Long Term Tests
Volkswagen Tiguan - End of term report
Commutes, cross-country road trips, climbing up snow-bound Himalayan passes, our Tiguan has seen it all over a year and 35,000km
What a year our Tiguan has had! It came in to replace the Passat that we’d had for the previous six months and most of the team opined that they preferred the car — better handling, better ride, more suited to our disposition at evo India, if you know what I mean. And then we started using the Tiguan — like really, really using it in the way we haven’t used anything in our long term test fleet for a while — and opinions changed rather quickly. Our Tiguan was dispatched to two extreme corners of the country, put through some seriously challenging roads, worked the 4x4 like few owners ever will, and in the middle of it all, I used it as my daily driver in Pune city along with frequent midnight drives to the airport in Mumbai.
Thoughts? India is SUV country and an SUV works far better than most cars. I did a podcast with the head of Volkswagen India while driving down to Nashik, that was after the floods that washed away major chunks of the Mumbai-Nashik highway, and I have to say the Tiguan was far more comfortable and far more composed over the craters and gravel patches than any car would have been. The headlights — excellent. The ground clearance — a boon especially in Mumbai with the engaging mix of big speedbreakers and massive potholes. The DSG gearbox — excellent as always; quick, responsive, the best twin-clutch around. The high seating position — handy when pushing and shoving through traffic. The diesel engine — quick and efficient enough for two Pune-Mumbai round trips, done enthusiastically at that. Dynamics — top notch; planted, sure-footed and energetic with very little body roll. The panoramic sunroof — lovely to view the mountains while driving in the Himalayas, which we did a lot of!
We haven’t mentioned the back seat in our previous updates but I did get to experience it on our drive to Shingo-La when my head started swimming with altitude sickness. I have to say it is very comfortable — nice and wide so three can sit abreast comfortably, a good recline angle, lots of knee and head room, big door pockets for chocolates and water bottles, and that big panoramic roof to marvel at the snow-capped Himalayas.
In the Himalayas we didn’t suffer any significant drop in power and that was a welcome relief though, in all fairness, the chassis is so good it could do with a couple more horses. Also on that drive, every morning was a sprint race to the front seats of the Tiguan — everybody wanted to toast their backsides on the heated seats.
Over the year we put in almost 35,000km over all kinds of roads and the Tiguan has been absolutely reliable apart from developing a rattle in the front suspension, and the rear brake pads being prone to accelerated wear — both of which are covered under the comprehensive service packages Volkswagen are offering across the board. It makes the ownership experience stress free, and I can attest to the ownership experience being thoroughly enjoyable too.
Backing us up
To celebrate ten years of the Polo in India, we decided to do something totally out of the box: take it on a road that has been the preserve of Series 1 and 2 Land Rovers for the longest time. It was a crazy idea and we needed backup, something with four-wheel drive to get us out of tricky situations, something with the space for all our photo and video equipment, and something comfortable enough for long days on the road. The Tiguan was a natural fit and shadowed the Polo on the drive across the country from Pune to Darjeeling and then up that steep narrow track from Manebhanjang to Sandakphu. It’s here that we discovered the Off Road mode on the 4Motion controller does work very well, reducing the strain on the gearbox, reducing wheel spin on the steep hairpins and mainly reducing the work the driver has to do — so we could enjoy the views of this incredibly beautiful part of the country.
Braving the Shingo-La pass
A couple of months later, we discovered the Snow and Ice mode on the 4Motion when we went up to the Shingo-La pass. Actually we hit black ice at Rohtang pass itself and the Tiguan remained sure-footed on the extremely slippery descent down to the Lahaul valley. But it was on that final ascent to Shingo-La that we really relied on the Snow mode which basically shifts up to a higher gear as soon as possible, reducing the torque going to the tyres and thus minimising chances of tyres spinning and compacting the snow underneath into ice. If you see the pictures it was a complete white-out but our Tiguan, on its stock Hankook tyres, managed to find enough purchase to take us to the top of the pass without having to go through the laborious process of fitting on snow chains. The only hiccup was when the engine temperatures shot up but that, we discovered, was because snow had blocked the air dam preventing any air from getting to the radiators. Kicking out the snow sorted that out and she ran like clockwork over the week she was on the road: Pune - Chandigarh - Manali - Keylong - Shingo La and all the way back to Pune to resume duties as my daily driver.
Through thick and thin
We took our Tiguan camping. To the hills for weekend drives. To our farm, carting seeds for the fields and feed for the cattle. As a back up car for our shoots (the photographers loved the wide boot and also the big sunroof). But the drives I enjoyed the most were the midnight runs to Mumbai to take international flights. That’s the time the city is asleep and the roads are empty. Everybody’s asleep and there are no phone calls to bug you. Apple Music has a great show on. And you’re all on your own. I call it my “me” time. Time to just drive without getting hassled about a million other things. Pune - Mumbai at night is also a breeze, but two days later the journey back is always a headache with the infernal Mumbai traffic and trucks clogging up the Lonavala expressway section. That’s where the strong headlamps, solid mid-range grunt, great visibility and generally enthusiastic manners are put to full use. I’ve often been asked why don’t I just take a cab back after a long flight but, honestly, when there’s a nice SUV like the Tiguan to drive, you’d be crazy to put yourself at the mercy of a cabbie.
New year, new car
Volkswagen’s annual fleet renewal means our Tiguan has to go back. But the good news is a new Tiguan takes its place — a brand new one at that with just 200km on the clock. Nothing like the smell of a new car, and nothing like the joy of ripping off all the plastic, setting the menus and modes just how you want it, discovering yours is the first and only phone to be paired, and being ultra-possessive of your new car keys.
What’s new in our ‘new’ Tiguan? It is white. And it gets a new infotainment system addressing one of the very few complaints I had. While the actual size of the touchscreen remains unchanged, the physical buttons around the old screen are now integrated into a wider glass area to give it the impression of being a much larger screen. It looks more modern but it is also a fingerprint magnet. Oh, and I just discovered, this Tiguan now has the 80kmph and 120kmph speed warnings.