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2014 Tijuanj R-Line expands VW lineup

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2014 VW Tiguan

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Most automakers will tell you that a regular flow of fresh new vehicles is vital to their existence. Many hot-selling new models start to show their age soon after their introduction. Older models that haven't changed in a long time are often seen as outdated or less desirable, but the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan is a notable exception. Much of that longevity can be attributed to good design, good engineering and yes, good luck. Tijuan seems to fall into all three catagories.

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For 2014, there are five Tiguan trim levels, with a substantial boost in price from bottom to top. The base S starts at $22,995 and the top-of-the-line R-Line begins at $36,535, or $37,400 including the $865 for the destination charge. Add the 4Motion option and you're at $39,355.

All Tiguan trims use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder TSI engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet to either the front wheels or to all four via a Haldex-clutch-equipped 4Motion system. VW offers the option of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, but if you want 4Motion, you have to get the automatic, and the R-Line can’t be had with a manual.

Both FWD and AWD models are rated at 26 highway miles per gallon, but in the city, the manual FWD returns 18 mpg, the automatic FWD gets 21 mpg and the AWD gets 20 mpg..

At a glance, the R-Line can be identified by body-color side skirts, black wheel arch extensions, a roof spoiler, HID headlamps and power folding side mirrors.

R-Line interior embellishments include leather seats and power front seats, a flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel, stainless steel pedals and aluminum sill plates. The interior is finished with premium, soft to the touch leather and hand stitching that easily meets the so-called Audi standard. A huge sunroof keeps the cabin bright while a Fender audio system enables a trial of Volkswagen's new Car-Net connected services suite.

In spite of what VW says, the R-line does not deliver on the promise of a car-like ride. It has larger 19-inch wheels with 255/40 R19 Pirelli Scorpions wheels and a firmer, sport suspension tune. That’s a formula for a hard ride and our test drive proved it to be so. On good roads at highway speeds, the cabin is quiet and composed

Even though the R-line doesn't add more horsepower, it can do more with its 207 lb-ft of torque that comes on from 1,700 rpm, and the six-speed transmission that didn't need help to find the correct rev range. The 4Motion all-wheel drive system uses a Haldex center differential that can move almost 100-percent of the torque to the rear wheels, as during acceleration.

Meanwhile,VW stands by its practice of demanding premium money for a premium product no matter the trim and no matter the segment. As a lifestyle comparison, though, the Tiguan R-Line is a good one. it's slightly smaller and less frugal, but it's good looking, more powerful, nicer inside and a lot more fun to drive than most of its rivals.

The Tiguan is about $1,400 more than a similarly equipped Chevrolet Equinox, about $3,700 more than a Ford Escape and roughly $7,000 more than a Mazda CX-5. All of them have more headroom, legroom and cargo space than the Volkswagen, but also less power compared to the Tiguan, in some cases quite a bit less, and only the Mazda can come close to the driving experience.

But the competitors do get better gas mileage on less-costly regular fuel. If you don't need the R-Line features, the SEL trim omits the boy-racer kits and provides an instant $4,000 discount with an MSRP of $32,670. It will take more than that to explain the huge disparity in sales between the Tiguan and its competitors, of course.

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