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Reader test: VW Tiguan

2011-01-03 08:32

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: Johnie rates his 2.0TDi Tiguan as one of his best cars ever.

Johnie Jonker

After 48 000km, I can safely say that of the 12 cars my family has owned to date, this ranks among the best.

It is solidly put together (like my Jetta 2, way back when), the interior layout and finish is excellent with nice touches and innovations, handling faultless, fuel economy good – although the onboard computer is at least 10% optimistic - and the 2.0 TDi/six-speed Tiptronic gearbox match, a gem. There is never want for torque, the car is fun to drive and when initially launched was also good value.

The car was bought as a softroader replacement for a 2001 Forester, and based on the specifications, reviews, price and marketing hype, seemed ideal.

However, personal dislikes aside, in addition to the misleadingly specified ground clearance - 195/200mm at the BREAK-OVER angle, which you only learn after reading the owner’s manual; actually 25mm less below the sump guard - there are a number of shortcomings which detrimentally affect the car’s off-road potential and ability.

•    Stiff suspension: When the air is whooshed out of your lungs due to the car accurately following the left-right holes left by previous vehicles up a sandy incline, you involuntarily slow down and get stuck. It’s not that the car can’t take it, you can’t.

•    Factory-fitted swing-out towbar: With this option, you lose the rear recovery point.

•    Turning circle: At 12m, considering the size of the car, it is excessive, making manoeuvring in tight spots difficult. To date the softroader with the widest turning circle in its class.

TALK TORQUE: Ample torque from the turbodiesel engine and good on-road stability make the Tiguan an ideal car for towing, says Johnie.

•    Traction control: In practical off-road use this proved to be non-optimal due to the HDC not being independently de-selectable. This can only be achieved by disabling the off-road mode itself, in order to prevent the brakes from continuously kicking in on sandy down-slopes. With it off, civilised brake modulation is easy.

•    Tiptronic transmission interlock: It is not possible to shift between forward and reverse without being stationary with the brake pedal depressed. It is therefore virtually impossible to “rock” the car out of a sticky situation or apply the “staircasing” principle.

•    ESP: You are instructed to keep this enabled during sand driving. This severely impairs the car’s braking ability.

In standard form the car would be unsuccessful in deep sand due to - almost exclusively - insufficient ground clearance under the sump, especially after deflating the tyres to 0.8 bar.

The manufacturer instructs in the owner’s manual that you do not deflate the tyres when driving on sand, effectively disqualifying you from this terrain, per se.

However, on-road speaking, the car is stable and tows well and the diesel engine is ideally suited to this. If your idea of a holiday is towing a trailer to some civilised destination, this could be the car for you.

Handling on gravel roads is impeccable, albeit somewhat bumpy. C-class farm roads or well-maintained trails are also fine. Anything rougher should be attempted with care.

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