Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Look Back at the Tiguan

By: Christopher Compton
What a difference 12 years can make. For our second “Throwback Thursday,” and on the cusp of an all-new model hitting dealerships, let’s take a look back at Volkswagen’s first foray into compact SUVs, the Tiguan.
We all know that VW is quite cautious when it comes to automotive trends. When SUV and CUV sales started to climb, execs carefully entered the ring in 2006 with a concept car called the Tiguan. A combination of “tiger” and “iguana,” Tiguan was chosen through a contest handled by Germany’s Auto Bild magazine. If that name didn’t seem odd enough, another name in the contest was the very Napolean Dynamite-esque, Liger. It was abundantly clear that the “concept car” was a thinly disguised production model. Only the chunky wheels, the two-tone front fascia, and some exterior and interior trim were changed when the actual model was revealed. Even the strange name was carried over from the concept.
Looking back, it’s easy to see what the original Tiguan was: a tall Golf. Or a tall GTI. The same principles that made the star of VW’s lineup so popular were applied to this truck: FWD, transverse engine, adequate passenger space, adequate (read: small) cargo space, high-quality materials, and an enjoyable driving experience. Much like the Golf, European buyers had the choice of a number of gas and diesel engines. Some of the available trim packages featured completely different front fascias that increased front approach angles. And European buyers had a long list of options to choose from.
In North America, things were quite different for the Tig. The lone engine choice was the award-winning 2.0T FSI engine mated to a manual transmission on the base front-wheel-drive model, or the dynamic (read: expensive) DSG transmissionEarly commercials exclaimed the Tiguan was “the only turbocharged SUV on the market.” Which seems almost quaint today: many (most?) manufacturers now feature similar boosted/direct injected engines in their SUVs.
Unfortunately the complex engine and upscale interior led to a hefty-for-the-time base price of $23,200 for a FWD model with a manual transmission. Higher trim levels added 4motion all-wheel drive with the DSG transmission for a higher price. Overall the Tiguan was a fun to drive and dynamic little truck, but the Tig’s high cost and low utility kept it off buyer’s lists.  While other manufacturer’s models exploded in sales, the Tiguan languished.
Correction: the Tiguan eventually took off. Over the past few months, VW has sold more Tigs than any other time in its product life cycle. It’s been so popular that VW recently announced this MKI Tiguan will continue to be produced and sold alongside the MKII Tiguan as the Tiguan Limited. Very little has been revealed about the Limited, but we do know it will have a lower price than the all-new Tiguan which starts at $25,300, and options/trim levels will be limited (is that where the name comes from?).
Looking back at the history of this model, we can see that Volkswagen learned quite a lot and applied those teachings to the second gen model. The much larger cargo bay, available third-row seat, widened body, and the more common (by today’s standards) engine and drivetrain definitely address the MKI’s shortcomings. And the $25,300 base price is only $2100 higher than the original 2006 Tiguan. Time will tell how this new Tiguan fares in the market, but the changes applied to the MKII definitely point to one major improvement: sales. And you can find out what we thought of the Mk2 Tiguan at this time tomorrow.

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