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First drive: Volkswagen’s GTI-powered Tiguan

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line. Photo: Chris Benny Imaging

What do you get when you combine Volkswagen’s practical new Tiguan SUV with the heart of the Golf GTI? If you answered a Tiguan GTI, you’d be wrong, it’s called the Tiguan 162TSI. As the name implies the winner of Drive’s 2016 Car of the Year award is now powered by the 162kW and 350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine found in the Golf GTI hot hatch.

Volkswagen opted not to call it a GTI, and with very good reason. Put simply, it’s not a GTI on stilts as the specification implies and instead a different proposition entirely. Yes, it is a sporty SUV thanks to the potent powertrain, but even with the optional R-Line specification kit it is still more a family friendly wagon than a true hot hatch on stilts.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line. Photo: Chris Benny Imaging

But that’s not to suggest that is a bad thing.

The 162TSI gives the Tiguan a halo model, sitting at the top of the range alongside the turbo diesel 140TDI model that arrived in 2016. The 162TSI undercuts the 140TDI on price, starting at £48,490 (plus on-road costs) for the Highline model, which is £1500 cheaper than the diesel. But Volkswagen says more than half of the initial orders for the 162TSI have included the optional R-Line package which adds £2000 to the cost as well as R-Line styling inside and out, adaptive chassis control, progressive steering and 20-inch alloy wheels (replacing the 18-inch on the Highline).

Also available as an added extra is the £2000 Driver Assistance Package that brings blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, surround view camera and the 12.3-inch digital dashboard (shared with Audi and Lamborghini). The only other major option is the sunroof, which costs £2000.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line. Photo: Chris Benny Imaging

We spent the majority of our test drive in a 162TSI fitted with both the R-Line and Driver Assistance Package which showcases the car’s role as the flagship of the Tiguan range. The engine impresses immediately, with good pulling power from low down in the rev range and a noticeable punch of power when it hits the sweet spot in the middle of the rev range.

Volkswagen claims the 162TSI can match the Golf GTI in the 0-100km/h sprint, despite a 300kg weight disadvantage, thanks to its 4Motion all-wheel drive system and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (the Golf GTI uses a six-speed ‘box). Our route took us through the Macquarie Pass just south of Sydney, a twisting and challenging mountain road the really puts cars to the dynamic test. The R-Line equipped Tiguan allows you to alter the powertrain responsiveness, suspension and steering settings between Normal, Comfort and Sport modes plus an Individual setting that allows you to tailor the individual elements.

The Sport settings are simply too firm for Australia’s patchwork roads, making the Tiguan feel jittery. However, the improved engine and gearbox response does ramp up the sporty appeal and allow you to extract the best performance from the car. So the best setting we found was Individual with the powertrain set to Sport and the suspension in Comfort.

That allowed more compliance for more progressive handling but without the harsher ride. But while the 162TSI was fun to drive through the series of switchbacks and hairpin turns of the Macquarie Pass the Tiguan, even in R-Line trim, can’t match the Golf GTI for sheer thrills and excitement. There is noticeably more lean in the corners thanks to its tall, wagon body and the extra weight means it doesn’t feel as agile as a GTI.

So Volkswagen made the right call to stop short of pitching this as a high-riding hot hatch. Because as a luxurious but sporty SUV it makes a strong case. With all options fitted the price rises to £56,490, which is a lot for a small VW SUV but you do get a lot of bang for your buck.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI pricing and specifications

On sale: Now

Price: From £48,490 plus on-road costs Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol Power: 162kW at 4500-6200rpm

Torque: 350Nm at 1500-4400rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive

Fuel use: 8.1L/100km

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