The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R is a rare package, because, right now, its only competition is its cousin, the Cupra Formentor VZx. And that’s a real shame because this adopts a very tempting formula.
If you’re looking to buy a mid-size SUV that’s not your typical family-hauler, and you’d like a bit of excitement in the driving experience, look no further. The Tiguan R presents similar calibre performance as a super hatch but it’s wrapped up in the practical and fashionable SUV body style.
Here we’re testing the special Grid Edition, which is actually cheaper than the regular model. It is slightly paired back in terms of features, which should, theoretically, mean it is lighter in weight too.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: Specifications
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Output: 235kW@5600-6500rpm / 400Nm@2000-5600rpm
Gearbox: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: Four-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 21×8.5, 255/35
ANCAP: Not tested (regular Tiguan 5 stars)
Tare weight: 1737kg
Power-to-weight: 7.39:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.8L/100km
Our consumption: 9.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/95 RONPower efficiency: 26.70kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.31 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.98 seconds*
0-200km/h: 20.10 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.57 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.31 seconds at 171.2km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.002g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.94m in 3.13 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.321g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 57/63*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 88*
Starting price: $63,990
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: How much does it cost?
The Grid Edition kicks off from $63,990, down from $71,190 for the regular Tiguan R. That’s a significant saving, although, for a mid-size SUV even the Grid Edition is a relatively expensive proposition compared with its key rivals (which are not performance focused).
Volkswagen is currently developing the next-gen model, as outlined in our top 10 best SUVs coming in 2024 feature. This means there could be an opportunity to score a run-out deal over the next 6-12 months or so, with the new model expected to arrive in Australia by around mid 2024.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: Interior & packaging
Some of the key features missing compared with the regular non-Grid include matrix LED headlights – but this still has LED with auto high-beam – and it features a manual tailgate instead of a powered one. Some safety systems are also removed, unfortunately, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
This is all in an effort to speed up delivery times for customers following the global industrial impact of the pandemic, with many car brands removing features from their vehicles to try and keep products rolling out of the showroom.
However, while losing some features the Grid Edition also gains some unique stuff, including the Black Style package as standard. It brings in black exterior trimmings; window trims, roof rails, front grille, side mirrors, and exhaust tips. Think of it as like the ‘black pack’, which is all the craze at the moment.
The Grid Edition gets the same 21-inch alloy wheels as the regular R. These have to be some of the biggest wheels in this class? In fact, the brake discs hiding behind actually look too small against the massive wheels. You needn’t worry though because the brakes are cross-drilled and clamped by R calipers, in blue.
Inside, the Tiguan is one of the most spacious vehicles in its class. These big chunky sports seats in the front have no trouble fitting in, without overcrowding or dominating the atmosphere. They are awesome seats, too, offering excellent lateral support and a cool suede-like cloth/microfleece trim.
Up on the dash is a 9.2-inch Discover Pro touch-screen that presents clear sharp graphics, and the menu layout is easy to grasp. Down below are the separate climate controls, which is great. But the swipe-style capacitive buttons can be a bit fiddly. At least initially. Similar buttons are also found on the steering wheel.
Practicality and versatility levels are excellent. The Tiguan offers plenty of storage options around, as well as cup and bottle holders and an open and airy cabin atmosphere.
Rear-seat passengers are also well catered for, with climate vents, charging ports, and even separate temperature control. A similar seat trim is provided for the outer positions, and there is a good amount of legroom and headroom for this class.
Up at the back, the boot opens up to an impressive 615 litres, or 1655 litres with the rear seats folded flat. You’ve got pull tabs on the wall so you can easily flip down the rear seats from the back, and there’s a 12-volt socket hidden right up the back in the corner to support outdoor getaways and road trips.
There is no spare wheel, unfortunately, but instead you get some additional under-floor storage. This space is good for hiding sensitive items or for storing smaller things that would otherwise roll and bounce about in the boot.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: Powertrain & handling
At the heart of the Tiguan R is of course the famed ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. This engine is widely-used across various VW Group vehicles, including in the Porscha Macan. Here, it produces a class-leading 235kW and 400Nm.
This is a serious amount of power for a mid-sizer, and so as you’d expect, it is very quick. We did some usual performance tests on a private road with the Vbox and it returned impressive numbers. For the standard 0-100km/h sprint it took this test vehicle 4.98 seconds. That’s quicker than Volkswagen’s claim of 5.1 seconds – always great to see that happen.
We also timed 0-200km/h in 20.10 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.31 seconds at 171.2km/h. If you’re considering the Tiguan R because you love performance cars and you’ve always been around them, then you’ll know these are proper numbers.
This isn’t a mildly sporty SUV with some big wheels and a badge. It’s a hardcore model, just like the Golf R. In fact, on my previous website I timed the 0-100km/h in 4.89 seconds. There’s basically nothing between them here.
Obviously, it’s not just about straight-line speed. The Tiguan R features sports suspension and progressive electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering with speed sensitivity. Along a spirited road the vehicle feels naturally playful and engaging.
You do have that trademark VW steering feel, which is very precise and consistent but a bit formal. In our opinion, the steering in the Formentor VZx is a touch more inviting. This could be down to the vehicle weight distribution.
Grip levels are fantastic from the 255/35 Hankook S1 tyres. You need to be pushing very hard to experience understeer, and if you’re clever with the throttle you can lift-off during corner entry to provoke the tail to slide around so you can tuck into the apex and catapult away.
Although it’s not quite as adaptable during this exercise as the Cupra Formentor, in our opinion, it is worth noting the Cupra is based on the newer MQB Evo platform whereas the current Tiguan still rides on the superseded MQB.
Of course, the Tiguan R uses a 4Motion all-wheel drive system like the Golf R. It includes R-Performance Torque Vectoring that aims to help pivot the platform around during cornering. We’re not sure if torque vectoring is needed, to be honest, but it does provide an additional layer of assistance for the driver, and you could say it does boost safety somewhat.
Using the seven-speed dual-clutch auto around town does provoke some frustrations, purely because these types of transmissions work like an automated clutch during take off. There’s a pesky delay shifting from reverse to drive, as per almost all dual-clutch gearboxes we’ve ever experienced.
Get it out onto the open road though and it all makes sense. The DSG transmission is your companion rather than your annoying manager. It changes gear extremely swiftly. Pull the paddle and it’s there and engaged before you know it.
Upshifts are made more exciting thanks to the trademark parp from the exhaust, and downshifts are assisted by an automatic rev-matching function.
Cross country performance is epic. You can leave it in D or in the transmission’s S mode, and nail it from one end to the other in no time. With all-wheel drive keeping you out of the roadside hedges and undergrowth, in all conditions, it is an absolute weapon and a lot of fun.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: Key attractions/reasons to buy
It’s a Tiguan, so, it comes with all of the practicality benefits. They are very appealing for this class, with one of the biggest boots and user-friendly cabin layout. Only in R spec, it’s also a serious hot hatch.
There is no compromise aside from a firmer ride than your average Tiguan. Even so, it’s not what we would call bothersome. But for that you get the handling (and fun) characteristics of a top-shelf SUV.
Really, this could be all the vehicle you could ever need. Even the fuel economy rating of 8.8L/100km is respectable for this level of performance. We averaged 9.8L/100km during our time, including performance testing.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R Grid Edition: Key considerations before you buy
There is an all-new generation on the way, so if you enjoy the latest advances in technology and design you might want to hold off on this model. On the same note, you might be able to strike a good deal as showrooms try to clear stock to make space.
Is the Tiguan R too sporty or compromised? No, not at all really. It does everything the regular model does, but this is more focused and ready for play. The ride is firmer, as you’d expect, but it doesn’t obstruct everyday usability in our view. All other aspects, including the powertrain characteristics and in-car practicality are just the same.
How does it rate against its rivals?
It’s the perfect blend between a high-end hot hatch and a practical, family-friendly SUV. If you want one sooner, the Grid Edition is a great initiative from VW. On the other hand, will it be worth less than the ‘full-spec’ models later down the track, with resale value?