Has anyone else noticed that fast food isn’t fast anymore? Driving through a McDonald’s for breakfast on the way to work, I sat for 20 minutes waiting for an Egg McMuffin. On an Indianapolis road trip date with this week’s tester, the 2018 VW Tiguan SUV, I waited 23 minutes (I’ve got the stopwatch out by now) for a lunch order at KFC/Taco Bell. By the time I reached the window, I had shaved, finished “War and Peace” and the line behind me was backed up into Ohio.
I’m convinced this inconvenience is the result of fast-food restaurants adding waaaay too many features to their menu beyond their core competence.
Feature-mania has also hit the family SUV which, like fast-food restaurants, are falling all over themselves to be all things to all family. USB ports, 4G Wi-Fi, moonroofs, heated seats, smartphone apps, Sirius XM, fold-flat seats, all-wheel drive, performance drive modes — the SUV interior is a rolling home basement theater except for the minibar. That should be an option soon.
So it is with trepidation that I approach family SUVs expecting the things to go into sensory overload. But I’m happy to report that, by-and-large, they work.
Take the new Tiguan, Volkswagen’s ground-up remake of its entry-level SUV. Like many German makes, previous Tiguans suffered from a superiority complex as VW tried to impose its standard of premium sportiness and minimal interior room on an American buyer who could do without the former and demanded the latter.
Predictably, this sales approach went over like Donald Trump at the Sundance Film Festival. The Tiguan bombed at the box office next to offerings like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape that put the customer first with affordable comfort and gizmos galore.
For 2018 VW has wised up and offered a roomy, Americanized SUV with more offerings than a McDonald’s breakfast. After (finally) getting my KFC, I rolled across the Midwest in a loaded Tiguan SEL tanning under a full sun roof, enjoying my Chicken Little sandwich, thumbing through XM stations with steering wheel controls, while adaptive cruise-control monitored the distance to the semis in front off me lest I be distracted from driving.
So thoroughly Americanized is the McTiguan that it has been supersized.
The 2018 model is a full foot longer and 176 pounds heavier than the outgoing model, gaining a third row of seats usually found in full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe. Readers of these columns know that I am a Golf GTI disciple — the hot hatch that offers everything from five-door utility to apex-carving dance moves.
Where the previous Tiguan seemed separated at birth from its nimble brother, the new model comes from a different birth mother altogether. Never once on my Indy interstate trip was I temped to take the Tiggy off-route to play. Give me a performance ute/car and I’m often tempted to twisty country roads. My route to Mid-Ohio race track this year in a McLaren 570GT looked like a piece of spaghetti.
The Tiguan cedes the sporty SUV high ground to athletes like the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V. This VW is about style, size and sizzle.
There are two kinds of ute styling these days: the coupe wannabes and the Rover groupies. With racy hoods and sloped rumps, the coupe wannabes look sleek at a sacrifice to rear head room and cargo room. That’s not Tiggy’s style. He’s a Rover groupie — a student of the tall, square shape pioneered by the luxury Land Rover brand, and followed by other swank SUVs like the Ford Explorer and Mercedes GLC.
The new look becomes Tiggy. Where the old Tiguan was a hippy, rounded Golf on stilts, the new generation is a luxe toaster. The finely detailed, Rover-esque grille and nicely creased sides (a hint of corporate cousin Audi there) kept my silver V-dub from looking simple, but inside is where this family vehicle really shines.
The dash and console are among the most elegant in the segment — bordering on luxury — with handsome proportions and Audi Q5-like attention to detail with chrome outlines and an optional digital gauge cluster. But Tig speaks with an American accent. Where the Audi’s console space is swamped by a remote rotary button operating infotainment, the V-dub bears an almost-as-good-as Chrysler UConnect touchscreen and multiple compartments for storage.
At Indy’s Mug ’n’ Bun drive-in (instant service with a smile), the Tiguan’s console was as useful as a sectioned high school cafeteria tray. I put my burger in the dashtop cubbie, my fries in the center console, drink and shake in twin cupholders, and smartphone in the fore cubbie. The CR-V still owns best-in-class console but VW is doing its homework.
As for seating, there is none better. Even after a nightmarish, 71/2-hour return trip from Indy stoked by multiple wrong turns due to VW’s helpless nav system and my Android Auto app going AWOL (one of those new menu items that is not working), my backside was no worse for the wear. The roomy back seat also wins raves thanks to that Rover styling.
Your 6-foot-5 scribe could sit bolt-upright even with a full moonroof adding an inch of roof space. And I could recline my seat. And there’s that (viable) third-row option should your rugrats emerge from school with five more rugrats for a sleepover.
Having solved the U.S. family market mystery, the VW only comes up short in one glaring area: price. My loaded SEL priced out at $40,000, well north of the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 that I also admire in this class. The more athletic Mazda even comes with more features like dual-mode cruise and a heads-up display — yet weighs in at $6,000 less.
That’s a lot to pay for the Tiguan’s room.
But at least the Tiguan is now a mainstream player in the segment with a menu of offerings that will make any fast-food-eating, smartphone thumbing, plus-size American feel right at home.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
Front-engine, front- and all-wheel drive, five- or
seven-passenger, midsize SUV
2.0-liter, turbocharged, inline 4-cylinder
3,777 pounds (3,858 AWD as tested)
$26,245 base ($39,250 AWD 4-Motion as tested)
184 horsepower, 221 pound-feet torque
0-60 mph, 8.2 seconds (Car and Driver est.); towing capacity:
EPA mpg: 21 city/27 highway/23 combined (AWD)
Roomy interior for big American families; comfy ergonomics
for long trips
Can get pricey;
Tow capacity down from last-gen: 2,200 to 1,500 lbs.
Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★Fair ★★Poor ★