2009 Volkswagen Tiguan R

The new and improved 2009 Tiguan adds a thrill and personality to its plain and pleasing predecessor.

The Tiguan R features the usual Volkswagen qualities but with a lot more personality.
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When the Tiguan was launched here last year it was a pleasing vehicle to drive: not thrilling, just pleasing. This is where VW excels: it produces accessible, quality, affordable and reliable vehicles. Which is why motoring journos prick up their ears when an 'R' version is mooted, because it's the exception that offers that bit more spice to our daily drive. While the Tiguan is only R-Line rather than a full blown 'R' like the Golf R32 or Passat R36, it definitely has a stronger personality and offers a more zestful drive than the standard Tiguan Sport & Style variant. This is the result of an eager and responsive 200bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged fuel injection engine which suffers only from momentary turbo-lag before the power starts to pull you ever closer to the horizon.

Then there is VWs patent 4Motion four-wheel-drive system and the 19-inch "Omanyt" alloy wheels specific to the R-Line variant. Our test vehicle only featured the capable six-speed automatic. Maybe only isn't the right word as it still features a set of ratios ideally suited to both the engine's power and the range of driving styles someone with R-Line aspirations might apply. But sadly the DSG gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddleshift, which has proven to be such a stunner in the Golf GTI and R32, the Passat and Touran, to name but a few, is not yet an option in this region.

While you wouldn't want to take the Tiguan R-Line far off-road, the 4Motion all-wheel drive does feature VW's push-button "off-road" mode, which offers various safeguards including: pulling away aid for hills or loose surfaces; accelerator pedal adaption for gentle throttle control at low speeds for maximum traction; electronic diff lock for better all-round traction; and downhill drive assist to help maintain safe descent speeds.

4Motion also has benefits in everyday motoring, giving the SUV a feeling of stability and confident cornering grip, also aided by a Sports Suspension package with tuned shocks all round. Although the nose of the Tiguan with its angular headlights looks long in comparison to the squat rear, the transverse-mounted engine means there's little significant weight forward of the front axle, so the tail end follows around corners like a well-trained puppy.

Given its driving dynamics, the Tiguan R-Line also looks the part. Sporting the R-Line Plus Package it can be differentiated from your run-of-the-mill Tiguan by matt black wheel-arch extensions and colour-coded sills; its twin-ribbed front 'matt chrome' grille; colour-coded and re-designed bumpers with an integrated rear diffuser; chrome inlays along the lower portions of the doors; and the trademark 'R' logo on the front wing. These enhancements, although generally subtle, give the Tiguan R-Line more exterior dynamism even if they are generally cosmetic.

Where this design dynamism counts for more importantly is in the interior. The R-Line is developed on the already well-equipped Tiguan Sport & Style variant, so you get bolstered front seats (electrically adjusted in the case of the driver) in 'Monte Carlo' fabric with the 'R' logo sewn into the head restraints - unless you plump for the brown tan Vienna leather interior package which is altogether more stylish. Build quality is excellent throughout.

The driver is greeted by a three-spoke perforated leather sports steering wheel with aluminium-mounted R logo behind which is the typical two-analogue dial instrument cluster . As a treat for the feet the R-Line also gets a rally-inspired brake and accelerator pedal design. Most of the driving gadgetry in the R-Line is carried over from the Sport & Style Tiguan and includes a flick-of-the-switch cruise control and the innovative auto-hold function, which is a godsend at traffic lights, allowing you to remain in gear but take your foot off the brake pedal to relax. And finally there is the park assist system to help you parallel park. This is weird if you've never tried it before.

Basically, the Tiguan steers itself into the parking space while you just control the speed and braking. The drawback being that the system requires one and a half times as much space to park the car as a good driver would need if parking manually. With VW ever concerned with offering the most comprehensive range of vehicles for all tastes, the Tiguan R-Line is another example of a niche vehicle.

How many of these models will be sold when you have to order them specially through your local dealer is questionable though. Nevertheless, it is capable of trouncing its main competition. motoring@thenational.ae