VW May Be Planning to Create Its Strangest GTI Model Yet

Volkswagen is entering a brave new crossover-centric world.

Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen is planning for an electric future. But the company’s present is the Tiguan compact crossover — which just overtook the Golf as the company’s best-selling vehicle globally. VW sold nearly 110,000 of them in the U.S. last year, compared to less than 6,000 copies of the base Golf.

The natural move for Volkswagen in the U.S., as it pares down its Golf-based offerings, would be to expand the Tiguan stable. A report from CarBuzz suggests we could see a GTI version of the Tiguan down the road as a way to bolster that lineup. When asked about the potential for a Tiguan performance model, Hein Schafer, VW’s senior VP for marketing and strategy, responded directly: “I think the answer is yes.”

Now, reports have claimed that Volkswagen is working on a Tiguan R performance model. That said, the prototypes spotted have been based on the short-wheelbase Tiguan; America, regrettably, only gets the long-wheelbase version. But bumping the power output from the Tiguan’s 2.0-liter turbo engine to GTI levels, rather than R heights, would make more sense, at least in our books. Besides, VW clearly values the GTI branding; indeed, the Golf GTI it may be the only eighth-generation Golf variant that survives in the U.S.

However, there are a couple of hurdles that could make a Tiguan GTI impractical. One is the cost. The Tiguan’s appeal is not just looks and spaciousness, but how affordable it is, starting below $25,000. The top-trim SEL Premium R-Line with all-wheel-drive starts a little below $39,000. Go beyond that, and you’re competing directly with luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and VW corporate-cousin Audi.

Another question is whether anyone would want a souped-up VW compact crossover. The Tiguan’s driving dynamics leave much to be desired; the car cries out for some VW precision handling and a bit more power. But the Tiguan’s success despite those concerns undercuts the case for buyers caring enough about driving to make a performance model worthwhile.

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