How will VW keep ‘17 Tiguan relevant until its redesign?

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan

What changes will make the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan different?

Maybe a new paint color or two, but that’s all for this compact crossover SUV’s final year in its current form. An all-new, larger Tiguan is due in summer 2017 as a 2018 model. It’ll be the first all-new Tiguan since the nameplate bowed for model-year 2009 and among the first Volkswagen Group vehicles built at its new factory in southeastern Mexico. The second-generation Tiguan will borrow elements of its basic design from VW’s latest and highly lauded compact Golf hatchback and wagon. And it’ll retain the unusual name: pronounced “tee-gwan,” the automaker says it’s a combination of “tiger” and “iguana.”

Why should I wait for the 2017?

We can’t think of a good reason. It’ll be a virtual duplicate of the ’16, but probably will cost more and, of course, it’s styling and features will have a shorter shelf life. Better to wait for the redesigned ‘18. Beyond new styling, it’s expected to ride a wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles) roughly 10 inches longer than the first-gen Tiguan. That means much more cargo space and a welcome increase in rear legroom. VW may even offer an optional third-row bench for seven-passenger seating. Among compact-crossover rivals, the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Rogue are available with kid-sized third rows, and the next-generation 2018 Honda CR-V may come with one, too.

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if Tiguan tickles your compact crossover fancy. Even in this generation’s sunset years, it displays a German driving character that sets it apart in the class. It comes in base S, sporty R-Line, midrange SE, and top-end SEL trims. For ’16, a rearview camera became standard across the board, along with VW’s updated “MIB II” infotainment system with Car-Net App-Connect, allowing smartphone owners to launch Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, and MirrorLink applications from the dashboard head unit. Newly standard for the SE are a panoramic sunroof, LED daytime running lights, and steering-linked bi-xenon headlights.

Will the styling be different?

Not for 2017. Reflecting its aged design, this will remain the smallest vehicle in the class, with below-average passenger space and barely more cargo room than a Golf hatchback. A cosmetic facelift for model-year 2012 freshened the appearance but it’s still awkwardly proportioned and its cabin design is dated. The redesigned ‘18 will have new styling but it won’t be a radical departure, judging from the European-market version of the next-generation Tiguan already on sale overseas. Expect crisper lines overall, though it should retain a prominent three-bar grille and the rear end likely will resemble that of the BMW X5.

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Any mechanical changes?

Not for a vehicle entering the final model year of its current design. All 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan models should reprise a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque channeled through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive would be standard, with the brand’s 4motion all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option. AWD can be a worthwhile extra, but it’s an expensive $1,975 on the 2016 model. Don’t count on a price break for 2017. We would expect this engine to be available on the 2018 model, along with a version of the company’s 1.8-liter turbo four that would be good for the same 170 horsepower as in the compact Jetta and midsize Passat sedans. A diesel engine may eventually come online assuming the company is able to overcome the emissions issues that have plagued it since late 2015. Alternatively, VW could produce a gas/plug-in electric hybrid model, which was shown in concept form as the Tiguan GTE. It would use a turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine and a 13-kWh battery pack. Officials say the GTE can run for 31 miles strictly on the battery. The electric motor could also act as a power booster, allowing it to accelerate from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 8.1 seconds.

Will fuel economy improve?

A carryover drivetrain should result in carryover fuel economy for the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan. EPA city/highway/combined scores for the 2016 model are 21/26/23 with front-wheel drive and 20/26/23 with AWD. Unlike most compact crossovers, however, VW recommends premium-grade 91-octane gasoline.

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Will it have new features?

As the 2016 model received several updates, expect Volkswagen to bide its time until the new 2018 version hits showrooms. The 2016 Tiguan S with front-wheel drive starts at $25,755, inclusive of VW’s $865 destination fee. That’s at the high end of the compact crossover class, but this model is pretty well equipped. VW’s “V-tex” leatherette upholstery, heated front seats and washer nozzles, rearview camera, and keyless access with push-button engine start are standard. R-Line models get unique wheels and exterior trim along with a power driver’s seat. The SE adds a panoramic sunroof, larger infotainment screen with built-in navigation, and bi-xenon headlights. The SEL gains genuine leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, and VW’s Fender-branded audio system.

How will 2017 prices be different?

Despite price cuts to the S and R-Line models for 2016, all Tiguans remain among the most expensive compact crossovers. Don’t expect that to change. We project 2017 base prices to be about $26,000 for the S; $29,500 for the R-Line; $32,500 for the SE; and $35,500 for the SEL with front-wheel drive. Tack on another $2,000 for AWD. In recent years, Volkswagen has vastly simplified its option packaging, with many of its models not offering any sort of factory-installed extras. Tiguan is no exception. The only extra-cost amenities are dealer-supplied functional and dress-up items. Slow sales and VW’s desperation to get buyers into showrooms in the wake of its emissions-cheating scandal mean dealers should have plenty of incentives available to drive prices lower.

When will it come out?

Expect 2017 Tiguans to reach dealers in the summer of 2016.

Best competitors?

Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4

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What change would make it better?

While it’s peppy, fun to drive, and quite refined, the current Tiguan is definitely showing its age. Passenger and cargo room and fuel economy rank near the bottom of the competitive set, while pricing is at the top. Further, this compact crossover isn’t available with important safety features such as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert systems, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision alert. We expect the redesigned 2018 model to address most, if not all, of these concerns. So unless you can get an exceptionally good price on one of the current models, we suggest either shopping elsewhere or waiting until the new one is available.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]