Heresy? Volkswagen Might Expand the GTI Lineup to Include Crossovers
Volkswagen may be a mainstream brand, but it’s difficult to criticize when it comes to the polish of its products. Regardless of how long their individual components actually last under sustained usage, climbing into a VW model frequently gives the impression that you’ve found yourself inside a quality item. If that’s all it took to make a great car, VW would be king of the scrap heap every year. Yet people tend to demand a lot from their vehicle, including performance, and that’s an area where the automaker often falters.
Going up in trim on a Volkswagen rarely includes a burlier powertrain. The brand is all about rightsizing the basics in the U.S., leaving the options list for technological enhancements and all-wheel drive. There’s also an expansive R-Line trim, but its upgrades are mostly cosmetic, offering the style of a performance trim with nothing to back it up. If you want real thrills from the manufacturer, you’d best select a Golf model with the GTI or R suffix.
What if you don’t want a modestly sized hatchback, though? It’s not like there will ever be a compact crossover equivalent, as VW promised the GTI name would remain exclusive to small, peppy economy cars back in 2017. Could an automaker go back on its word? Provided there’s sufficient time between promises made, of course it can.
We already know VW is testing a performance variant of the Tiguan (presumed to be the Europe-exclusive Tiguan R) at the Nürburgring, and the automaker has previously suggested expanding the GTI lineup to include more models. In the United States, that list is currently limited to the Golf, but other markets also have the Up! GTI and Polo GTI.
According to CarBuzz, the Tiguan is probably next, and it should come to North America. The outlet recently interviewed Hein Schafer, Senior VP for Product Marketing and Strategy, to ask if the un-fast crossover would receive the proper GTI treatment and come with a juicier motor. “I think we’re always looking at finding ways and means of finding more fuel-efficient engine options and, yes, with more horsepower,” he said. “So I think the answer is ‘yes.'”
At 3,757 pounds (before adding all-wheel drive or third-row seating), the standard Tiguan’s 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque needs to be thoroughly exercised to make anything exciting happen. But even the most passive driving enthusiasts will still find it to be unappealingly slow — which is why those who can afford to will often splurge on an Audi Q5.
From the sound of things, the prospective Tiguan GTI’s displacement will remain a svelte 2.0 liters. VW will probably just swap in the unit that powers the present-day Golf GTI, resulting in a small crossover with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. Those figures will help it keep some distance from Audi (both in price and power) while also allowing VW to do the bare minimum to enter it into our market, as the manufacturer is technically already building this car.
In Europe, Volkswagen recently added a version of the Tiguan with the engine in question. It’s limited to the SEL and R-Line, comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive, has a 7-speed DSG, is fairly expensive at $45,600 (converted from British pounds), and requires a special order. But it’s otherwise identical to the vehicle we’re assuming will become the first non-car GTI. Initial tests place the model’s launch to 60 mph at a little over 6 seconds. By contrast, the standard Tiguan sold here takes almost 10 seconds after you’ve tacked on AWD.
Pricing will undoubtedly come down for our market and there’s likely to be some GTI badging. The rest should go largely unchanged. Expect more information to come out of Volkswagen in a few months when it shows off updates planned for the Tiguan’s 2021 model year.
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It's inevitable. Ford stuck the ST badge on upscale SUV and CUVs. Ford stuck the Mustang badge on a CUV. Porsche stuck the GTS and Turbo-S badges on the Cayenne. I believe there's already an "R-line" Tiguan and Atlas. The Tiguan GTI and/or R and Atlas GTI and/or R will likely be high content, very expensive flagship models, probably with Audi power trains, perhaps even electric. They won't compete with the sub-30k real GTI. They'll probably cost at least twice that.
VW should use the GLI badge for these. Similar performance cred to the GTI, but it won't piss off the enthusiasts.