The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan has an odd “half tiger-half iguana” name decided on by an apparently intoxicated group of Germans. But never mind — because it’s among Volkwagen’s top vehicles.
The 2012 model has mildly revised front styling that will be unnoticed by most. But that’s no demerit because the solid Tiguan looked good to begin with when introduced for 2009 as Volkswagen’s first car-based crossover/SUVand is among the most refined models in its class.
Actually, the Tiguan is more of a crossover vehicle than an SUV, because it’s built on a Volkswagen auto platform, not a truck frame. That helps it feel carlike, with quick, nicely weighted electro-mechanical power steering and a supple ride.
The Tiguan is fun to drive. Putting aside its extra height, which lets occupants sit higher than in a car, it almost drives like a good German sports sedan. Handling is nimble and assisted by stability and traction-control systems. A progressive-action brake pedal works with a brake-assist feature for quick, drama-free stops.
Doors have large, easily grasped outside handles and fairly deep inside storage pockets. Front seats are supportive for spirited motoring, and a driver faces white-on-black gauges that can be quickly read. Controls aren’t difficult to use, and large outside mirrors assist rear visibility.
The interior is attractive, despite a lot of dashboard plastic, which at least doesn’t look cheap. Front cupholders are nicely placed on the console, although they’re set a little too low.
The front-seat area is roomy. Same goes for the rear seat. But the rear one has a stiff center section that makes it only comfortable for two.
At least the rear seat slides back to give tall occupants more legroom. And back windows roll all the way down. Grab handles are put above all doors, in the best German high-speed driving tradition.
The large cargo area has a low, wide opening with two interior hatch indents to help close it.
The Tiguan comes with front or all-wheel drive, but higher-line models are costly. List prices range from $22,840 to $37,780. I tested the near-top-line $35,930 SEL all-wheel-drive model with a 60/40 split/folding/sliding rear seat
The Tiguarn comes in a variety of trim levels. Some include a sunroof, others a navigation system and all-wheel drive — and so on.
However, even the base Tiguan is fairly well-equipped, with such items as an adjustable steering wheel, AN/FM/CD/MP3 player and keyless entry, along with power windows, mirrors and door locks –besides cruise and climate control.
All have plenty of safety equipment, including side-curtain air bags.
Powering the Tiguan is a potent turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The refined engine acts as if it’s a larger V-6, providing good acceleration in town and on highways.
The Tiguan is fairly heavy at approximately 3,400-3,650 pounds so don’t expect economy vehicle fuel economy. Still, the Tiguan’s slick six-speed automatic transmission, which has an easily used manual-shift mode, helps it deliver an estimated 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways.
A six-speed manual gearbox also is offered. It makes the Tiguan more fun to drive, at least away from heavy traffic, but causes a drop of a few miles per gallon in fuel economy. The manual shifts well and works with a long-throw, but light-action, clutch.
The heavy hood is held open by a prop rod, instead of a more convenient—and less muscle-straining—hydraulic strut.
What we have here is a good combination of utility and driving enjoyment.
Pros: Quick. Roomy. Nimble. Refined. Available all-wheel drive.
Cons: Lots of dashboard plastic. Just a prop rod for heavy hood. Pricey high-line models.
Bottom Line: Refined, roomy, sporty compact German cross-over.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintag car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com