Mountain Wheels: VW’s updated Tiguan offers class and capacity; Jetta GLI cruises quickly
Kudos to you this week if you happened to see a platoon of new Rivian electric trucks on what I heard was an excursion in the county. I didn’t get invited, but I’ll be interested to see that much-anticipated product when it does make its public debut. I also saw test versions of the 2022 Toyota Tundra on Loveland Pass. Again, you’ll read more about those when they come my way.
In the meantime, two real-life experiences with two different nonelectric ends of the Volkswagen family, including drives in the 2022 edition of the Tiguan and the Autobahn edition of the impressively sporty Jetta GLI.
Tiguan, Volkswagen’s best-selling model, receives a range of minor stylistic and functional upgrades. I got to drive an absolutely brand-new, 4Motion-equipped, SE-level Tiguan with the R-Line Black package, which adds stylish black trim to windows, body, mirror caps, and front and rear fascia, as well as impressive gloss-black 19-inch wheels.
But this higher-end model’s MSRP is only $33,795, which seems like half the price of most of the other imports I’ve driven this summer, and it’s still a comfortably sized crossover with tons of room for rear passengers and a vast space (73.4 cubic feet) for rear cargo. A base, front-wheel-drive model can be had for as little as $25,995.
A big change is the electronic cockpit for all models, which includes a somewhat austere but stylish and reconfigurable electronic instrument cluster. LED headlights and taillights are now standard as well, plus a multistage driving mode system and front and side electronic assist/warning equipment. Mine had a super-gigantic full-cabin sunroof with a power shade that seemed to take 20 minutes to cover that entire distance.
Blacked out with a Pyrite Silver Metallic paint job, Tiguan is also pretty striking, with a new face that’s more reminiscent of the larger Atlas SUV. I liked the bold and textured body line details. Inside, Tiguan has gained a number of gloss black haptic touch controls, which seem to be the new thing on many next-generation vehicles. Those include sliders for temperature and fan controls and slippery, wheel-mounted audio and trip computer controls on the new flat-bottomed wheel, which saw me repeatedly accidentally selecting Billie Eilish on XM Radio, which was not my plan.
VW has become quite serious about locking out your access to much of the infotainment system and settings when driving; I even got a warning suggesting I should not be dialing up XM stations while moving. Curious. Not surprisingly, the interior is black on black on black, with three strips of sparkly plastic and some metal-look surrounds for the instruments. I had black-colored synthetic leather seating with a little highlight stitching, and it’s comfortable but not especially supportive; the overall cabin feel is pleasant but perhaps a little plain.
Power is, however, quite pleasant despite the 2.0-liter turbo producing just 184 horses. On cruises up Interstate 70 from Golden, the 221 pound-feet of torque really kicked in and the vehicle was able to fly along happily, still getting 29 mpg in the process.
An entirely different experience is to be found in the flashy and actually speedy 2021 Jetta GLI, which is indeed sort of like a GTI with some actual room for you and your passengers. It’s one of the very few cars I drove this year with an actual six-speed manual transmission, though a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic is also available.
In GLI, the 2.0-liter is tuned to a more impressive 228 horsepower (on premium fuel) and 258 pound-feet of torque. Learn to goose it the right way, and you’ll get rip-roaring exhaust noises and pretty impressive front-wheel drive pull. While that’s not the 300 or more horsepower you’ll find on everyone else’s pricey sports cars, consider that a nicely equipped GLI was just $31,740, and GLI starts at $26,345 with very much the same engine. It also got nearly 30 mpg on every outing.
My big negative in GLI, much less noticeable in Tiguan, is electronic, semi-autonomous lane-keep technology that quite literally would not allow me to change lanes. It fully fought with me on corners, rather intrusively, and it required multiple steps to turn it off each and every time I got into the car.
Under human control, GLI was a hoot, and as the sixth-generation version of Volkswagen’s family race car, it proved to be a lot of fun. The bright Tornado red paint job and subtle red cabin highlighting, plus a leather race wheel, added to the appeal.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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