A DIFFERENT ANIMAL

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vw-tiguan-01THE name Tiguan is a combination of two German words; Tiger and Leguan, meaning iguana. It’s quite an interesting name combination to describe Volkswagen’s crossover SUV, and probably quite suitable, too.

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After all, the Tiguan does have the agility and speed of a tiger and the traction of an iguana crawling up a wall.

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VW Tiguan arrives in the Philippines packing a 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that’s directly injected with diesel fuel. The sport-ute also gets the brand’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system that uses a Haldex clutch pack. Tiguan, in Trendline trim and with a six- speed automatic transmission, costs P2.109 million.

So what’s special with the Tiguan that it can be likened to a tiger and an iguana?

To begin with, its four-wheel drive system, which uses a Haldex clutch pack. In VW-speak it’s known as 4Motion.

Clutch packs compress as soon as the front and rear wheels differ in rotational speeds, “sliding” as they switch from front-wheel two-wheel drive mode to four-wheel drive mode. This makes the transition seamless or unnoticeable. (Another system used by other brands is the Torsen unit, which is activated by torque, and so the transition is more noticeable.) No doubt, this is where the Tiguan’s comparison with an Iguana comes from. We can speak volumes about four-wheel drive systems but I’ll save that for another article.

Another thing that makes the Tiguan special is its 2.0 diesel engine, which performs like all new modern diesel mills. But its small displacement spins out a walloping 320Nm of torque and more than 138hp—definitely giving the Tiguan its tiger traits.

Don’t even think of drag-racing the Tiguan because it will out-sprint SUVs that have larger 3.0-liter diesel common rail engines. Mated with the 4Motion system and traction control, the Tiguan’s engine can pin you to the seat once its large turbocharger whines and purrs like a cat.

Now let’s talk about creature comforts. Despite the Tiguan’s diminutive size, ingress into and egress from it is not a challenge because of its larger-than-average doors. Even drivers wearing short skirts need not worry about getting in and out as they won’t lose their modesty—not bad considering the vehicle’s height, which is taller than the average automobile’s. Five adults can fit comfortably during long drives in the Tiguan.

We all know that driving in Metro Manila traffic is a chore. Throw in the mix those scooters that cut in your lane, and slow jeepneys that insist on staying on the wrong lane, and driving becomes a difficult task. But the Tiguan’s complete package consisting of excellent power-to-weight ratio, sharp handling and steering response (provided by an electromechanical system), and a chassis tuned similarly to that of VW’s legendary VW Golf model makes zipping in and out of traffic a sport rather than a task. Try to stop smiling after doing that.

Most new-car buyers are not what motoring writers would call “performance spec-oriented.” Normally, the most important thing to a buyer is having a commanding view of traffic, something that’s afforded by a high and upright seating position. This is one of the reasons that makes crossovers so popular these days. A vehicle’s solid “feel” and how it’s insulated from the noise outside are also considered. The Tiguan certainly passes these criteria with flying colors.

Am I beginning to sound like a sales brochure? Believe me when I say the Tiguan is a true crossover four-wheel drive vehicle, even considering that it is not a ladder-on-frame SUV that’s equipped with a low-range-gear.

With me, off-road capability claims are not merely made—they have to be proven.

Should you fall off the road and into an unpaved shoulder, the Tiguan’s quick-response 4Motion system and stability control kick in and maintain a positive feel even if the wheels break traction. On slippery surfaces, the vehicle builds confidence for less knowledgeable drivers. On a wet road surface, at normal highway speeds, it ensures that you won’t just spin off. You can drive on wet highways without slowing down—it all depends on your nerves.

Unfortunately, the Tiguan’s Achilles heel is driving on moderate off-road terrain. When it’s climbing tall, slippery slopes, and once it “fishtails” to one side, it will minimize the engine’s power and engage its brakes to keep the car going straight. A switch to turn off the vehicle’s automatic stability control would be welcome in this situation.

But, then again, the average buyer will only encounter this over a slippery mall driveway, in which case a light application of the throttle is all that’s needed—the Tiguan’s 4Motion and traction control will take care of the rest. Getting through a flat muddy surface or sand is no challenge for the Tiguan, too.

The vehicle’s ground clearance is ample for negotiating Manila’s road humps, which vary in height. And the sharpest break-over angle a mall drive ramp can offer is no object of concern for the Tiguan.

So, have I ignited some interest in you to try the Tiguan? Go for a test-drive and maybe you just might find the tiger and iguana in you.

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