In stock form, the VW Tiguan is a decent little compact SUV; serviceable, versatile and not without aesthetic charm. But perhaps it looks more appropriate for your mom or sister, lacking the testosterone of other vehicles in its class. However, VW is aware of the potential wrapped up in this cool little truck and has set about showing us what's possible.
One of its first attempts was this Performance Tiguan launched at the 2008 SEMA Show. Of particular interest was the APR stage 3 turbo kit, derived from its work on the '06 SEMA R GTI project, but brought up-to-date for the Tiguan's 2.0TSI engine. With about 95hp more than the factory's claimed 200hp, and with 300 lb-ft of torque, it has some serious muscle for its size. Add an APR exhaust plus a carbon fiber cold-air intake, and the personality transformation is half-way complete. Throw in a custom sound system by Rockford Fosgate, and you're all the way there.
More on the audio system later, but as we climbed aboard the vehicle and had the opportunity to drive it around town, the Tiguan showed itself to be relatively quick. In fact, we soon had to tone it down out of respect for the local PD, but did find an empty stretch of road to confirm its impressive turn of pace.
Complementing the power was the low growl from the exhaust. The suspension enhancements from H&R, which included sport springs and sway bars, gave it a fairly stiff ride, allowing corners to be tackled at a healthy speed without the anticipated body roll associated with off-roaders. Keeping things in check were 328mm APR/Brembo GT slotted brake rotors and four-piston calipers for when we finally spotted a black 'n white.
The sharp exterior styling was achieved with VW's own body kit including fender flares, front spoiler, side steps and hatch spoiler, all finished in a (perhaps too) subtle two-tone paint job. Finally, as set of 19" Omanyt wheels were sequestered from the VW parts catalog, equipped with 225/40-19 Yokohama S.drive tires.
Driving the Performance Tiguan with its plentiful upgrades was entertaining in itself, but with a 1400 watt sound system in the doors and trunk, the fun factor was exponentially higher. And with Rockford Fosgate as the audio partner on this project, a company that makes both premium factory systems and some of the best aftermarket audio components, this Tiguan could rock your world. The exhaust may growl but the sound system booms...
The cleverness began up front, with Rockford Fosgate using its 3Sixty to integrate with the factory head unit - VW's new touchscreen navigation system. In this instance, it meant the dash remained intact and the car appeared largely unmolested to the casual observer.
The 3Sixty serves as an interface between the factory source and the aftermarket audio components. It also provides auto-equalization of the audio feed, so the signal is tailored to the aftermarket speaker system.
The 3Sixty additionally has a bass controller, which was installed in a lower compartment in the center stack. Turned a quarter of the way, you could feel the low frequencies starting to play through your internal organs. Any more, and it would probably be safer for your ears to be outside the car.
We liked that this vehicle has a single-disc slot in the head unit, as well as a disc changer and a mini-jack aux input in the center console. It meant you could play CDs, DVDs, an SD card, iPod or from the internal hard-drive. VW really had thought of everything.
It used to be that Rockford amplifiers were almost as great in size as they were in power, but recently the company's engineers have shrunk the chassis and improved the performance. The new Power T1000-1bd is a 1000-watt mono amp that powered two P3D410 dual-voicecoil Punch subwoofers in a very neat vented enclosure in the trunk. In fact, the system's creators had incorporated a VW badge into the design, mimicking the front-end of the car, with the subs serving as "headlights".
The four-channel Power T400-4 amp took care of the component speakers that comprised 6.5" mid-bass drivers in the front doors and hard-dome tweeters in the sail panels. The rear doors had 5.25" mids, with the tweeters mounted by the door handles.
All in all, we're talking about 1400 watts combined with 295hp to create a vehicle that was powerful in more ways than one.
This Tiguan was built to be a show car. That usually means the audio designers want it to play for an audience outside the vehicle as well as for passengers inside. Sometimes this dual-purpose can adversely affect the audio fidelity in the cabin but in this case, the Tiguan proved to be more than a one-trick pony.
I listened to some test tracks, starting with a recording of drums and bass. I had to turn down the bass via the controller to achieve a realistic sound. After all, this system was meant to thump, but with a lower setting the sound quality was decent enough.
I moved on to another track but the mid-bass was a little muddled. However, the highs on the vocals were very good. There was also a surprisingly good soundstage depth and breadth.
I finished with Rage Against the Machine's "Take the Power Back". The Rockford Fosgate system had no problem conveying the force of this track. The guitar sound was hard and sharp. And the system's almost overwhelming bass (which works on a song like this) put you in the audience, as if it were a concert. If you can't make it to a live performance, this may be the next best thing!