2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion - Neither Wind nor Nomad

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Get a load of Volkswagen: True Maker of the "People's Car."

Of all the crazy things, they allowed the people to name their entry into the compact crossover utility segment. Apparently the German Volk aren't as fond of Saharan winds and tribes or German forests for car model names, as they are of jungle cats and lizards.

Thus, the Tiger and Iguana improbably mated and produced an offspring called "Tiguan."

Does the 2012 VW Tiguan SE 4Motion resemble its jungle parents?

No orange black and white striped fur, green scales or tails here. Instead the inspiration is all Golf hatchback. This time lifted, widened and lengthened. The 2012 MY Tiguan refresh includes an adaptation of the more expressive front grille, swept back lights and deeper lower fascia, which is slowly permeating the entire Volkswagen line. Gone is the nearly oblique shape and any continued confusion with the Nissan Rogue.  The beltline is fairly low, so outward visibility is pretty decent.

Fortunately, recent Volkswagen cheapening of vehicle interiors has trickled to the Tiguan.  Hard plastics still manage to come across refined in grain. More careful inspection of lower seat trim cargo area walls impart austerity. Tiguan is about as premium as you can get in a European crossover-ute. The next step would be Audi Q5 decadence.  Wolfsburg, Germany assembly is very tight freeing the cabin from enough external noise to cause more than a few librarians to blush.

Synthetic hides, which covered our SE 4Motion model's seats, surpass some lesser grades of leather. Widely adjustable, most will find the right combination of steering wheel tilt and reach. The padded center armrest slides for maximum elbow comfort. Three adults will find the rear split bench as commodious as a Sultan's receiving room. There is 15" inches of seat cushion rise off the floor, and  5" inches spanning front seat backs and the knees of average size adults.

An optional panoramic glass spanned nearly the entire roof of our 2012 Tiguan SE 4Motion tester emphasizing airiness. A low loading floor in the cargo area accommodated three full sized suit cases, without having to have resorted to folding the rear seats.

Instrumentation in the 2012 VW Tiguan is comprehensive and oh-so-logical in a Teutonic way.  Either depressing or twisting them, secondary switches and rotary dials have a crisp action.  We will continue to toot the simplicity and intuitiveness of the familiar VW corporate infotainment touchscreen, which dispenses with the perplexing panoply of switches in rivals like the  Mazda CX-5 .

Does the 2012 Tiguan SE 4Motion give us any of the moves of its jungle parents?

Not if you expect lighting quick paw swipes, loud exhaling, tree climbing, tree gliding, rock crawling or basking.

The Hungarian-built turbocharged 2.0L inline gas four is not famed for invigorating aural character. But it is legend for its seamless power delivery, especially as mated to the Tiptronic 6-speed auto gearbox.  201 hp and 207 lb-ft or torque at a cellar-low 1700 rpm will allow the 3500-pound Tiguan to pounce from 0-60 miles per hour in a brisk 7.5 seconds, with turbo lag quelled.  A slight hesitation on throttle tip-in isn't as noted as in certain DSG applications of this motor. Fuel economy averaging 25 miles per gallon in an even mix of highway and suburban driving is notable for such cross-over performance.

Less impressive is laggard initial brake response, surprising given the large front rotor diameter (12.3"-inches) and more aggressive pads we typically find on other German assembled VW's. The price for braking Tiguan late into faster corners is a bit of dive and roll . Understeer witnessed upon rapid corner getaways betrays that "4-Motion" all-wheel drive is a Haldex front-wheel biased design. Quick damping and chassis stiffness iron out most surface undulations while wearing Continental 235/50 all-season tires on 18" wheels. (Can you believe that 19" inch alloys are available?) Tiguan's well-weighted steering is hardly ponderous, yet lacks the precision of the Mazda CX-5 .

Any "Volks" in this "Wagen"?

On the "Volks" or "People's" side of the 2012 VW Tiguan proposition buyers can specify a  front-drive "S" model with 6 speed Tiptronic transmission, cloth seats and 16" alloys for $24,340. On the "exotic" side, options get pricey. The tested Tiguan SE 4-Motion, including the panoramic roof and a navigation system, which insists on suggesting congested freeway routes, rang-up at $33,800. Indulging in fully power adjustable front seats, automatic climate control, xenon headlights or leather seating surfaces will require another $4000 George Washingtons, or the price territory of a 7-passenger all-wheel-drive Kia Sorento SX with V6 .

That the 2012 VW Tiguan is amongst the more credible crossover-utes out there, qualifies Volkswagen for a pass on the lack of Tiger or Iguana themed embellishments.

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