New Tiguan untarnished by ‘dieselgate’ residue

VW’s key model for the next year hasn’t even launched yet and it’s already achieved a good run score.


THE emissions cheating scandal that is costing Volkswagen billions of dollars to put right is not keeping the local distributor’s cash register from ringing in respect to the first new model the brand has delivered to New Zealand since ‘Dieselgate’ broke.

VW New Zealand has a Tiguan medium sports utility on road show to drum up business ahead of the model’s national release on August 23, and so far the preview effort has been paying off.

When speaking to MotoringNetwork three ago, national sales manager Rodney Gillard was citing a count of 171 firm advanced orders for a model that is expected to ride the wave of the huge swing toward sports utilities and become VW’s biggest-selling passenger product here within the next year.

The timing of Tiguan’s introduction is sweet insofar that July was the first month ever in New Zealand when SUVs outsold passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

However, Gillard expressed thought that there was some expectation that a high-profile exercise with Tiguan could bring out some customers whose views about VW had been soured by the emissions scandal, even though the engines in question only broke rules specific to the United States. They remain perfectly legal in New Zealand.

Nonetheless, 5000 VWs sold in New Zealand that had been fitted with the cheater software were recalled for remedial reprogramming.

That kind of issue has potential to cause fallout, not least because the diesel Tiguan was among those models caught up in the saga. It was dropped from local sale because of it.

However, when talking to MotoringNetwork from Palmerston North, the ninth dealership he had visited with the car with seven more to go, Gillard said so far the subject hadn’t really cropped up.

“We wondered, because this is our first new car that we’ve brought to the country since all that blew up … well, you had to think there was a possibility of a reaction,” he said.

“But it hasn’t been that way at all.”

The Tiguan take-up is heartening; VW here has determined to bring in five variants and the first shipment comprises 300 examples. Gillard expects to have 200 sign-ups by the time his circus reaches Queenstown next week – weather permitting, pehaps.

The car has been tailored to the big changes in SUV tastes that have become evident since the previous model was introduced, eight years ago.

Whereas the old range started out purely with diesel (TDi) engines, this time around there is just one of those in the mix and the emphasis is on direct-injection petrol motors, designated TSi in VW-speak.

Also, VW has increased the specification, implementing sat nav and the latest infotainment features.

Gillard said the switch from a TDi to TSi emphasis is due largely to three factors, none relating to the emissions scandal. First, there acknowledgement that the direct inject petrol engines were now operating at an almost diesel-like fuel burn efficiency.

“Then there is the cost of Road User Charges, and the premium of a diesel engine over a petrol, you actually have to do a lot of kays to make it (diesel) worthwhile.

“People are getting smart now and they are working out that the premium – which is around $2000 or even more – is not always worth it if they are doing low mileages.”

It’s a complete sea change. “When we first had Tiguan it was totally TDi and we brought the TSi in later on.” He doubts that diesel will ever regain the upper hand with this model, though he does not discount potential for adding another diesel if demand warrants.

Interesting, that pre-order count initially swayed strongest toward diesel, but then the TSi came to the fore, mainly in priciest Highline and R-Line specification.

The demonstration example is not wholly representative as to what customers will be buying as it blends a high-end specification - with a mis-mashed interior treatment, with R-Line enhancements mixing with a Highline trim – and a more utilitarian 1.4-litre TSi.

That engine, in marriage with a six-speed direct shift gearbox, will restrict to front-drive editions, in 110kW format for the range’s $41,990 Comfortline starter pack and in 132kW output for the $6000-dearer Highline alternate.

The first features a collision warning and emergency braking system, has halogen headlights, park distance control with parallel park assist, an eight-inch touch screen and what VW calls an easy smartphone connection. The latter adds an electric tailgate, keyless entry and start, an area view/rear view camera, goes to LED headlamps and has 18-inch alloys. Despite the kilowatt difference, models are rated for achieving 0-100kmh in 9.2 seconds and have 1800kg tow ratings.

The cheapest all-wheel-drive is the $57,990 4Motion TSi, with a 2.0 litre turbo petrol making 132kW, in marriage with a seven-speed DSG. It has all the features of the front-drive Highline, but swaps cloth trim for leather, uplifts to 19 inch rims and the touch screen has extra capabilities. This is the fastest model, with 0-100kmh in 7.7s.

The sole diesel model adopts the 110kW 2.0-litre unit shared with Passat, again with the seven-speed automated manual. It has the same specification as the petrol Highline and is a $59,990 ask. The tow rating is 2500kg and it is the thriftiest model, though no local market figure has yet to be provided. Zero to 100km takes 9.3s.

The flagship for now – because rumours persist that VW has a hot hatch-competing Tiguan R coming – is the 4Motion TSi R-Line, which has the 162kW 2.0-litre from the Golf GTi. The Tiguan’s extra weight shows in a shower 0-100kmh time that is achieved by the world-famous hot hatch, though a cited 6.5s is pretty good. This $66,990 model has 20-inch alloys, LED lights with cornering, a higher quality of leather seat (with heating), a bigger touch screen (9.2 inches), active info and head up displays and the DCC adaptive chassis control.

The second-generation Tiguan is built on the MQB modular platform. It is 60mm longer than the first-generation model, and the wheelbase is 77mm longer: This is plainly evident from sitting in the rear seat, where leg and headroom is much better than the outgoing car provides. Cargo space increases to 615 litres with all seats in use, another improvement.