Tyre size and brand: 235/55 R18, Hankook Ventus Slivo 2
Ground clearance: 200mm
Off-road gear: 4Motion AWD with electronically-controlled Off-road Drive Mode
Price: Rs 38.41 lakh on-road Mumbai
If the 1996 American action thriller film The Rock was pictured at the 2021 CarWale Off-Road Day, Ed Harris as General Hummel would have arrived in the Jeep Wrangler. Sean Connery perhaps would have driven the nifty Isuzu V-Cross. And Nicholas Cage's Stanley Goodspeed would have delivered his famous dialogue of “I'm just a biochemist, cut me some FRIGGIN' SLACK” from the Volkswagen Tiguan. This should easily give you a perspective of the Tiguan and its company at the fourth edition of our annual pilgrimage of getting down and dirty (dusty this year actually).
This new Tiguan, launched just a few weeks back is making a comeback to our telluric outing, but a lot has changed since its last appearance. It was an oil burner back then, and today after a change of heart, the Tiguan is TSI-powered. However, at 2.0-litres, the engine capacity and power output of 190bhp and 320Nm isn't something to scoff at. In fact, where the torque is down by 20Nm than before, the power is up by 50bhp. But, what hasn't changed is its AWD prowess. Can the Tiguan still muster its SUV credentials and come out on top as Godspeed did? Only one way to find out.
How did it do at the 2021 CarWale Off-Road Day?
Now it's an open profess that an average Tiguan owner would hardly ever ponder beyond paved roads. But we would be putting it through the course where only off-road-focused 4x4s dare to thread. What the Tiguan has in its arsenal to make it across the other side is an electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system and that's about it. No locking differentials, no long-travel suspension, no low range gearbox, no serious hardware. Heck, it was even riding on 235/55 road tyres wrapped around 18-inch alloy wheels. Yet, surprisingly, the Tiguan was an underdog that stole the show.
First up, its clever AWD system. It's clever because it always sent the right amount of power to the wheel with the maximum traction without having to wait or make any kind of adjustment. It served as a butler, providing the necessary amount of power to the correct wheel, even when one or more wheels of the Tiguan were dangling in the air. Its electronic brain was bustling through the entire course providing just the right amount of power taking care of the wheel slips, hill control and even hill descent. When in off-road mode, whenever the nose was facing down towards earth, the hill descent control automatically activated, taking care of the downhill speed and braking.
The Tiguan's electronic steering is quick for everyday drivability. Here deep in the dusty trails, it proved even more useful. This showed in the slalom times where it was the quickest, with the least amount of drama and clean through the cones (enduring just one penalty). Most of the credit goes to the adroit ESP which kept the steering quick despite the regular lack of traction.
Another commendable performance of the Tiguan came in the beaker test. With just 70ml water spilt from a 500ml beaker, it surprisingly kept better composure through the course than the other four 4x4s we had. Undoubtedly, the Tiguan's soft-roader's manners came into play here helping it provide a cushioned ride through the terrain. Meanwhile, the power on tap was put feverously down in the acceleration and braking test. Here, it hit the 0-40kmph speed in the dirt with a brisk time of 5.4 seconds and spanned a distance of 30m – second to the formidable Thar. This means the Tiguan is quite quick, be it on-road or off it and to an extent even quicker than the Tiguan TDI. And all you have to do is just press a button to engage the off-road mode and the Tiguan will take care of most of the difficult terrain. Lastly, the Wolfsburg's soft-roader sits four and a half metres in length but was still the smallest four-door (because, Thar) SUV in our motley crew. This compact dimension worked in its favour.
Overall, the Tiguan remained as arduous with its petrol-powered heart as it was with its erstwhile diesel engine. And amongst its company, gained huge admiration as well.
The Tiguan's relatively compact dimensions, its quick steering, its smart electronics, as well as its decent approach angle meant, it was both easy and fun through the faster sections of the Gymkhana. It was quick through the Lateral Tilt obstacle too. The reason it finished third and not right on the top was its inability to take the 'Shortcut'. It just didn't have the clearance or the wheel articulation to go through it without being hit at various quarters. We also had to take it slow through the jagged rock section because the Tiguan's 18-inch tyres are more road-focused.
Like Stanley Godspeed – a biochemist amidst hardened men of SAS and SEAL, the Tiguan was in the company of dedicated off-roaders with special hardware to take them to uncharted places as the crow flies. While the Tiguan might not do exactly that, its performance at the 2021 CarWale Off-Road Day proved, once again, that it can go places. And when roads ceased to exist, it can still go that extra mile with relative ease, and better creature comfort while at it. The Tiguan is Godspeed.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi