While an SUV is never going to be perfect on a racetrack – especially when up against an impressive and more dynamic sibling such as the Golf R, which we tested on the same day – it’s interesting to see how the manufacturer has dealt with the inherent disadvantages, such as centre of gravity and weight.
This review of the 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan R isn’t a direct comparison with the Golf R, but it gives me a great opportunity to understand the level of thought and effort the manufacturer is putting into their products.
I’m also sure there are a lot of people out there who would love a Volkswagen Golf R, but need that little bit more space and practicality.
Volkswagen haven’t disappointed here, bringing track-capable performance and dynamics to a SUV, which many of its rivals would be envious of.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it won’t be on pace with the epically quick new version of the Golf R, but the gap might not be as big as you would expect.
We already know from the Golf R that the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is a great improvement over previous iterations, now with 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Peak power comes in at 6500rpm, with max torque from 2000rpm all the way to 5600rpm.
The Tiguan R doesn’t quite have that same urgency from low down, the extra weight just dulling the initial reaction you get in the Golf R. It’s far from disappointing, however, and it’s incredibly driveable and linear.
The ability to modulate the throttle and control the power delivery was excellent and is even more important when you add that extra hight and weight, because every input will result in a greater mass transfer for the chassis and suspension to control.
Once again, gear selection didn’t even enter my mind, and the joy you can have from this engine across all types of driving and conditions is excellent.
As with all Volkswagens, the 0-100 time for the Tiguan R was consistent and easy to achieve. Although I didn’t beat the claimed time of 5.1s, I did manage 5.26s which is still impressive and only 0.4s off what I did in the Golf R.
I have really been impressed with the braking performance of both the VW R products we’v tested recently, something which wasn’t a highlight in the past.
The most impressive part with the Tiguan R, is the way Volkswagen has maintained the stability and control when you jump on the brakes hard. The numbers are good, achieving 100-0 in 2.87 seconds in 36.68m, but it’s the way in which it does it that’s more impressive.
There’s no unwanted reliance on ABS during heavy braking and I could manage the release of the brake well as I entered the corners.
This ability to control inputs once again is even more beneficial in an SUV. I had no issue with brake fade over successive laps and maintained good feedback from the pedal.
The playfulness of the Volkswagen Tiguan R was one of its most impressive attributes.
I never expected to be able to manipulate this in the way that I could – neutrally balanced, with an ability to rotate with ease and even induce subtle oversteer when desired. Understeer was almost non-existent, with a direct and confidence-inspiring front end.
As with the Golf R, the Tiguan R hands control to the driver, rather than dictating the outcome for you.
The Tiguan R even stands out above the Golf R, for the way that it manages the weight and controls the inputs. I was never surprised and could drive with confidence that it wouldn’t get away from me.
We have to talk about the weight a little bit; being 221kg heavier than the Golf R, 1722kg v 1501kg, plus longer, wider and over 200mm higher. All these disadvantages add up, yet somehow the result doesn’t come across detrimental to the experience, it’s only the outcome in terms of time that is impacted the most.
What I am saying here is, the driving experience between the Golf R and the Tiguan R isn’t as far removed as you may expect.
The gear shifts were fast and did exactly what I wanted. Because the engine is so flexible and drivable, I had no complaints about the gear ratios on track.
As we saw with the Golf R, it looks like Volkswagen has really made some leaps forward with the differentials and how it all works together, being drivable and free, then locking smoothly and in balance as you apply the throttle harder. There’s even a hint of throttle-induced oversteer on early application if you want.
What’s more impressive is stability at high speed, combined with the freedom to attack, which really supports the underlying dynamics of the Volkswagen Tiguan R.
There is almost no interference, and the Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) creates this world that feels natural, but is constantly influencing the situation.
WOW! I want to know who VW hired to sort this out.
I was hugely impressed with the improvement in the Golf R dampers, but this is next level – the Tiguan R’s dampers were without a doubt the most impressive part of the car.
Damper control on the bump side was even better than the Golf R, and supported the chassis with such ease and without the harshness you might normally expect.
Body control was excellent and gave you a platform from which to dictate the situation. It was able to absorb the bumps and negate the movement of the energy from the chassis when building up load.
The Volkswagen Tiguan R was nimble, stable, responsive and comfortable all at the same time! I never expected to be able to attack corners and bumps in an SUV on a track, like I could in this.
It was so confidence inspiring and almost made you forget that it was an SUV.
The Tiguan R’s steering lacks a little feedback, yet is very precise and reactive thanks to an excellent damper and chassis package.
The Volkswagen Tiguan R actually sits on a very different wheel and tyre package to the Golf R.
It rides on 21-inch alloy wheels shod in 255/35 Hankook Ventus S1 tyres. They didn’t quite offer the same level of grip, but still maintained a consistent pace and there was no major harshness considering the size of the rims.
As with all the Volkswagens, the launch control was excellent and I was so close to beating the claimed 0-100 time.
I had the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) in Race mode, and although it didn’t have the same level of adjustment as in the Golf R it still worked just fine on track. I turned the ESC off as well.
With the same wheel as the Golf R, it’s no surprise that I really liked the steering wheel. It’s great to have the R drive mode button on the wheel, so it’s easy to select on the go.
I thought the seating position really good for an SUV, with a good balance of comfort and support. I wasn’t moving around too much and didn’t feel like I was sitting too high, especially considering it’s a high-riding vehicle.
Overall the interior is just missing a bit of excitement compared to the Golf R, but it’s still functional and useful.
I never expected an SUV to be so at home on a racetrack.
With the Volkswagen Tiguan R, the company has done a great job of managing the inherently negative on-track attributes of the SUV body and created an impressive driving experience.
The massive improvements we have seen already in the Golf R have been maintained as you step up to the Tiguan R. The level of thought that has gone into this package is evident by the subtle differences that can be seen between the SUV and hot hatch, bringing the best out of each package.
The ease and consistency with which I did the lap times was impressive, straight away I felt comfortable to attack every corner on the track and almost instantly forgot that I was in an SUV.
My best lap was 61.42 seconds, but nearly every lap was the same. Whilst not mind-blowingly quick, the overall experience and company with which this time sits, is very impressive.
As we saw with Golf R, as a company Volkswagen have really upped its game and are thinking more about the driving experience, which will resonate with old and new customers to the brand.
- You can actually attack on track, it will deal with your impatience
- Drive it like a car, the dynamics are very similar
- You might surprise a few people, including yourself, on track
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