Volkswagen Tiguan R 2021 UK review

However, despite the new digital displays, it also feels a little dated inside, going as the Tiguan does off an older version of Volkswagen’s interior-design manual. And while the cabin has plenty of sporting R touches, there’s no escaping the thoroughly unsporting architecture, either. Despite their SUV status, several rivals still manage to cosset their occupants, while the Tiguan is laid out for practicality above all else and there’s nothing the R treament can do about that. The driving position is therefore conspicuously upright, being commanding but not very engaging, and where the GLB 35 or Macan owner will find themselves feeling hunkered-down behind the dashboard to some extent, that’s not the case in the Volkswagen.   

There’s also the strange juxtaposition of having both an ‘R’ button on the steering wheel, to ramp up the driving modes into something very aggressive indeed, and also the Active Control dial on the transmission tunnel, to set the driveline up for going off-road. The mixture sounds quite fun, I’ll admit, and you’ll find a similar combination inside both the Porsche Cayenne and Lamborghini Urus. Still, similar to the combination of tall driving position and Alcantara-clad semi-bucket seats, this is just another reminder that the performance SUV sector has never been anything if not contradictory. See also the Tiguan R’s aggressively open-worked front bumper, through which you can see a trio of meaty radiators, set against the car’s overwhelmingly family-minded, two-box proportions. It’s all a little unnatural, though that isn’t unique to this Tiguan. 

And, of course, you might like all that, as plenty of people do. In which case you’ll be glad to hear that, on the road, the Tiguan R has then several notable virtues that quickly become apparent, as well as some limitations. 

Unlike the Golf R, the adaptive DCC dampers are standard-fit, and ride-quality is one of those virtues, despite the R’s 10mm drop in ride height compared to the regular Tiguan. The chassis is simply less prone to crashing over rougher surfaces than that of its lower-riding Golf R cousin, yet it sacrifices almost nothing in the way of control until you begin to properly up the ante. The hottest Tiguan is quite distinctive in this way, because despite its added suppleness, its everyday manner still comes over as more serious and uncompromising than those of its many rivals, who sometimes allow you to forget you’re driving a full-on performance derivative. The Volkswagen doesn’t do that, instead translating the behaviour and taut feel of a hot-hatch to something larger in every direction – just with a little extra give.