Volkswagen Golf R and Tiguan TSI make domestic debut

Volkswagen had been rather quiet of late, owing to a changing of the guard (Armin Keller steps in to assume the role of Managing Director of VGM, a position vacated by Christoph Aringer due to personal reasons), among other pressing matters. As such, it was indeed a pleasant surprise when was invited to take part in two of VW’s latest major media events, one for the debut of the latest VW Golf R Mk 7 and the other for a leaner and meaner VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI (where previously only the 2.0 TSI variant was available in the country).

It’s one thing to drive a Golf GTI, it’s an entirely different thing altogether to get behind the wheel of a tarmac scorcher neatly packaged into a compact C-segment hatch affixed with an “R” badge. A group of local journos were invited to make our way to the Sepang International Circuit to see, feel and experience the latest iteration of the Golf R in the flesh. Make no mistake, the new Golf R Mk 7 will leave most, if not all contenders in the dust. The strongest argument for the new Golf R is a 5.0-sec century sprint, a somewhat lofty performance in today’s crowded marketplace of hot hatch contenders. That, plus a menacing looking exterior, will surely win the hearts of most if not all Golf fanatics, who would undoubtedly aspire to own one or at least modify his/her regular Golf to look like one.

In keeping with how things have always been, the new “Golf of the Rings” sports an even more menacing exterior to differentiate it from the already sizzling hot hatch Golf GTI. The uninitiated will not notice the differences at a glance, but take a closer look and you will see just how special the R truly is, in the looks department. The front and rear bumpers have been reworked, and so have the front grille, Bi-xenon headlights with twin DRLs and motorized dynamic bending, new 5-spoked 18” ‘Cadiz’ alloys and dark red LED smoked tail lights. An “R” logo features on the front grille and rear door and that’s about it; the rear door doesn’t even have the Golf logo on it. How’s that for exclusivity? This is one instance where less is more. The R is available in 3 or 5 door options, to appease both sides of the divide.

If the vanilla 3-door Golf R at RM245,888 doesn’t seem exclusive enough, you could always opt for the offered Tech Pack (in the 5-door variant only), which, at RM40,000 a pop, brings the asking price of the new 5-door Golf R close to the RM300k mark. 40 grand ups the ante and offers 12-way electric adjustability for the driver’s seat, adjustable front center armrest with rear air vents, auto-dimming rear view mirror, 19” ‘Cadiz’ alloys, cruise control with speed limiter, ‘Discover Pro’ sat/nav with 8” TFT touch screen, DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) with profile selection, ECO function, heated electric wing mirrors with environment lighting, ‘KESSY’ keyless entry and push start ignition, panoramic sunroof, Park pilot, rain sensor, ‘Rear Assist’ reverse camera, space saving spare wheel and ‘Vienna’ leather seats complete with ‘R’ logo on the headrests. And to top it all off, Tech Pack adds an additional 10 ponies by way of a more aggressive ECU map.

The VW Golf R: Heart of the new King

This 4th generation Golf R features a reworked EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplant, which features in the latest Golf GTI as well but with less power on tap. “Less” is an understatement here, as the Golf GTI already brings class leading performance to the table. However, 220PS in the Golf GTI plays second fiddle to 290PS in the Golf R, with the corresponding roughly 30% improvement in straight line derbys attesting to the latter’s superior performance (6.5 secs vs 5 secs). Having said that, how the R does the century sprint so quickly, boils down primarily to how much and how quick the power is able to be delivered to the wheels and subsequently channeled to the tarmac. In this regard, a next generation Haldex four-wheel drive system which VW calls ‘4Motion’ is tasked with delivering all that turbocharged goodness to the ground via all four wheels, which works a treat and explains full well how to achieve supercar acceleration at a fraction of the price of exotic supercars. However, there is no free lunch in this world, and the 4WD system in the R saps the car of top speed, which at 250km/h is a mere 4km/h quicker than the GTI’s quoted 246km/h. Our senior writer believes the R’ top speed to be electronically limited, though he didn’t have a long enough track that day to vouch for it.

Volkswagen Golf R:  Superior dynamics

If we only ever drove in a straight line, the R wouldn’t hold that much of an advantage over its less potent stable mate, with both cars topping out at around the 250km/h mark. Of course, the R would have a slight advantage of being able to get to top speed a little sooner, but that’s about it. However, driving isn’t all about straight lines, and this is where the superior handling characteristics of the R begin to reveal its potency to justify its position and pricing above the GTI. The inclusion of 4Motion with a new Haldex coupling already justifies a huge chunk of the asking price as its presence can be felt at almost every hard corner you take, balancing the torque between front and rear wheels seamlessly while allowing you the driver to make a monkey of yourself while the car keeps itself on course. The new coupling is said to be able to fully transfer available torque to the rear wheels when required.

Another extremely useful feature of the 4WD system in the R lies in the inclusion of the latest XDS+ advanced electronic differential lock system for the front and rear wheels (Golf GTI only has this for its front driven wheels), which works by applying brake pressure to the inner wheels while at the same time sending more power to the outer wheels. The result is a car that literally corners on rails. Adding further stability to the brew is VW’s latest DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) system that allows you to setup the suspension to suit your skills. Choose electronically between Comfort, Normal or Sport and the car magically adjusts damping force independently on all four wheels. All these systems in place, plus the high rigidity of the new MQB platform from which the R was built upon, almost guarantees to make a lousy driver good and a good driver even better.

Volkswagen Tiguan: The Reboot

Like Spiderman and other movie franchises that have been rewritten and rebooted, the fully imported Tiguan has also been “rebooted” in this country to reflect the leaner times, with the phasing out of the older version that featured a potent but less frugal 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI engine for a pocket-friendlier 1.4-liter twin-charged motor mated to a robust wet clutch 6-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox). Both variants will be sold side by side until the former is fully sold out, by which time there will only be one sole variant representing the Tiguan in this country. The new EA111 1.4 TSI engine offering will feature in the current iteration of the Tiguan, which first saw its debut on local soil in 2011. Putting out 160PS@5,800rpm and 240Nm@1,500-4,500rpm means that the new front-wheel drive Tiguan will still deliver a commendable performance while returning a very decent 7.1l/100km fuel economy (combined). VWGM claims that the Tiguan 1.4 TSI will hit 100km/h from rest in a mere 8.9 seconds on to a top speed of 198km/h. This new variant also features idle stop and regenerative braking, two technologies which were not ready at the time of the Tiguan’s initial launch in 2011.

The leaner and meaner Tiguan 1.4 TSI features automatic headlights of the halogen variety, and gets cornering lights up front, while 17-inch “Boston” alloys are wrapped in 235/55/17 low profile tyres for a commanding presence on the road. Step inside and you will be greeted by ‘Milan’ fabric seats with Alcantara material for excellent grip and luxurious feel. The older 2.0 TSI featured ‘Vienna’ leather, which, although fancier, does not provide as much grip as Alcantara and is way hotter to the touch upon entering the car after being parked outside on a hot sunny afternoon. VW’s RCD 310 head unit takes center stage on the dash, delivering its output to 8 speakers inside the Tiguan. Elsewhere, rain-sensing wipers, reverse camera, semi-automatic Climatronic control and drowsiness detection add to the interior’s accoutrements. As with most if not all of VW’s offerings, the Tiguan’s dash is clean, uncluttered and solidly built as well as classy. If you have an additional 10 Grand to spare, you may opt for the optional “Tech Pack” which adds on Bi-xenon headlights with LED DRLs, dual-zone Climatronic control, Bluetooth connectivity (via the included RCD 510), folding wing mirrors and a multi-function steering wheel.

VWGM shared that the Tiguan name was amalgamated from two of the world’s toughest animals; the tiger and the iguana, to underline the characteristics of the Tiguan as an SUV with the prowess and gracefulness of a tiger and the surefootedness of an iguana traversing the desert. The new Tiguan’s prowess comes from the frugal yet torquey 1.4-liter supercharged and turbocharged motor under the hood that channels its power to the front wheels of the car via a tried and tested, and nearly bullet-proof wet clutch 6-speed DSG transmission. With power comes responsibility, and in this regard the new Tiguan comes with the usual array of electronics, i.e., ABS/EBD, ESC, 6 SRS airbags and a full 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. ISOFIX mounts come standard as well.

Wet Clutch DSG for a 1.4 TSI?

This is the first time that this combination has ever been brought into the country. In all of VW’s range of passenger vehicles for Malaysia featuring the 1.4 TSI (single charged or twin charged notwithstanding), the defacto gearbox had always been the dry clutch 7-speed DSG, which in the past had drawn flak from a select few of VW’s customers owing to the use of synthetic transmission fluid which caused premature failure to the mechatronic component within the said gearbox. This was quite a unique problem for VW as the 7-speed DSG had been in service in many countries worldwide without such a widespread problem. The combination of hot and humid weather conditions combined with the punishing snail’s pace of this ‘Country’s fantastic road system’ caused the synthetic fluid in the gearbox to form acids that corroded the circuitry within the mechatronic module leading to its breakdown. After identifying the problem and after having successfully swapped out the failed mechatronics in all affected cars and having made the switch to mineral transmission fluid, VW reports that the problem is now a thing of the past.

The most interesting thing to note here is that the problem was almost never heard of among owners of the more potent Golf GTI equipped with a wet clutch 6-speed DSG. Having said that, at the media conference the writer wondered if the inclusion of the more expensive and less efficient but highly robust 6-speed DSG was a matter of choice, but it was later intimated to him that the Tiguan 1.4 TSI did indeed come with a 6-speed DSG as standard in worldwide markets. The next question that came to him was, why the more expensive 160PS twin-charged engine instead of the newer 140PS single-charged one? It might be possible that to offset the slightly higher transmission losses of the wet clutch DSG, the more potent twin-charged motor was chosen instead. Not to mention that the roughly one-and-a-half ton kerb weight of the Tiguan would definitely benefit from a more powerful heart.

Availability, now…

Volkswagen is now offering bloody fantastic deals for its range of vehicles, and it would be a shame to pass this one up owing to a minor bump on the road. The writer remembers in the past, a certain individual had a problem with his brand new Asian BMW, where he wound his power window down to pay at a toll booth. Upon exiting the toll he couldn’t wind the window back up no matter what he tried, and it had started to rain. Naturally he was drenched and wasn’t all too happy about the experience. He made known his displeasure on a forum in a motoring website and kept on lambasting the brand for a good number of years even after the problem had been permanently solved. In the meantime, thousands of other owners without a problem and without much free time to hammer away his/her grouses on the internet have driven the same Asian BMW without much fuss. It is sometimes very easy to cause a problem to be blown out of proportion, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you manage to arm twist your way out of a situation, but on the other hand you cause potential buyers to be wary of the brand which in turn causes your car to skydive in residuals. In the end there are no winners.


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