Two Days in Wyoming With a 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan S and Atlas SEL

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyoming — Between Wraith Falls and Old Faithful, the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan showed just how well it has nailed down its midsize-crossover act. Powerful enough to shrug off the climb to Dunraven Pass at 8,859 feet, the second-generation Tiguan is also agile enough to avoid fumaroles—the vent holes that release steam from the park’s thermal network. This new Tiguan is 10.6 inches longer and has up to 58 percent more cargo space. And at 66.3 inches tall it puts occupants at eye level with the hump of an American bison.

We passed through the 3,468-square-mile park—some 39-percent larger than Delaware—en route to Jackson Hole from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, where Volkswagen had met us and handed over the keys to the glittering white Tiguan S, the least expensive of four available trim levels. Equipped with the optional Driver Assistance package, it had a sticker price of $26,195. The well-finished cabin offered such niceties as quilted cloth upholstery, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and multifunction steering wheel. Attention to detail showed even in the fabric-lined door pockets.

The first aspect the Tiguan revealed was its refinement. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which runs on regular fuel, makes 184 hp and, more importantly, 221 lb-ft of torque. It delivered substantial low-end and midrange punch through the front wheels without ever bugling like a bull elk. There was no boost gauge in the instrument cluster, no turbo lag, and no whining. In keeping with the overall serene experience, the turbocharger was invisible, and some drivers will never detect it.

Our test vehicle was not equipped with navigation and the Garmin device that had been installed on the windshield was a distraction. (We preferred the paper map handed out by the park ranger.) The also Tiguan S had no sunroof, but it wasn’t missed. However, we rued the lack of a power liftgate closer. Yes, we have become spoiled.

The Tiguan was on the heavy side, weighing in at 3,777 pounds. Moving the shift lever to sport-shift position and manually changing the eight-speed automatic’s ratios made it much more fun to drive and let us control the speed on a seven-percent downhill grade. The electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering was quick and accurate but a little numb. Overall, this crossover was fun to drive, nimble enough, and offered the great outward visibility that so many want these days. Our preference is to sit down lower in a car, but the Tiguan’s appeal is easy to understand.

One of the biggest marks on the plus side is the conservative, handsome styling. With a coefficient of drag rated at 0.35, it was hardly a slippery shape. It had a righteous look, though. The Tiguan’s face had the large VW emblem, three-crossbar grille, quad halogen headlamps, and LED daytime-running lights. The side sported a sharply creased character line, and the rear glass angled somewhat forward. The Tiguan sat proud on 17-inch wheels. Unlike that of crossovers that try to resemble hang gliders or kites, this nice styling effort will still look good years from now. And of course, it’s available with all-wheel drive and even a third-row seat.

Being in the national park put us in mind of naturalist John Muir, who camped out with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the same year TR laid the cornerstone of the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s north entrance. More than 20 years earlier, Muir had explored the Taylor Glacier in Alaska, accompanied by a brave little black dog named Stickeen. Muir had at first opposed bringing Stickeen on the expedition. As he later wrote: “But his master assured me that he would be no trouble at all; that he was a perfect wonder of a dog, could endure cold and hunger like a bear, swim like a seal, and was wondrous wise and cunning, etc., making out a list of virtues to show he might be the most interesting member of the party.”

Much the same can be said of the plucky Tiguan.

On the second day of our road trip to Jackson Hole, we tried out the new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL. Long overdue, the Atlas is the seven-passenger crossover that VW has needed. The front-drive Atlas S uses a 235-horsepower version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but our top-of-the-line, all-wheel-drive Atlas SEL had the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6. It makes 276 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is only eight more than the four’s output. There’s a significant fuel-economy penalty (22 city/26 hwy for the four versus 17 city/23 highway for the six), but the V-6 is as smooth as obsidian and enables the Atlas to tow up to 5,000 pounds. The eight-speed automatic is included.

We slid onto the broad, flat, leather-upholstered, heated and ventilated seat and grasped the heated, leather-wrapped, multifunction steering wheel. The Tiguan and Atlas both use flat-bottom style wheels, which make sense in an Alfa Romeo 4C, but not here. That complaint aside, the cabin was pleasant and accommodating. The Atlas went down the road with all the serenity of the Tiguan, but instead of a happy buzz under full throttle it issued a snarl. The driving experience was involving, with crisp steering and a fine balance between ride comfort and dynamic responsiveness.

Like the Tiguan, the Atlas looked handsome. Sharp lines on the fenders gave this crossover some attitude; otherwise, restraint characterized the design. The 20-inch wheels produced a nice effect on their own.

The many popular features in the Atlas SEL included smartphone mirroring; a digital instrument display; a huge sunroof; reclining, heated second-row seats; driver assistance technology; and a liftgate with its own suite of features. Heralding a large crossover SUV from Volkswagen feels a bit odd, but the Atlas is right on the money and we wouldn’t hesitate about recommending it. The inscription on Roosevelt Arch’s cornerstone could also apply here: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan S Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $25,195/$26,195 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/184 hp @ 4,400 rpm,

221 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm

TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5- or 7-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 21/22/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 185.1 x 72.4 x 66.3 in
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
WEIGHT 3,777-3,858 lb
0-60 MPH 8.2 sec
TOP SPEED N/A

 

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $30,500/$49,415 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.6 DOHC 24-valve V-6/276 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 266 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 17-18/23-25 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 198.3 x 78.3 x 70.0 in
WHEELBASE 117.3 in
WEIGHT 4,222-4,502 lb
0-60 MPH 7.5 sec
TOP SPEED 135 mph

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