Heresy? Volkswagen Might Expand the GTI Lineup to Include Crossovers

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
3 of 32 comments
  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Apr 23, 2020

    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.

    • FreedMike FreedMike on Apr 23, 2020

      I bet the Tiguan "GTI" would start a bit south of $40,000 - stupid money for a Tiguan, yes, but not unreasonable. Ford is asking about the same for a Edge ST. A T-Roc GTI would actually be cool.

  • Jmiller417 Jmiller417 on Apr 24, 2020

    VW should use the GLI badge for these. Similar performance cred to the GTI, but it won't piss off the enthusiasts.

  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy
  • Lou_BC I had a 2010 Ford F150 and 2010 Toyota Sienna. The F150 went through 3 sets of brakes and Sienna 2 sets. Similar mileage and 10 year span.4 sets tires on F150. Truck needed a set of rear shocks and front axle seals. The solenoid in the T-case was replaced under warranty. I replaced a "blend door motor" on heater. Sienna needed a water pump and heater blower both on warranty. One TSB then recall on spare tire cable. Has a limp mode due to an engine sensor failure. At 11 years old I had to replace clutch pack in rear diff F150. My ZR2 diesel at 55,000 km. Needs new tires. Duratrac's worn and chewed up. Needed front end alignment (1st time ever on any truck I've owned).Rear brakes worn out. Left pads were to metal. Chevy rear brakes don't like offroad. Weird "inside out" dents in a few spots rear fenders. Typically GM can't really build an offroad truck issue. They won't warranty. Has fender-well liners. Tore off one rear shock protector. Was cheaper to order from GM warehouse through parts supplier than through Chevy dealer. Lots of squeaks and rattles. Infotainment has crashed a few times. Seat heater modual was on recall. One of those post sale retrofit.Local dealer is horrific. If my son can't service or repair it, I'll drive 120 km to the next town. 1st and last Chevy. Love the drivetrain and suspension. Fit and finish mediocre. Dealer sucks.
  • MaintenanceCosts You expect everything on Amazon and eBay to be fake, but it's a shame to see fake stuff on Summit Racing. Glad they pulled it.