You might expect Volkswagen's reputation for driving fun to carry over to the Tiguan, but there's not much the automaker can do to add excitement to a vehicle that's so straightforward in purpose.
The specs might sound promising--200-horsepower turbocharged four, manual or automatic transmissions--but this is a vehicle tuned for family duty, not for VW precision. It's more nimble and responsive than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, for sure, but the goods simply aren't here to satisfy driving enthusiasts. It can tow up to 2,200 pounds—good for jet-skis or ATVs—while all-wheel-drive versions also make good picks for those in snowy climates.
The turbocharged four has a broad, flat torque curve, and it's teamed well with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; we've spent more time in the automatic, and it's punchy enough so you're rarely bored in urban driving. This manual gearbox is atypically light and imprecise, while the automatic makes the most of the engine's torque plateau, so we recommend the latter.
Otherwise, the Tiguan has the road manners you'd expect from a tall wagon. Ride and handling are tuned for all-around utility, not hot-hatch dynamics. The steering can feel a little light and lacking in feedback sometimes, and if you push it too hard in corners the multilink rear suspension merely blunts out impacts, in favor of sharpness and at the cost of sharpness. There's a lack of zeal and tenacity, and the Tiguan is simply not meant to satisfy serious driving enthusiasts. But at the same time it's safe and responsive enough for most needs—even nimble-feeling compared to other crossovers.
The Tiguan's Haldex all-wheel drive system (called 4Motion in the model line) is great for snowy driveways; it delivers 90 percent of torque to the front wheels most of the time, but once slip is detected it can send more to the wheels where it's needed.