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Volkswagen has not had a great tradition of building trucks or SUVs, so the compact crossover boom of the last decade has caught them flat-footed, with their SUV offerings lagging behind their more advanced competitors. In the last few years, that has all changed.
Volkswagen is once again seeking to be a strong competitor in the compact SUV market, first with the all-new Atlas mid-size crossover, and now with the fully redesigned 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan. The Tiguan has a lot to recommend itself, being one of the most spacious and comfortable crossovers in its weight class as well as one of the few that sports a third row.
It is also nicely equipped for the needs of the modern car buyers. Even the standard models come with plenty of technical features, and there is a good selection of available safety and technology features to choose from.
Compare the 2018 Tiguan S vs SE Trims. What is the difference?
Even at its base model, the Tiguan offers a good mix of nice features for buyers, as well as a nice options package. It comes with cloth seats, alloy wheels, and a full selection of power options. It is also equipped with daytime running lights, a rearview camera, and a six-speaker sound system. The sound system is controlled through a 6.5-inch touchscreen, which also supports Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. It also has a USB port.
The base Tiguan S is available in both a front-wheel drive configuration and an all-wheel drive one. It also offers an optional Driver Assistance Package. The package includes some of the more popular active safety features, including a forward collision warning system with automatic braking, and a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert.
The other option, available only on the all-wheel drive model of the S, is the third row seat, which can add two more seats to the Tiguan S. It is a rather tight space however, primarily suitable for children rather than adults. For the front-wheel drive models, the third row is a standard feature.
The SE functions as the mid-range entry in the Tiguan lineup, and delivers a similar feature experience to other such models in the segment. It replaces the cloth seats with synthetic leather, and adds front seat heating and an upgraded infotainment system. The upgraded system has a larger 8-inch screen, and support for satellite and HD radio.
The SE also includes the optional Driver Assistance Package from the S as standard equipment and adds two more USB ports to the cabin. Dual-zone climate control and a power driver’s seat are also standard on the SE, and the front-wheel drive models include the third row, which is again optional on the all-wheel drive ones. Other options available on the SE include a dual-pane panoramic moonroof and upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels.
For the base model, the Tiguan S is pretty nicely equipped, though it is slightly more expensive than the average entry-level compact crossover. The SE however, is an even better value. It comes with a large number of upgraded features, including standard safety equipment, at just a small increase in price over the S. Once the optional safety features of the S are accounted for, the SE upgrade is only around $1,500 over the S, making it an excellent value for drivers who are interested in the features it offers.
Compare the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE vs SEL Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The SEL is a sort of in-between trim level, covering the ground between the mid-range SE and the high-end SEL Premium models. It includes all of the standard features of the SE, as well as the optional panoramic moonroof. On top of that, the SEL adds a navigation system, a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, and a remote starter.
Its only optional package is the R-Line appearance package, which gives the Tiguan unique wheels, bumpers, and exterior accents. It does not change the crossover’s performance in any way. Outside of that option, the all-wheel drive models can also choose to keep or delete their third row, as on all of the other models.
While the SEL offers a few nice options, it does not hold nearly the same value as the upgrade to the SE does. With many of the high-value upgrades not available on the SE reserved for the SEL Premium, the regular SEL is left with a fairly average list of features for a hefty price. The power liftgate and the adaptive cruise control are both nice options, but the rest of the features the SEL adds are available on the SE as well, for roughly $3,000 more.
Compare the Tiguan SEL vs SEL Premium Trims. What is the difference?
Aptly named, the SEL Premium is the upper bracket of the Tiguan lineup and includes all of the features that are available on the Tiguan as standard equipment. It builds on the standard SEL feature set, adding genuine leather seating surfaces, LED headlights, a digital instrument cluster, a hands-free liftgate, heated steering wheel, and a Fender sound system. The Fender audio in particular is a huge improvement over the base sound system, and the leather really feels like an upgrade from the SEL.
The fully-featured SEL Premium does not offer any upgrade options, with the exceptions of the ones it shares with the SEL: it can also be equipped with the R-Line appearance package, and the third row is optional on the all-wheel drive version.For the features it offers, the Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium is a stronger option than the regular SEL, as the leather interior, hands-free liftgate and premium audio are all very desirable features. However, as with the SEL, it is a very expensive upgrade and comes very close in price to luxury crossovers that are nicer and better equipped. Of the two SEL trims, this one offers more per dollar spent, as long as the prospective buyer is interested in all of the features that it offers.
Which Trim Level to Choose?
The all-new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is a strong improvement over the outgoing model, and manages to cram a significant amount of standard features even into the more entry-level models in its lineup.
The entry-level S offers a good balance between its high starting price and its equipment, but it is quickly eclipsed by the great value found on the SE trim level. Most buyers will want to skip the proverbial middle-child SEL trim and either stick with the higher value of the SE or go all the way up to the near-luxury SEL Premium, though it also comes with the same near-luxury price.
With the mid-range SE offering the best value, it is also likely to be the most-sold version of the Tiguan thanks to its leatherette upholstery and active safety equipment.
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• Why buy a 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan? w/ pros vs cons