RIDDLE: When is an affordable, Autobahn bred, German built compact crossover utility vehicle [Volkswagen Tiguan Mk. 1] un-competitive?

ANSWER: When the brand [VW’s] own compact sport wagon [Golf Sportwagen / Alltrack] can swallow your lunch cargo and then some. As has every other recently redesigned compact crossover competitor.

With the bet on future diesel propulsion having flopped, Volkswagen didn’t dare insult American longing for largess with the Euro-sized 2nd generation Tiguan, instead spoiling us Yanks with only the long wheel base “Super Sized” variant.

Size-wise the re-designed 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan goes to the head of its class.

BEGGING THE QUESTION: Did any engineers who had endowed the Mk. 1 Tiguan with an uncommon nimbleness stick around for the Mk. 2 Tiguan?

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WHAT: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion 2- or 3- Row off-road capable, plus-sized compact crossover utility vehicle.

Power: transverse 2.0L DOHC 16V SI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 184 hp/ 221 lb-ft + 8-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + Haldex PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Built on the MQB modular platform, a chip off the Chattanooga built Atlas full-sizer block, chunkier than before, reminiscent of the Range Rover Mk. 2 (P38A);

Size alone makes it more imposing than its predecessor: Hood & upper front fascia gain creases; Grille now tri-bar instead of bi-bar; Front bumper cover more recessed; Headlights more compact, More prominent lattice lower front air-dam blends with dark lower cladding; Fog lights moved to lower corners; More sharply raked windshield with slimmer A-pillars; Body creases moved up to belt-line, spanning around lift-gate; D-Pillars featuring Hoffmeister kink, dramatizing larger rear quarter panels; Outwardly raked backlight; Longer liftgate accommodates lower load floor; Wrap-around inverse L-shaped tail-light housings; Thin chrome band delineates body and rear overhang lower dark cladding; Lower rear fascia houses dual corner chrome banded exhaust outlets;

WHY: Isn’t plus-sized, tetrahedron what American families prefer in their compact SUVs?

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2017

WHERE: Volkswagen new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Puebla , Mexico

WHERE TO: Standard Haldex all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 90/ 10% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, rear e-clutch differential limits the slip; Selectable and Driver customizable Off-Road modes aided by ABS descent control; 8″ clearance = Inclement weather beater & light off-roader;

HOW ROADWORTHY: shorter Miller-cycle low speed intake stroke = higher compression but nets a horsepower drop to pull around an extra 300 lbs. mass; throttle pedal travel is Nile River long and the 8-spd automatic transaxle torque converter is slow to lock, always seeking the highest gear;

Suspension travel > Mk. 1 Tiguan = +1 body roll in corner and earlier onset of understeer; Less taut, more compliant ride can get busy on rougher paths; Loss of some steering heft and most pavement feel; Brake pedal reaction becomes abrupt and distances seem compromised; Road & wind noise un-observed in cabin;

HOW FAR: 28 combined miles per gallon = 10% fuel economy > Mk. 1.5 Tiguan and near top of the class;

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: AWD versions spoil 5 grown-ups, Front-drive models with standard 3rd row swap some 2nd Row leg room to bus 2 kids in back; Front elbow room got more generous, too; Panoramic moonroof with power sunshade = headroom nibbler; Rear cargo space vaulted 58% above the Mk. 1 Tiguan;

HOW USEFUL: Variable height load floor for choice of taller portage or concealed storage;  Split sliding 2nd Row seat cushions;  Near flat folding 40/20/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks w/ twin cargo bay release latches; +1 View out from tall greenhouse and low sloping hood; -1 Compromised front door pocket & center armrest space; -1 Limited & unconcealed lower center stack wireless device space; -1 Distant reach to glove box; Tow Rating: 1500 lbs.

HOW SAFE: 6 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; Rear camera (part-autonomous Driver Assist available only on pricey SEL Plus model = Blind spot, Rear Cross-traffic, Forward collision warning, Lane departure warning, Collision avoidance braking; Pilot steering assist, sonar park guidance & Adaptive cruise control)

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated front seats;  Generous wide seat cushions 8-way driver power seat; Leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; -1 Fixed front center armrest; -1 Limited steering wheel reach adjustment; -1 Unyielding seat cushions -1
Heavy liftgate w/ tall lift-height;

Cool Gizmo(s) Tablet-style glass panel high-contrast touch-gesture LCD infotainment screen Panoramic glass roof w/ ambient lighting

Details Done Right: Felt lined door pockets minimizes change or keys jingle jangling; Fine grained soft-material dash top;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Low-contrast faux carbon fiber appliques; -1 Coarse grain below waist-height plastic cabin trim

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: tablet style 8″ flat-panel capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen w/ gesture icon control; Voice command hands-free communications; Android Auto, Apple Car Play & MirrorLink smart phone apps; Subscription based VW Car-Net telematics; ; 160 W, 6- speaker audio loud but shrill; USB x 3, 12V x 3

HOW MUCH: $31, 775 = SE 4Motion as tested

WHAT’S MISSING: +1 Acceleration; +1 Steering weight build-up; > Seat cushion comfort; 115V AC outlet; Instrument panel back-lighting adjustment (rather than infotainment menu); Power liftgate & semi-autonomous driver assist technology option (only available on pricey SEL trims)

ANY COMPETITION: Chevrolet Equinox: +1 Engine options, including diesel & 9-speed automatic transaxle, 4G LTE; Ford Escape: +1 Engine options, chassis control, front sport seats; Honda CR-V: +1 Powertrain responsiveness, intuitive control layout; Jeep Cherokee: +1 available V6 & off-road AWD; Kia Sportage: +1 Turbo powertrain acceleration, value; Mazda CX-5: +1 Steering & handling, interior materials; Subaru Forester: +1 Engine options, off-road credentials; Toyota RAV4: +1 Standard driver assist tech, upscale cabin finish;

FINAL WORD: Teutonic Take on the Yankee Army Knife, (while for sharper road carving, VW continues to serve up the Mk. 1.5 Tiguan Limited).