A white 2022 Tiguan is shown from the rear on a coastal lot.

Can the Current Tiguan Hold Market Attention Until Performance Models Hit America?

Volkswagen has managed to hit quite a stride in recent years with the Tiguan, a compact crossover that has managed to give the German brand a boost and a nice distraction from some of the less savory elements that may have besmirched the company’s good name throughout the years. More to the point, the Tiguan has proven to be quite the sales success, regardless of which market it arrives in. You can almost always count on models moving quickly from a VW Tiguan dealership, whether it’s in Tacoma or Tunisia. There always seems to be forward momentum for the Tiguan, even with an elongated second generation.

If you’ve been keeping track of the current generation of Tiguan model years, the second generation of the compact SUV got underway with the 2016 model. Believe it or not, it’s already been six years, and in the automotive world, that could be seen as getting long in the tooth. Of course, all things must be kept in context. The Tiguan has been regularly receiving new updates and shuffling around its trim lineup to keep things fresh for certain markets. But what happens in the markets where customers could perceive modest model year updates as being paltry or insufficient? Well, they have a solution for that.

A white 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan is shown from the front at an angle.

A Delayed but Welcomed Tiguan R

If there’s one thing most of the world has come to understand about the American auto industry, it’s that there’s a segment that absolutely adores high-performance vehicles. Whether it’s a sedan, a sports car, a crossover, or a truck, Americans love their performance rides. So it might be shocking to some people to know that part of the second generation refresh for the Tiguan included the Tiguan R, a high-performance, turbocharged iteration of the compact SUV, only it wasn’t made available for the North American market.

So what happened? Well, the rumor mill in early 2020 suspected that there would be a performance-specific Tiguan release for the 2020 model year, a model that had been held up in development shortly after the second generation started. The rumors proved true, and it didn’t take long for the German automaker to start filling VW Tiguan dealerships with the Tiguan R in 2020… in Europe.

The Tiguan R boasts a powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that delivers 316 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A shorter wheelbase, performance-tuned suspension, sturdier brakes, and a drive mode selector all help give drivers a lot more power to put down between the axles. Sure, it’s not a Hellcat, but for a compact SUV, it’s moving some major mass very quickly. That’s not to mention it’s a nice step up from the current iteration of the Tiguan and would make for a worthwhile, sporty compact on the road for those who want something classy and quick. In a way, you might think of it as being very similar in concept to Ford’s approach to the Explorer ST, but for a smaller segment vehicle. A more accurate comparison would be that the Tiguan R is the obvious equivalent of the Golf R. The only problem is that the Tiguan R isn’t available in North America, but that may change sometime soon.

The Performance Tiguan Cometh

Speaking with CarBuzz, Volkswagen Group of America’s senior vice president of product and strategy, Hein Schafer, explained that they are looking to bring a performance iteration of the Tiguan Stateside. Schafer hinted at a more performance-tuned Tiguan coming to US shores, saying, “I can confirm Tiguan will have a successor. Whether it will be a full-blown R, maybe not – but I can tell you that there will be a derivative in the Tiguan lineup that will have a little bit more oomph and a little more giddyup.”

So what exactly does that mean? Well, it doesn’t sound like the “full-blown R” with a Tiguan before the namesake is making its way to America, or will it? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. What we do know is that Volkswagen is at least considering a more performance-ready iteration of the compact SUV for the US territory, which could result in a very nice boost in sales (and profits) for Volkswagen.

The current Tiguan models available for sale stateside are limited to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that manages 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. A beefier power plant in the Tiguan could spell wonders for raising the nameplate’s market appeal among those looking for an enthusiast compact SUV. Of course, this assumes that the Tiguan can edge into the performance crossover segment without cannibalizing its market share. Simultaneously, the Tiguan R would also need to be competitive enough to edge into the market share of its competitors. There’s only one major problem, though; when is it coming?

Tiding the Market Over With Modest Updates

Since the Tiguan R launched in various territories, Volkswagen has been keen to keep the updates rolling out for the other models in other regions at a steady pace. New safety features here, new tech there, and new facelifts all around. But are those enough? Well, sales in the US certainly haven’t slowed down at any point, so there’s no reason to believe that consistent updates won’t keep American shoppers satisfied for some time to come.

The 2022 model, in particular, features a more modernized front fascia, including an LED lighting array. There are also many of the typical tech trappings to ensure the active safety features can provide drivers with the necessary feedback they crave from a modern-day SUV. I doubt anyone would complain about enhanced radar, 360-degree surround cameras, responsive front pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. On the upside, the ADAS (or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) is at least present in the North American models of the Tiguan. In places like Malaysia, ADAS is not available yet for models like the 2022 Tiguan. So yeah, it could be worse.

A white 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan is shown from the front after leaving a VW Tiguan dealership.

So, Would You Buy a Volkswagen Tiguan R?

If the 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan R became available at your local VW Tiguan dealership, would you pounce? How about a pre-order? Is a performance model with additional horsepower and torque and a sports-tuned suspension enough to get you to open the wallet and throw your money at the German automaker? More importantly, what would be your reservations holding you back from buying a Tiguan R if it did make its way to the US? Would the appeal of other performance-tuned crossovers get in the way of wanting a Tiguan R? Alternatively, is the Tiguan R the right model to convince consumers to move to the Volkswagen camp? I imagine potential shoppers who like the compact SUV’s refined design and classy color lineup might be a worthy selling point. Of course, this also raises another important question: is the current Tiguan R powerful enough for the American market’s tastes?

The Tiguan R would have to compete on the market against other performance-oriented SUVs, a market dominated by the likes of the RAV4 Prime, the Blazer, the Explorer ST, and even the Sportage. That puts it in rarefied air among some of the top brands on the market. But then again, the Tiguan is already a best-selling Volkswagen vehicle, so would they have much to lose by challenging the current performance-oriented SUVs on the market? It’s a question that we won’t have an answer to until Volkswagen decides to unleash the Tiguan R (or whatever its Stateside variant might be called) in North America. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.