Our colleagues and contemporaries in the automotive press hold the 2020 VW Tiguan in higher esteem than we do. We wouldn't say the Tiguan is a dud - it's not - but for whatever reason, it just didn't sit right with us. Granted, we had a trim level with 20-inch wheels, so maybe that was to blame for the lackluster ride? After a week-long drive, and considering the number of other choices on the market, we recommend shopping around before buying a Tiguan.
Safety & Tech Features
Stylish & Sporty
Road & Wind Noise
Engine Prone to "Lurching"
The 2020 VW Tiguan has some endearing qualities, but unfortunately for the Tiguan, the pendulum will swing back the other way. During our week-long drive with the 2020 VW Tiguan, some of what we liked also ended up getting on our nerves.
A combination of two words, tiger and leguan (meaning “iguana” in German), the Tiguan is a beast of a different nature. Here is how our test drive went.
VW Tiguan: What’s New For 2020?
Every Tiguan comes with VW’s Car-Net telematics system and on-board Wi-Fi. Wireless charging is available, starting on the SE trim. SEL models receive a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing wipers.
The new SE R-Line Black features 20-inch black aluminum-alloy wheels, black-accented R-Line bumpers and badging, fog lights, and a panoramic sunroof, among other features.
Optional 3rd Row & All-Wheel Drive
The 2020 Tiguan with front-wheel drive receives a third-row standard. With 4Motion all-wheel drive, the Tiguan is standard with two rows, but a third row is optional.
Our 2020 VW Tiguan Press Vehicle
The Tiguan comes in five trim levels: S, SE, SE R-Line Black, SEL, and SEL Premium R-Line. Our press vehicle was an SEL Premium R-Line with 4Motion and a 2.0-liter turbo engine.
The 20-inch wheels caught our eye right away, along with the R-Line-specific bumpers, badges, and other exterior trim. Our Tiguan press vehicle was quite a looker!
VW divides up the window sticker like this (photo below). Exterior includes Automatic LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights; halogen front fog lights with low-speed cornering lights; rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles; a heated front wiper area on the lower portion of the windshield; and a panoramic sunroof.
Interior includes dual-zone automatic climate control; second-row air vents; heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel; heated leather seats; 10-way power adjustments, including lumbar support, for the driver; illuminated and carpeted cargo area with tie-down hooks, 12V power port, and privacy cover; and ambient lighting among other features.
Some Nice Extras!
The Technology & Convenience package has a number of useful, fun, and otherwise nifty things. Among our favorites are the Overhead View Camera; remote start; hands-free liftgate; wireless charging; Bluetooth connectivity; and a Fender premium audio system.
Safety features are a strong point for the 2020 Tiguan, and our press vehicle was no exception. From the factory, the 2020 Tiguan provides six standard airbags; anti-lock brakes; electronic stability control; Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children (LATCH), and VW’s Intelligent Crash Response System.
In the aforementioned Technology & Convenience package are adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor, and lane-keeping assist, among others.
How Much Does The 2020 VW Tiguan Cost?
Base price for our 2020 VW Tiguan 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line with 4Motion was $38,795. There was an additional charge for the third row ($595), while the destination fee was another $1,020. Add it up for a total MSRP of $40,410.
By comparison, the 2020 VW Tiguan starts at $24,945.
Interior Highlights: Initial Impressions
Our 2020 VW Tiguan press vehicle felt spartan, despite having niceties like heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and navigation. The spartan-like feel might have more to do with the specific trim level of our press vehicle, versus the entire Tiguan line itself. Our Tiguan was an SEL Premium R-Line, which gives the vehicle a larger set of 20-inch wheels. Some may feel a difference in ride quality with those wheels, and indeed we felt it was rougher.
As we said at the beginning, some of what endears the Tiguan also cuts it short. Drivers who like a more rugged SUV will enjoy the interior layout and the overall feel of the SEL Premium R-Line. The drawback, however, is the lack of comfort this trim level provides when the miles add up. The seats are not very accommodating for long trips, and the interior lets in a lot of road and engine noise.
After about an hour behind the wheel, we were uncomfortable as were our passengers. If you can live without the extra features and treatments the SEL Premium R-Line provides, go for a lower trim level. We would be curious to see how the smaller 17-inch wheels ride on the SE trim level.
Interior Highlights: No Rhyme or Reason
The odd combo button for the driver’s side heated seat and steering wheel makes little sense to us. While it might have been user error, we could not turn one on independent of the other. Based on our experience, the button on the lower right side of the center stack turns on the heated seats and steering wheel at the same time. Then you move to the eight-inch touchscreen to set the heat level for the seats or turn off the steering wheel if you only want the heated seats on (or vice versa).
Some of the menus and displays within the eight-inch touchscreen are similar and left us scratching our heads. At times, things just seem unnecessarily complicated.
For example, we dim our interior lights at night, as that is the best practice for safety. Most vehicles have a dial or button for this just to the left of the steering wheel. Drivers should be able to reach over quickly and do this, no problem.
With our Tiguan press vehicle, the interior brightness settings were in a separate menu on the eight-inch touchscreen. That menu is unavailable while moving. We had to pull over to dim our lights down inside. While this is not exactly a deal-breaker, be prepared for quirky little things like this with the Tiguan. If you are driving and the sun goes down, you will need to find a rest stop before you can dim the interior lights.
One thing we did enjoy was the information display just ahead of the steering wheel. We configured it so we could see the compass (directly in the middle), digital speedometer, remaining fuel, and current mpg. At times, we would switch the compass out for the navigation map. Through the eight-inch touchscreen, drivers have the option to configure this center instrument display to their liking.
The Fender Premium Audio System is a nice compliment to the Tiguan. As I often do when I drive, I tuned to Watercolors (SiriusXM 66). It’s pretty hard to go wrong with anything Fender, from guitars to stereos. It’s an excellent choice on VW’s part.
For a family on the go, the new Tiguan is versatile and offers plenty of storage space for book bags, sports gear, and anything else you can think of for weekend outings. In the two-row Tiguan, there is 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, expanding to 73.5 cubic feet when folded. By comparison, our three-row Tiguan had 33 cubic feet of space behind the second row, expanding to 65.7 cubic feet when folded.
With everything in place, there is still 12 cubic feet behind the third row.
2020 VW Tiguan: Engine & Powertrain
Under the hood of every Tiguan is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with direct injection. The engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic, creates 184 horsepower (4,400 rpm) and 221 lb-ft. of torque (1,600 to 4,360 rpm).
VW employs what is known as the Budack cycle for the 2.0-liter engine. The automaker describes it as an innovative modification to the conventional four-stroke cycle for a better combination of power, efficiency, and responsiveness. Based on our week-long test drive, we would beg to differ on two of these points. While we agree with the efficiency part, the engine is neither powerful or responsive.
Gas Mileage of The 2020 VW Tiguan
2020 VW Tiguan Fuel Economy
The blue italics in the above chart denote the engine and drivetrain of our 2020 Tiguan press vehicle.
We logged just shy of 186 miles during the week we had our 2020 VW Tiguan. Most of the driving was done in the smaller communities surrounding the Detroit area, so our speeds were rarely above 45 mph. However, we did take jaunts down M-10, I-94, and I-96 to get to those towns.
The combined rating for our press vehicle is 23 mpg. However, we averaged 26.2 for the week, ahead of the EPA rating. We believe the Tiguan’s start-stop function made a significant difference.
How Does The 2020 VW Tiguan Drive?
This is a tough one for me. No automotive professional should deliberately hammer a press a vehicle given to them, on loan, by an automaker. With the Tiguan, I wonder if driving a different trim level without the 20-inch wheels would make a difference? I would be curious to see.
The first time I drove our Tiguan press vehicle, it was not a pleasant experience. I imagined being a prospective customer taking it on a test drive for the first time. It didn’t sell me, and made me question what long-term ownership would look like. On my first drive, it was hard to get comfortable; it was noisy and underpowered; shaky in the wind when a gust would come up; and generally hard to maneuver at higher speeds.
It was not the best first impression.
Structurally speaking, the 2020 VW Tiguan rides on a one-piece steel subframe and a strut-type front suspension with lower control arms and long-travel coil springs. The 2020 Tiguan uses an electro-mechanical power steering system as well. These types of steering systems are common today. They are designed to “tighten” at higher speeds, then “loosen” (for lack of better words) at lower speeds. When done correctly, a vehicle should feel more stable on the highway, yet also easier to maneuver when putzing around town.
There is nothing on the spec sheet that jumps out as abnormal when it comes to the chassis and steering. So it makes me wonder if the 20-inch wheels are the culprit on ride quality?
Lethargic & Lacks Refinement
However, the 20-inch wheels cannot be blamed for everything. When cruising around, especially between 15 and 35 mph, the powertrain makes things rough. We drove through Plymouth, Michigan, a town of around 9,000 about 25 miles from the Detroit metro. Speed limits in Plymouth, as with most small towns, are lower than big cites. In these low-speed environments, the Tiguan’s steering is responsive, but that is quickly overshadowed.
We would turn a corner and then let off the gas – usually because another light, pedestrian, or car was right there – and our Tiguan press vehicle would lurch. It feels like a premature engine brake, or like an invisible hand is pushing back against the hood. Whatever it is, our passengers felt it and it displeased them. This lurching never corrected itself during our week-long drive either. If we lived in Small Town America, where much of the driving is local and slower, we would not buy the 2020 VW Tiguan.
Acceleration from a stop is adequate, but most times, throttle response is completely lethargic. While a driver can get lucky and feel some spark, it’s rare. Turbo lag is evident and the 2.0-liter engine sounds exhausted under throttle, especially up a hill.
By contrast, the braking force of the 2020 Tiguan is excellent. The thing stops on a dime with its 13.4-inch vented discs up front and the 11.8-inch solid discs at the rear.
Should You Buy a 2020 VW Tiguan?
As noted earlier, the endearing things about this trim level of the Tiguan are also its drawbacks. The SEL Premium R-Line is rugged, and that has its allure, but not on long road trips. The 20-inch wheels look cool, but they might detract from the ride quality.
We believe there are far too many issues with driveability for the 2020 VW Tiguan to be a viable option. Admittedly, we are probably in the minority as the Tiguan is VW’s biggest seller in the United States and most reviews on the vehicle are positive.
Regardless we stand by our experience and our assessment. Before you sign the paperwork for a new Tiguan, we recommend taking the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, or Nissan Rogue for a test drive first.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.