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Volkswagen Tiguan Estate engines, drive and performance

2016 - 2024 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by Keith Adams Published: 27 May 2021 Updated: 26 February 2024

  • Wide range of petrol and diesel engines on offer
  • Choice of manual and automatic gearboxes
  • Front- and 4Motion all-wheel drive available

What engine options are there?

It might take you a while to pick an engine for your Tiguan, as there’s such a wide choice on offer. The petrol and diesel engines are all available in other VW models, so they’re all turbocharged and proven in plenty of other body styles.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)
Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)

And now, with both a high-performance R model and a fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid on offer, there really is a Tiguan to suit everybody.

Which transmission you can choose depends on your engine – but you’ll be offered either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG automatic. Volkswagen expects more customers to opt for the automatic, and for good reason – it’s quick-shifting, incredibly smooth and very appealing if you’re in the market for a self-shifter.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)
Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)

The DSG also has more ratios, helping fuel economy, and VW seems to have engineered out the hesitancy familiar to dual-clutch ‘boxes – making for a car that’s equally at home in stop-start traffic as it is on long cruises. The standard six-speed manual isn’t a bad gearbox, either.

Petrol engines

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The Tiguan uses a range of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines. Either of these will prove good choices, though it’s the 150hp unit we’d recommend. It’s smooth, refined and powerful enough to cope with a family and their baggage, while returning good fuel economy figures – provided you don’t mind travelling at a slightly leisurely pace. It’s not particularly urgent, but is more willing to work hard than other Volkswagen/Audi vehicles with the same unit.

This 2.0-litre powertrain is still smooth and refined, but in our experience is quite thirsty whether it’s a regular 2.0 TSI or the hot R.

Diesel engines

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Diesel engines are all variants of the same 2.0-litre TDI. As with the petrol engines, it’s the 150hp unit we recommend here. It’s not quick, but it’s not often you’ll be wanting for more power.

Electric and hybrid engines

New for the facelifted Tiguan is the addition of an eHybrid model. This pairs a 1.4-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and battery pack to create a plug-in hybrid powertrain – a first for the Tiguan, and one that makes it a real rival to cars such as the BMW X1 plug-in hybrid or Kia Niro PHEV.

The plug-in hybrid will do 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds, but don’t go confusing it with a performance SUV. Fast it certainly is, but ask for full acceleration from the Tiguan eHybrid and you’ll be met with a lot of unpleasant and rather undignified noise.

The electric motor does provide plenty of acceleration at town speeds, and when the battery’s fully charged it’ll do around 30 miles at speeds of up to 80mph. Leave the Tiguan eHybrid to its own devices and it shuffles between its two power sources almost seamlessly, with only the rev counter and the noise of the engine to spoil the illusion.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)
Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)

High-performance engine

Volkswagen Tiguan R

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A further addition to the range is the first-ever Tiguan R. It’s a performance variant to rival cars such as the Cupra Ateca, Audi RS Q3 or even base models of the Porsche Macan.

It uses a 320hp version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, delivering power through its four-wheel drive and torque vectoring systems.

Tuned for performance, this makes for a very quick SUV indeed, with 0-62mph taking just 4.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 155mph. Torque is rated at 420Nm and allows the engine to pick up speed from low revs with little hassle, but it doesn’t shove you into the seat as much as the slightly smaller Cupra Ateca or T-Roc R. This feels a little more grown up in its power delivery, being much smoother in the process.

The seven-speed gearbox is smooth, and only sounds clunky when shifting down into first at low speeds. Switch the drive mode into Race and downshifts occur sooner as you slow down, but we found it best to stick with manual mode and making use of the steering wheel paddles during spirited driving.

The artificial engine noise piped into the cabin mimics a five-cylinder engine and sounds quite pleasant, while the standard quad exhausts produce subtle crackles and pops without being anti-social. An optional Akrapovic exhaust system turns the volume up a little louder, if this isn’t enough.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)
Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)


  • Impressively agile but there are sportier alternatives
  • Adaptive suspension option maximises comfort
  • 4Motion models are usefully capable on rough terrain

People tend not to buy SUVs such as the Volkswagen Tiguan for their handling characteristics. But it’s reassuring that for people migrating from a more conventional hatchback that – higher driving position aside – it feels entirely normal. More modestly sized SUVs tend to share their underpinnings with their hatchback cousins rather than use all-new, heavy-duty off-roading platforms, and the Tiguan is based on similar modular architecture to the Golf.

As a result, the Tiguan is impressively agile both on-road and off it, responding to steering inputs accurately and changing direction without fuss. But like the majority of Golfs, the Tiguan doesn’t feel remotely sporty – its cousin, the SEAT Ateca, will better satisfy keener drivers.

Instead, the watchword here is comfort and it’s immediately apparent. Specify larger wheels on the standard suspension and you’ll be more aware of sharper ruts in the road, meaning it’s preferable to stick to smaller rims or opt for the excellent Dynamic Chassis Control with adaptive suspension.

In its standard setting the steering feels on the light side but this can be made heavier through the Driver Profile system. It doesn’t make the steering any more communicative, although it offers a reasonable degree of feedback as it is; it simply varies the resistance experienced as you turn the wheel.

All models come with VW’s XDS electronic differential lock, which directs more power to the outside front wheel when cornering to enhance traction. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion come with 200mm of ground clearance – up from the front-wheel drive models’ 190mm – and by switching the Active Control dial to Off-road, Snow or Offroad Expert mode it becomes surprisingly adept at dealing effectively with rougher terrain, the intelligent four-wheel drive system metering out the power to the wheels with the most traction.

It’s a bit of a shame the plug-in version doesn’t get four-wheel drive. With 245hp going through the front wheels, it’s easy to spin the tyres and you’ll find the steering wheel writhes in your hands under heavy acceleration, too. That said, the bulky battery pack makes this the least agile Tiguan in the range, so you’re better off driving gently for maximum efficiency anyway.

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)
Volkswagen Tiguan (2021)

Volkswagen Tiguan R handling

Handling in the R is a totally different beast than the rest of the range. Naturally, the chassis has been tuned to deal with all that extra power – that means stiffer suspension, larger wheels and more aggressive dampers.

The four-wheel drive and torque vectoring systems seemed pretty unphased during our time of testing, too, dealing with all the power effectively and showing little signs of losing traction in our dry weather conditions.

The R also gains an all-new type of rear differential. It uses a pair of electronically controlled clutches and can send 100% of available torque to each rear wheel under fast cornering, reducing understeer and making for more composed handling. It works very well indeed, and though the Tiguan R isn’t particularly playful to drive, you can’t help but be surprised at how quickly it can handle corners considering its size and weight.

Considering the Tiguan’s bigger body, turn-in is still sharp and body control is impressive for something so tall. The heavier steering in Race mode isn’t too artificial and the brakes are effective. There’s an element of this feeling like a taller Audi S3 with its ability to cover ground quickly while isolating you from road imperfections at the same time.

The slightly cheaper T-Roc R is marginally more nimble due to its smaller size, but it’s firmer, less sophisticated suspension setup can nudge that SUV off course on bumpier roads. The Tiguan R is far more polished at dealing with UK road surfaces, making for really well sorted sports SUV.