Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Volkswagen Tiguan R is a car with two very distinct personalities, and a big part of that comes down to the tried and tested 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet. Select Comfort mode from the drive menu (the car defaults to Sport) and the relaxed accelerator response and smooth-shifting automatic gearbox makes the R no harder to live with than a standard Tiguan.
In fact, in some respects it’s more relaxing, due to the fact that the engine is so smooth and pulls strongly from as little as 2000rpm all the way past 5000rpm – the gearbox doesn’t even have to shift up or down that often for you to make rapid progress.
Prod the R button on the steering wheel, though, and the car transforms. The engine note takes on a harder edge, the gearbox fires shifts through with proper gusto and the accelerator response is impressively sharp for a turbocharged car.
Granted, with an official 0-62mph time of 4.9sec, it is a couple of tenths slower than the lighter Cupra Ateca and Volkswagen T-Roc R, but from behind the steering wheel it never feels anything other than satisfyingly rapid – and certainly quicker than an entry-level Porsche Macan. With the optional Akrapovic sports exhaust fitted (a must-have in our book), you’re even treated to pops and crackles when you lift off the accelerator after hard acceleration.
Unsurprisingly, with a heavier kerb weight than the T-Roc R, the Tiguan doesn’t feel quite as nimble in the bends and exhibits a little more body lean. But its firm springs and standard fit adaptive suspension do an impressive job of keeping the car stable through quick direction changes, while the steering is beautifully accurate and nicely weighted.
Overall, though, it feels like the Tiguan R has been designed for perhaps a more grown-up audience than the T-Roc. For example, its version of Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system delivers outstanding traction regardless of conditions, and that’s never a bad thing. But rather than being programmed to let you slide the rear end on the exit of corners, the Tiguan R is always working to propel you out of the corner as quickly as possible. It’s a more clinical and confidence-inspiring approach, but not a thrilling one. In this regard, it’s much like the Audi SQ5.
Speaking of the SQ5, the Tiguan R matches it in striking an impressive balance between body control and ride quality. When the Dynamic Chassis Control (aka the adaptive suspension) is slackened off in Comfort mode, it does a good job of taking the sting out of bumps and potholes in the road, while the Sport and Race modes just fall on the right side of acceptable for a sports SUV.
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