Let me lay some facts on you: The Volkswagen Tiguan is an important part of the automaker's plans for the American market. Clean-burning diesel engines are also very important to Volkswagen. Given those two facts, you would think VW would offer a diesel version of the Tiguan compact crossover here in the U.S. Oddly enough, it doesn't. But because almost 25 percent of new VWs are sold with an oil-burning TDI engine, Volkswagen is starting to come around to the idea of offering a diesel Tiguan. So to see just how well a diesel compact CUV would fit in in the American marketplace, VW sent us a nearly loaded Euro Spec 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan TDI 4Motion to test.

Our Tiguan TDI was fresh off the boat from Germany, and sported quite a few options unavailable in the U.S. For starters, there's the engine; The Tiguan 2.0 TDI is powered by VW's (you guessed it) 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4, which makes 174 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque -- that's 34 additional ponies and 44 more lb-ft than VW offers on its U.S.-spec diesels. The extra oomph certainly makes a difference. Mated to the higher-spec Euro diesel engine is the DSG seven-speed dual-clutch automatic currently only available in the U.S. on the Jetta Hybrid. Power is routed to Volkswagen's front-biased 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

Diesel-powered vehicles are often slower than their gas-fueled counterparts, but the Tiguan TDI isn’t. Our diesel Tiguan tester accelerated from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds with an 84.8 mph trap speed. Though the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 found in U.S.-spec Tiguans sports more power than our diesel tester (200 hp versus 174 hp), it all boils down to torque: 207 lb-ft versus 280 lb-ft. The lack of extra grunt means the U.S.-spec Tiguan needs 7.8 seconds to hit 60 mph, no matter if it's equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. Our Euro Spec Tiguan TDI 4Motion tester's advantage continues at the dragstrip (just), with an all-wheel-drive Tiguan completing the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 87.2 mph. Our Euro-spec Tiguan needed 111 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph.

While its diesel engine and quick-shifting DSG improve many of the woes we've had with past Tiguans, they unfortunately don't fix the tall-and-tippy dynamics during our figure-eight testing. Even with the Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive-damping system in Sport mode, the best the Euro Spec Tiguan could muster around the figure eight was 28.0 seconds at a 0.60 g average – about a half-second off the comparable gas model. The lackluster time can be chalked up to three things: The DSG is geared for fuel economy instead of performance, Dynamic Chassis Control can't change the Tiguan's center of gravity, and limit-handling is not the TIguan’s mission.

Outside the confines of the test track, the Tiguan TDI handles itself well. While I was pretty hard on the last Tiguan I tested, the diesel engine and dual-clutch gearbox do wonders for the cute-ute. The engine is without a doubt the best part of the Tiguan. The turbodiesel is Russia-invading-Ukraine surprising -- power comes on instantaneously and keeps on pulling, never seeming to work too hard. The DSG is great too, shifting instantly. In comparison to the standard U.S. Tiguan, which feels lazy at times, the TDI's glut of torque means it's always ready to go. While offering a diesel Tiguan in the U.S. won't fix the Tiguan's sales woes, it certainly won't hurt, especially considering I observed an indicated 25 mpg in city driving and an indicated 34 mpg in highway driving. The gas-powered Tiguan 4Motion is EPA-rated at 21/27 mpg city/highway.

After driving a 2014 VW Jetta SE a few weeks ago, getting into the Tiguan 2.0 TDI was a refreshing reminder that Volkswagen is capable of making a nice interior. True, the bus-like driving position is wonky, but the Tiguan's interior is loaded with high-quality materials that make it a nice place to be -- and that’s not even taking into account the Euro-only goodies our car had.

Take the overhead bins. It's often said that Germans just don't understand cupholders. While theories espouse that Germans like to focus on driving and solely driving while behind the wheel, I've got a new theory: It's because they love overhead bins. Why store stuff in a cupholder when you have four overhead storage bins of various shapes and sizes? I could give up those, though, if it meant that the Tiguan's ingenious fold-out rear tray tables make it to America. Folding tray tables are usually only seen on uber-lux sedans such as the Bentley Mulsanne, yet this baby VW crossover has them. It's perfect for kids. Why no manufacturer has thought to offer flip-up tables in mainstream cars is beyond me.

Perhaps a little more European flair, in the form of diesel engines and kitschy options, could help reverse the Volkswagen Tiguan's fortunes here in the U.S. The Tiguan is currently the best-selling compact crossover in Europe. Here in America, it's among the worst-selling; VW sold just 30,002 of them last year, while Honda managed to sell 303,904 in 2013. There's a huge disconnect between Europe and America that VW desperately wants (and needs) the Tiguan, which carries a reputation as being among the priciest in the class, to overcome. In the near-term, VW has other fish to fry -- chiefly the creation of a Passat-based three-row crossover. Soon after VW nails those plans, it'll turn its attention to the Tiguan. Given that the current Tiguan is pretty late into its model cycle, diesel power likely won't show up until the next-generation, but if our Euro-Spec VW Tiguan TDI tester is any indication, it'll be killer.


2014 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 4Motion Euro Spec
BASE PRICE N/A
PRICE AS TESTED N/A
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/174-hp/280-lb-ft turbodiesel   16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3769 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE 102.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 174.3 x 71.2 x 67.1
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.9 sec @ 84.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 111 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.80 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON N/A