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Old 03-09-2013, 06:40 PM   #1
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Anyone towing with a Tiguan?

No, that's not some exotic pet animal, though the name implies it. VW's small SUV, I mean. I'll be able to answer that question myself very soon, once the latest snow melts and I've finished the last stages of tow prep on our new tug car. The EZ Hitch is in the mail, and the Prodigy RF brake controller still needs to be programmed.

I've never been satisfied doing things the usual, proven way, so once again I've chosen an atypical tow car. The last experiment with that Audi allroad ended unfortunately, with a cancelled vacation and a high-four-figure repair bill. But that's all past now.

The Tiguan is basically a VW Golf, raised and bloated to VW proportions. Tow rating is 2400 lbs in the US (or 2,400 kg in other, less truck-dependent countries), which just equals the Subaru Forester we've been using for our lightweight (no bath) Scamp 16.

I expect the Tiguan to be a stronger performer, though. The auto transmission has six speeds, and the 2.0L direct-injection engine has a turbo, so I'd expect about 50 more HP will be on tap up at the level of Colorado passes than from our old normally aspirated 2.5 flat-four. There's AWD, a robust factory Class II hitch on the bumper/subframe, an electronic control module that informs the car's stability control and ABS of the trailer's presence, and the ability to add rear air bags if the suspension needs help with 200 lbs tongue weight. Probably won't be necessary; at first, static hitching, the car stayed level.

So I'm confident, but not able to speak yet from experience. Can anyone else?

There were several reasons for choosing the Tiguan over other more popular (Asian) and more expensive (German) SUVs. My wife wanted something that would fit into a compact car parking space, and at 177 inches long, the Tiguan fits that bill. I wanted a four-cylinder turbo with a normal tailgate (sorry, Rav4), no CVT transmission (sorry, Subaru) and simple, graceful styling (sorry Ford, Hyundai, Honda). It's a bonus that, without trailer attached, the Tiguan drives like a GTI on stilts-- it's the same engine!

Any comments/ Anyone considering such a vehicle?
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Old 03-09-2013, 06:49 PM   #2
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I love the way European Engineering "feels". Problem is that we have to wait for the Japnese to make it work consistently. I learned my lesson with two Porsches and a Volvo.
I hope your experience with the Europeans is better than mine.
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Old 03-09-2013, 06:51 PM   #3
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I'm curious to see how it works for you. I agree on the Subaru CVT. I was less than impressed. Luckily, the 6 speed manual drives like it has another 50hp on the cvt, or I would have left mine on the lot.

Does the Tiguan have true 50/50 split awd?
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:20 PM   #4
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Other than my misgivings about reliability (unless VW has improved since my '98 Jetta), it should be a pretty good tow vehicle.

Aren't VW and Audi made by the same company?
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:35 PM   #5
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John,
It's certainly the smallest of that class of vehicle and probably with the lowest reliability record, witnessed by the fastest depreciation.

I do like that it can be bought with a manual transmission, something it has in common with the Outback.

I'll be interested in the reliability because I've considered the VW deisel, a different breed, same manufacturer.

Surprised by the dramatically lower mpgs compared to the rest of the vehicles in the small SUV class.

Wishing you many great tow miles with your new vehicle.
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:43 PM   #6
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To Bill-- The ideal car would be designed by Germans and built by Japanese. The latter have mastered the science of manufacturing, but their ergonomics and aesthetics have become more and more foreign to me (and not in a good way).
Jared-- the Tig has a 4-Motion system. Unlike the sister Audi's basic 50-50 torque split, the VW AWD favors the front wheels in dry conditions. I've driven both, and so far I can't sense any difference.
And Mike, every make's reliability has improved over the past 15 years. Audi and VW are as related as Cadillac and Chevy. Audi just stretches the envelope further, with hotter engine tunes, 8-speed transmissions and sumptuous interiors. Based on past experience, I'l stick with VW. This is a new car with a warranty as long as the lease, so I feel pretty secure with that.
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:50 PM   #7
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I would break in the engine before towing. City driving in sport mode will help do this. And shorten the oil change interval from 10k miles to 5k when towing. Both of the 2.0T engines are hard on oil and towing WILL shorten the oil's life.

Make sure you always use top tier 91 unleaded. Lower quality (cheap) or lower octane (regular or mid) will drop MPG and may cause issues down the road.

Factory trailer wiring interface will give you the ESP/ABS integration with the trailer. By this I mean the Tiguan will know the trailer is there and change how it controls its own brakes, NOT that will do anything different with the trailer brakes.

All of the Tiguans I have seen are factory prepared for towing. Or it could just be how our dealer orders them. Anyway all you need is small adaptor that bolts onto the bumper. And the wiring of course.

I work at VW dealer and hang out on a few forums. There are good and bad dealers out there. Do your due diligence on checking them out.

There are several of us who are on the fence about towing with the Tiguan. I am curious to hear how you do with yours.

Jason
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:51 PM   #8
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To N&G-- Unfortunately, the Tiguan offers manual transmission only with the lowest FWD model trim. That would have the same tow capacity as the top model, though. Used ones are now below $20K, thanks to that depreciation.

I know a lot about TDIs. Drove them for ten years, though not as a tug. This time we needed automatic transmission, since there's a new teen driver in the family (and my wife's really sick of shifting in traffic, no matter what I say). Except possibly for the big Toureg, all US TDIs have the DSG transmission. It's a wonderful box, fast-shifting and efficient, but it's only approved to tow 1000 lbs. Except for that, I'd probably be towing with a Jetta Sportswagen.

Regarding manual transmissions, I was as staunch a fan as anyone. But I'm finding that automatics and DSGs work a lot better than back in the day, when I last tried them.
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:55 PM   #9
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Good to hear from a VW expert, SilverGhost. You sound more knowledgable (or honest?) than the dealer who sold my Tig. They quoted $460 to install a "wiring harness" on our hitch-equipped SEL. The local hitch specialist added a plug converter and bracket for $45.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John McMillin View Post
Good to hear from a VW expert, SilverGhost. You sound more knowledgable (or honest?) than the dealer who sold my Tig. They quoted $460 to install a "wiring harness" on our hitch-equipped SEL. The local hitch specialist added a plug converter and bracket for $45.
Uh, the wiring is more complicated than that. Your Tiggy has bulb check and computer controlled lighting. There is a computer as part of that wiring they tried to sell you. It will allow the ABS/ESP work in trailer mode, let you know when it senses a trailer light is not working, sets the alarm off if someone tries to steal the trailer, etc. And the wiring has to be run from under the driver dash, in both back side panels, and out under the bumper.

BTW I have a spare kit. Used car manager ordered it thinking it was a hitch. Sales didn't want it, parts department doesn't want it, so I grabbed it. I'll look in the box to confirm what all is in there, but I do remember a control box.

Also, I learned that lesson on my Golf. There are no $45 adapters that KEEP working on VWs. I don't have the control module running the lights in my car, but after replacing several adapters I ended up buying a $70 adaptor that has been reliable.

Jason

PS, not trying to get on anyone's case, but I cringe when hear "went to my guy and it was only $xx". Those are usually the people who come in because it quit working or never worked. A rare few get towed it because of this. Most new cars and VW especially have much more complicated electrical systems. I'll leave it at that.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:25 PM   #11
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Here are screen shots of each page of the install instructions. The Tiguan is prewired and has most of the hitch already installed for towing. But a lot of the trim has to come off to finish the install.

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Cheers!

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Old 03-09-2013, 08:27 PM   #12
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I have started to look at my options for replacement vehicles and took a Tiguan for a spin a couple of months ago and discounted it for towing my light 16' Scamp for a number of reasons. One was its tow cap of only 2400lbs and a low tongue weight rating to go with it. The other big issue I had with it was its short wheel base and only had a ground clearance of less than 7". It did not for me seem to add up to the possibility it might be a better tow experience than what I have now, actually suspect strongly it would have been a step back. Was seriously considering its bigger brother the Touareg due to its higher tow rating, longer wheel base etc but having since taken a more serious look at reviews and consumer reports on it and found it was on the 20 used cars to avoid list with Consumers last year due to its lack of reliability issues over the past 5 years or so, as a result its now off the list of possibilities as well.

Its a shame that the Audi All Road doesnt have a higher tow capacity as they have in recent years a better track record with reliability than VW as a whole do these days.

Still looking for the perfect tow vehicle for me.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:41 PM   #13
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To SilverGhost-- I'll have to see what happens when I plug in. It's been difficult to get a straight answer about whether my car includes the control module. My hitch shop said it does. They had originally quoted $290, including new power wiring for the brake controller, then found that wasn't necessary. The dealer service rep wasn't saying the charge included a control module, just a harness, and overall, he didn't seem at all knowledgable. He did print out my car's build list, including all equipment optional worldwide (including advanced features we aren't offered here) and all it listed was "hitch." So it's a very murky, poorly documented area. I may be buying yours soon, we'll see. How would I know if the control module is present and operational?

Carol H, if the Audi allroad has become more reliable in recent years, it's because they haven't been made since '05 (a new, smaller allroad just came out). The original A6-based allroad has an abysmal reliability and repair record, and was hated by all my mechanics. It's very hard to work on, with no room to spin a wrench without removing the engine. They speak lovingly about the Tiguan, which lacks any really adventurous technology. It's got the latest, post -'08 2.0 turbo, which fixes most of the weaknesses of the earlier FSI engine. And seven inches of clearance is plenty for me, probably as much as my Scamp has.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:47 PM   #14
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I just looked over SilverGhost's installation procedure. Looks like I need to remove the left cargo sidewall and jack holder to see if a control module is lurking there?

Frankly, I'm not sure I require the electronic interface. My previous Forester had no stability control at all, and I never felt any trailer sway. Would the VW's stability control create problems if it didn't have the assistance of the control module?
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John McMillin View Post
And seven inches of clearance is plenty for me, probably as much as my Scamp has.
LOL sounds like your trailer needs a new axle as my 21 year old Scamp has more than double that clearance at its lowest point.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:09 PM   #16
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Yeah, second page shows the three parts kits and their part numbers. There is a control module and a CAN Bus jumper plug for the wiring. And as the last page notes, you'll have to stop by the dealer to program it for North America. Otherwise the control module will give you separate left and right tail lamps and keep setting a fault for lights not working. The wiring should be in the bumper when you put the hitch piece on.

The ESP will try to correct for a skid and not take into account the trailer pushing the vehicle. But with the trailer control module the car knows the trailer is there and makes adjustments.

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Old 03-09-2013, 09:25 PM   #17
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The hitch receiver was factory-installed, and I saw the plug tucked up behind the bumper cover. The dealer's tech told me that was NOT part of the trailer wiring! Looks like the hitch shop performed Steps 2-5 on your instructions. That leaves me to dig around to confirm presence of the control module. I don't know if many owners would go to that trouble, though. If a car bought with a hitch actually needs the control module, VW should say so, clearly, in the manual and at the service desk.

I appreciate these fast and informative responses-- that's far more satisfying than what I got when I asked a question of VW Vortex!
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:27 PM   #18
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VW isnt the only company to not address the need for the control module in their manuals ..... dont ask how I know that
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by John McMillin View Post
The hitch receiver was factory-installed, and I saw the plug tucked up behind the bumper cover. The dealer's tech told me that was NOT part of the trailer wiring! Looks like the hitch shop performed Steps 2-5 on your instructions. That leaves me to dig around to confirm presence of the control module. I don't know if many owners would go to that trouble, though. If a car bought with a hitch actually needs the control module, VW should say so, clearly, in the manual and at the service desk.

I appreciate these fast and informative responses-- that's far more satisfying than what I got when I asked a question of VW Vortex!
Oh boy, try another dealer.

I haven't seen a factory installed hitch, only port installed. And that is basically the same as dealer installed. I doubt there is a control module in there, but can't hurt to look.

VW puts out the info, but a lot of dealers (especially the bad ones I was talking about) can't be bothered to look for it. I have no idea why they would say a 7 way plug, right at the hitch location, would not be for the trailer wiring. Oh and BTW the instructions I posted come from the VW web site for dealers.

I looked on the accessory catalog web site - the suggested installed price for the wiring kit is $558, the installed price for the receiver $185, the 7 way plug alone is $92.50. VW is a bit proud of their parts and accessories.

Jason
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Old 03-09-2013, 10:30 PM   #20
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None of those numbers match what the dealer tried to sell me. So I suppose tomorrow I'll break out the Torx drivers for some auto-archaeology. But once again, in your learned opinion, how vital is the control module for safe (and occasional) tow duty?
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