In skiing, a blizzard is a great way to separate the professionals from the pretenders. The sudden -blindness requires you to rely on instinct and feel more than a visual view. Great skiers thrive; marginal skiers head for the lodge to wait out the storm.
A blizzard is also a great way to separate the best all-wheel drive crossovers from the pretenders. The 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan recently emerged from a recent dive into white, y madness with great steadiness and composure.
We were impressed.
For those of you who don’t regularly drive in slick, y conditions, there are a few undeniable facts you must respect:
The faster you drive, the longer you’ll slide when you hit the brakes
Anti-lock braking systems are your friend and will save you when your own stupidity or poor driving skills put you in harm’s way
The heavier the car, the tougher it can be to control
One of the reasons people in states like Utah and Colorado line up to buy the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester year after year like they’re precious gemstones is because these cars are the right height, weight and size to manage horrible driving conditions without breaking a sweat. And, of course, Subaru’s all-wheel drive system has proven itself reliable and, most important, highly functional in compromised situations. These are all reasons why Vehix editors named both Subaru crossovers as Vehix Picks in our 2014 Crossover Buying Guide.
Driving the Tiguan
While we’ve always liked the styling and described the Tiguan as “lots of fun to drive”, we’ve surprisingly never had the chance to drive this small crossover in the .
Volkswagen doesn’t have the esteemed all-wheel drive reputation of Subaru in mountain climates–yet. But it does boast the impressive 4Motion system, which was exactly what we intended to test as we headed up a mountain pass, accompanied by semi-trucks with chains on their wheels as a blizzard pounded our front windshield and reduced visibility to less than 100 feet.
By the time we reached Summit Park, Utah–a tree-filled area that sits above 7,000-feet of elevation outside Park City, Utah–we were in near-whiteout conditions. The roads were blanketed by and we actually had to wait on the side of the road for a locally operated plow to pass us before we could start up the hill. Although the plow took off the top layer of , we discovered a slick base of ice sat below, stealthily waiting to point the Tiguan away from its intended path. It reminded us of those Allstate TV commercials with the guy who plays “mayhem” and gleefully seeks carnage at every turn.
We started up the first hill and were impressed that we didn’t slide at all, though we made sure we didn’t stop on a particularly steep area to test the Tiguan’s ability to start on ice from a dead stop. We’ve driven enough years in to recognize a bad idea when we see one.
Once we reached the midway point of a hill, we found a spot that had been freshly plowed and managed to snap a few photos of the car during a brief lull in the blizzard.
We then headed back down the hill, which is always the scariest part of a y drive. The anti-lock brakes kicked in immediately whenever we tapped the brakes. We slid just a bit, but nothing that ever caused concern.
Suitably impressed and with the blizzard kicking back in with wind gusts above 50 mph blasting every direction, we had all the data we needed.
Our assessment? We would trust our family members in a Tiguan during an awful and ice storm. As long as they’re smart and stay within bounds, the small SUV will be a solid and steady machine on -packed roads and moderate hill climbing.
Tiguan is Fun to Drive…Mostly
The Tiguan is fun to drive around town thanks to its peppy turbocharged engine that delivers plenty of torque when you punch the pedal at lower speeds. Vehix editor Christian Wardlaw writes, “With 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, the Tiguan’s power output looks unimpressive on a specification chart. Take a closer look, however, at where the power peaks. Maximum torque is essentially flat from a low 1,700 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm, where maximum horsepower takes the reins from 5,100 rpm to 6,000 rpm. The result is a small, fuel-efficient engine that delivers strong response almost everywhere across the rev range. And because it’s turbocharged, Tiguan owners dwelling at altitude in places like Denver and Salt Lake City have a veritable rocket parked in the driveway.”
My only complaint is that the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission, when left to perform gear changes on its own, holds higher gears too long, especially at lower speeds. Let me explain.
If you’ve driven a manual transmission and stayed far too long in a higher gear than your speed demands, you’ll notice that acceleration feels laggy or barely responsive when you tap the pedal. Down-shift to a lower gear and your car will immediately leap to attention.
Since Volkswagen’s DSG is essentially a manual gearbox without a clutch pedal, it can sometimes hold higher gears in an effort to return better fuel economy. If engine revs drop below the turbocharged engine’s substantial and broad torque plateau, when you step on the accelerator the Tiguan feels like it’s going nowhere. And if the DSG decides to downshift, there is a perceptible delay while you wait for the automated clutch to perform the task.
This phenomenon consistently occurs in slow-moving traffic at speeds between 15 and 25 mph. Each time I found myself in that situation, I experienced that anemic acceleration and even heard the engine sound as if it was literally crying out for a lower gear.
To resolve this, the driver can manually choose gears using the selector, but that negates the point of an automatic transmission, does it not?