The outright fitment of the R badge on the Tiguan may have come as a surprise and shock to many, simply because it has taken Volkswagen years to finally join the high-performance SUV fold that's brimming with competition.
We'll never know if Volkswagen used the Tiguan R-Line as a dummy to test the waters with the 162 kW and 350 Nm model. But at long last, 2022 saw the introduction of the full-blown, first-ever Tiguan R, which can also be viewed as a high-riding, matured Golf 8 R.
Its looks are on point, and you get a few discrete giveaways that point to it as a dedicated performance model besides the R emblems all around the car. It comes with bigger 21" Estoril alloys, R-specific bumpers, and four exhaust tips that VW can swap for Akrapovic at an added charge.
Then there is the interior that isn't flashy and doesn't scream sporty from the get-go, yet it's more comfortable, spacious and classically Volkswagen.
That said, it features R tweaks in the form of blue detailing, R emblems on the front seats, and more decorative inserts with contrasting blue stitching and brushed aluminium pedals. It's worth mentioning, though, that I am not a fan of the touch controls on the steering wheel that are prone to unintentional activation.
Glitches aside, the interior has an intuitive Discovery Pro infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and satellite navigation. The interior features are further complemented by a smartphone charging pad, a panoramic roof and a Light and Vision Package.
The overall built quality is impressive, thanks to the use of leather and the strategic use of plastics at various points. Space is decent, and the Tiguan R will accommodate up to five passengers with relative ease and still leave generous amounts of boot space rated at 520 litres.
As a flagship model in the range, the Volkswagen Tiguan R uses the same powerplant that performs duties under the bonnet of the Golf GTI and Golf 8 R models. In this application, it puts down 235 kW and 400 Nm to all-fours using a 7-speed DSG transmission.
On the road, one learns to forgive the Tiguan R for the aforementioned irks. It's surprisingly rapid off the line with little to no drama, and it's exciting, thanks to the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that works extra hard to bite into the tarmac.
It has various driving modes, including the Race setting, which can be selected by pressing the R button on the steering wheel. This changes the exhaust note while also transforming the gearbox shifts and throttle response in an impressive manner.
The optional Akrapovic exhaust fitted to our tester also treated us to crackles and pops during spirited driving. Besides being a performance SUV, the Tiguan R makes for a notable cruiser when you dial it into Comfort mode, and the fact that you can use its higher ride height to go off the beaten track is another added advantage. Just watch the wheels, though...
At a price of R999,990, the Tiguan R doesn't come cheap, but then again, you'll likely agree that vehicle prices in South Africa are soaring. The good thing, though, is you get the best of both worlds, and it comes with a host of standard features.
During our tenure with the Tiguan R, we averaged 9.5l/100 km, which should be pretty easy to live with.
The Volkswagen Tiguan R marks the brand's entrance into the high-performance SUV market and doesn't disappoint. With its impressive powerplant, discrete yet sporty exterior, and comfortable and spacious interior, the Tiguan R is a well-rounded package that appeals to those seeking practicality and performance.
While the price tag may be steep, it has many standard features that make it a notable contender in the market. Overall, the Tiguan R is an excellent option for those looking for a high-performance SUV in a mature and sophisticated package.