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    Two Very Different Volkswagens

    By Philip Ruth–

    We all have opinions about Volkswagen, both as a car and a brand. The original Beetle helped get “foreign cars” started in the U.S., and the de facto vehicle of San Francisco’s Summer of Love is the counterculture VW bus. This brand’s evocative heritage is the opposite of relative upstart Hyundai’s, for example. 

    Most buyers have forgotten the recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. That’s understandable, as the company has effectively pivoted to electric vehicles, including an EV update on the old bus. As electric-car adoption catches up to government and production goals, Volkswagen has its gas-powered crossovers on which to fall back, so let’s look at a $51,815 electric ID.4 Pro S and a $40,700 gasser Tiguan SEL R-Line. Their highs and lows define Volkswagen in our current times. 

    ID.4 Pro S

    “Whoa, cool,” I blurted to nobody as I hooked a U-turn after the electric ID.4 was dropped off across the street. The ID.4’s turning radius is an insanely tight 32 inches, which is comparable to the teensy old-school Beetle’s. Through the week in the city, that talent alone endeared the ID.4. To me, the ID.4’s styling resembles a pastry I’d bake a bit longer, however, it is proportioned as most EVs are these days, and so it reads as up-to-date. 
    The familiar-looking Tiguan turned heads, as its $395 Kings Red Metallic paint gleamed in our current sunny June days. Some buy Volkswagen for a European driving experience, though, and handling with the Tiguan leaned toward sporty, even with its two-ton curb weight. The ID.4’s 4,700 pounds made sense, as it seemed to smush down the bumps, even as it evinced nimbleness. 

    Blast-offs with the 282-horsepower ID.4 were exciting, and it effortlessly charged up our city’s steep hills. Acceleration was more layered for the Tiguan and its turbocharged engine and eight-speed transmission. Volkswagen promotes the Tiguan’s low 1,900-rpm torque peak, and many car reviewers echo that. However, my time with the Tiguan going block-to-block in San Francisco had it feeling benign until that peak, and then it zinged like a cat with the zoomies. The turbo surge sometimes came on with discordant force, and there was a learning curve to smoothly manage it.
    When the Tiguan was frustrating, I fell back on how accommodating the interior was to a 6’1” person like me. The squarish greenhouse and tightly-limned interior contours were a relief compared to the Tiguan’s trendier competitors.

    Tiguan SEL R-Line

    The ID.4 also felt spacious, in a more horizontal way. Both had Volkswagen’s haptic selectors and sliders, which require too much attention to be improvements over buttons and knobs. 

    If you’re buying the ID.4, it’s notable that it ranks third out of 100 vehicles surveyed in’s American-Made Index. That means it easily qualifies for the $7,500 tax credit, which good-credit buyers could claim at the time of purchase.

    The ID.4 and Tiguan keep Volkswagen firmly competitive, with a dash of German flair to remind you of their heritage.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on June 27, 2024