VW Tiguan R: new high-performance SUV announced

High-performance 320hp VW Tiguan R launched, offering hot hatchback speed in an SUV format with a high driving position and big boot

Christofer Lloyd
Jul 8, 2020

Can't decide between a high-riding SUV and a super-speedy hatchback? You no longer need to choose with the VW Tiguan R. The newly introduced Tiguan R gains a sharper look from the overhauled 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan and channels the same high-performance attributes as the popular VW Golf R.

The main ingredients are a powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with more than 300hp, connected to a four-wheel drive system - which enables drivers to make the most of the power, whatever the conditions, with minimal wheelspin compared with two-wheel drive alternatives - and a slick 'dual-clutch' automatic gearbox.

This is the first time a dedicated sporty Tiguan has been offered, with the Tiguan R featuring a new engine and high-tech all-wheel drive system set up to provide maximum traction when accelerating and a sharper feel from behind the wheel. VW claims that the Tiguan R's all-wheel drive system should help to make it more agile as it can not only transfer power between front and rear wheels - depending which have the greatest level of grip - but it can shuffle power side to side, too.

Far from being an uncomfortable hardcore performance car, Volkswagen describes the Tiguan R as very much an everyday car, though surprisingly the company states that this most sporty Tiguan offers race track capability - something normally reserved for dedicated sports cars. No, we don't expect the Tiguan R to feel like a Porsche on track, however it's likely to prove more agile than a number of other high-performance high-riding 'crossovers'.

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan R: standard equipment

Setting apart the R from less powerful Tiguans are unique exterior styling details including a distinctive front bumper, rear diffuser, wheelarch extensions and mammoth 21-inch alloy wheels. Those huge wheels enable the Tiguan R to have similarly big 18-inch brakes - the same size as the alloy wheels themselves on a sporty VW Golf - which should offer extra stopping power compared with smaller discs.

Helping the tall Tiguan R to handle corners better is a new all-wheel drive system with 'torque vectoring', which makes the Tiguan more agile around corners (see the 'R-Performance Torque Vectoring' section below for more information), sports suspension that has been lowered by 10mm compared with the standard Tiguan, along with an 'adaptive chassis' that allows the driver to change the feel of the car with distinct driving modes.

Unusually for a new car, the Tiguan R also has electronic stability control that can be switched off completely - something that is normally only possible on sports cars where drivers may want to take them on track and drive hard without the safety system cutting in, should you spin the wheels or slide the car. This is far from the Tiguan R's only sporty hardware; it has four chrome exhaust pipes - more than some recent Ferraris - plus the option of a titanium Akrapovic exhaust.

On the inside, meanwhile, the R features sports seats with integrated headrests, digital dials, grey interior trim and a new sports steering wheel with a dedicated button for activating the Race drive mode, plus wheel-mounted paddles for manual control of the standard-fit seven-speed automatic gearbox.

VW Tiguan R: all-wheel drive and driving modes

Race isn't the only drive mode for Tiguan R buyers to play with, though. Drivers can choose between Comfort, Sport, Race, Individual, Offroad, Snow and Offroad Individual settings. This affects how the car shares power between the four wheels and the sensitivity of the stability control systems.

Race mode is the only setting that gets its own dedicated steering wheel-mounted selector, with a blue 'R' button. Press this and the car instantly sharpens up its responses with the accelerator, gearbox and suspension all becoming quicker to respond to driver inputs.

VW claims that pressing this 'turns the Tiguan R into a sports car at the push of a button'. This is still a heavy, tall SUV, so we'll reserve judgement until we drive one on real roads.

VW Tiguan R: 'R-Performance Torque Vectoring'

Ignore the jargon; this name simply refers to the intelligent all-wheel drive system fitted to the Tiguan R and its ability to transfer power between front and rear wheels and from side to side. This may sound like a minor thing, but should help the Tiguan R to be more agile than you'd expect for a car of this size and weight.

While some all-wheel drive systems are limited in terms of how much power they can transfer to one end of the car, the Tiguan R is capable of sending up to 100% of the engine's power to one wheel. Thanks to this, the Tiguan R can send power to the outer wheels when cornering to prevent the front end from sliding wide, as would normally be the case.

In theory, this should help the car to turn into corners more sharply, making it faster and more engaging for keen drivers. In short, if you're after a fast SUV that is fun to drive as well as speedy, the Tiguan R is a good bet.


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