200
S   FWD A/6:    $ 24,300
SE  FWD A/6:   $ 26,925
SE  AWD A/6:   $ 28,875
SEL FWD A/6: $ 30,990
SEL AWD A/6: $ 32,940