The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is nearly 18 months away from its on-sale date in the U.S. Yet up north near the Arctic Circle, in Arvidsjaur, Sweden, this past week, we got just enough of a tease to know that this one’s going to be different.
In addition to becoming, for the U.S. market, an entire size larger than the current model, all 2018 Tiguan models with four-wheel drive will include a terrain-based multi-mode selector, with a dedicated Snow mode and two Offroad modes, including user-customizable settings for powertrain behavior, suspension, steering, and more.
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It’s not just the first time that such a feature will be offered in the Tiguan; it’s the first time any VW product has included such a feature—pioneered by Range Rover many years ago and now increasingly common in luxury SUVs.
And we got to put it to the test. Over a combination of ice-glazed two-lane highways, snow-packed back roads, and a vast frozen lake that’s used for cold-weather testing, we had plenty of opportunities this week to experience the new engineering, and the slew of new electronics and chassis systems that are going into the Tiguan.
As well, we managed to come away with some preliminary impressions of this next-generation Tiguan—most notably, that it’s going to be a heck of a lot better as a go-to family wagon.
The Tiguan is the first utility vehicle to be built on Volkswagen’s MQB architecture, a set of modular underpinnings that constitute the basic structural layout and chassis underpinnings for most of the automaker’s highest-production-volume vehicles for the next few years.
These MQB underpinnings help make the automaker’s vehicles lighter and more fuel-efficient, as well as safer, more flexible for powertrains, and easier to build.
Arriving later for the U.S., but super-sized
The latter, by the way, is primarily why we’re not getting the new Tiguan in the U.S. until summer 2017—in anticipation of expanded production facilities for it at VW’s complex in Puebla, Mexico, as well as the debut of the stretched (extended-wheelbase) version that will be assembled there for our market.
That version we get is expected to be about 3.5 inches longer in wheelbase, and nearly five inches longer than the 177-inch length and 105.6-inch wheelbase of the Euro-spec versions we drove.
That combined nearly seven inches in additional length and roughly 6.5 inches of wheelbase at last catapults the Tiguan wholly into the fiercely competitive compact crossover segment that includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Subaru Forester, among many others. It’s been a hotbed of sales growth for the U.S. market over the past several years, as families sideline sedans in favor of them; and it’s expected to stay strong.