Volkswagen Tiguan Escape
2.0 TDI Automatic review
by David Finlay (5 May 2008)
The Tiguan is Volkswagen's latest foray into the SUV market, styled to look like its larger relative the Touareg but intended for people who can't afford, don't want or are otherwise not minded to buy such a thing.
As Mike Grundon mentioned in his launch review, there are two engines available at the moment, and more will be along soon, but if you choose a Tiguan Escape rather than an S, SE or Sport the choice is reduced to just one unit - our old friend the 2.0 TDI turbo diesel (also found in numerous other cars, not all of them part of the Volkswagen Group), presented here in 138bhp form.
This is expected to be the most popular engine in the Tiguan range by some distance, and it's also the most obviously suitable for the Escape, which is aimed at customers who require more off-road prowess than is supplied by the other models. In fact the Escape is in most respects mechanically identical to other Tiguans; where it most clearly differs is in the shape of the front end, which includes a gentle slope from the bottom of the bumper to the start of the engine bay.
Personally, I think this treatment makes the Escape the best-looking Tiguan, but it hasn't been done for aesthetic reasons. Instead, it means that the approach angle increases from 18 to 28 degrees - and if you don't know what an approach angle is, the basic idea is that you can climb over steeper obstacles without doing damage to the car.
The Escape also has a standard system (available as an extra-cost option on the S, SE and Sport) whereby you press a button to prepare it for off-road work. All at once, electric assistance for climbing and descending hills comes into play, the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal is reduced, that of the cross-axle braking system is increased, and the ABS is reprogrammed to take into account of loose surfaces.
What Volkswagen refers to as the "off-road mode" is abandoned if you deliberately switch off the engine, but not if you stall accidentally, which I must say seems awfully clever.
Furthermore, the Escape has extra body and underbody protection, and it also has its own specific tyres. These seem to have the effect of improving ride quality on tarmac, since Mike Grundon is unimpressed by the regular Tiguan in this respect, while I - notoriously picky in these matters - thought the Escape rode pretty well. If there really is a difference, it has to be down to the tyres, since the Escape has the same suspension set-up as the S and SE.
In addition to the decent ride, the Escape handles pretty well too, though it doesn't take long for the high centre of gravity to make itself known when you start pushing hard. The TDI engine provides quite enough power in this form (I doubt that the 168bhp version would make the Escape better than it is already), and despite not being a big fan of automatics I liked the test car's Tiptronic six-speed unit.
You can change gear manually if you like, but the box is exceptionally good at guessing which ratio you need, and I generally left it to make its own decisions.
The basic price of the automatic is £23,270 (the six-speed manual being £1250 cheaper). Not included in that sum are several options fitted to the test car, including the excellent touchscreen DVD satellite navigation and entertainment, and the Park Assist system which first came to production last year in the Touran.
If you opt for the satnav/entertainment set-up you also get a rear parking camera, and this may prove to be worth the extra expense all on its own. Turning round to look behind you is hardly worth the bother because there's so little glass to see through at the back, and the camera makes it less likely that you'll rattle the Escape's hindquarters expensively into a nearby solid object.
The rear of the car is more sensible in other ways; luggage capacity varies from 395 to 1510 litres, and there are plenty of ways to use that space since the 60/40 split rear seats can be folded flat, reclined and even slid across a 16cm range to take into account either large passengers or the need to gain a little more luggage space.