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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line: Simple Pleasures Outweigh Its Flaws

Five Things We Love And Three Things We Hate About VW’s Mid-size SUV

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line is Volkswagen’s answer to the mid-size SUV equation. The Tiguan comes powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 engine kicking out 184 hp and 221 lb.-ft. of torque.

We could spew specifications all day, but we thought, why not get straight to the point and tell you what wooed us and what left us wanting more. These are the five best things about the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line and three things that we just couldn’t let go of.

Love: R-Line Looks

The SEL Premium R-Line is the top trim of the Volkswagen Tiguan line. As with much of the automotive industry, the last bit of its name, the R-Line package, is merely an appearance package but a rather good-looking one.

Officially, it adds an R-Line design grille, badging, intakes, side sills, bumpers, exterior trim, and body-color lower cladding. Unofficially, it made the SUV look like a better Tiguan. Sure, how it looked was subjective, and your eyes may see different than mine did, but the only way to cast your vote is with your wallet.

Love: Drive Modes and Off-Road Modes

Drive modes are cool in any car. They essentially change the vehicle’s characteristics, and, on some level, you can think of it as giving you multiple versions of the same vehicle. Some drive modes provide a more drastic change, and others are more subtle.

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line comes with a few different drive modes, including an Eco, Normal, and Sport mode. It also features a Custom mode that allows you to change each vehicle characteristic to your liking.

Plus, in addition to the standard drive modes, the Tiguan also features a few off-road modes. There is a Snow mode, an Off-Road Auto mode, as well as a customizable Off-Road mode.

I won’t claim these drive modes drastically changed the vehicle’s dynamics for an immediately noticeable change. Still, all of these modes provided a welcome amount of options that made the Tiguan my own.

Love: The To-The-Point Infotainment System

An infotainment system can make or break a vehicle. Manufacturers can get everything else right, but if a potential customer can’t figure out how to change the radio station, they have failed. Though the Tiguan’s infotainment system isn’t going to win any awards for the best infotainment system on the market, it simply worked.

With so many OEMs failing in the infotainment department, a working system that is easy to navigate is sometimes all drivers really want. Other brands that are busy trying to reinvent the wheel with overcomplicated tech should really take a page out of Volkswagen’s book: make it easy to select some tunes.

Love: Steering Wheel Shape

Grabbing the steering wheel should be a comfortable, easy experience. Yet, there are so many vehicles with steering wheels that require you to hold on to them like a Lego person. And, no matter what kind of driver you are, Lego hands don’t make for a good driving experience.

You don’t have to do that with the Tiguan (or really any Volkswagen). I would even go so far as to say that it was the best steering wheel in any car I have tested in 2021. Granted, how the steering wheel fits and feels for you might depend on the size of your hands, but Volkswagen hit on a universal design that worked well for me.

Love: The Volkswagen Digital Cockpit

I am not going to lie. Audi’s digital cockpit still takes top billing as the better option, but Volkswagen’s not-too-flashy digital cockpit would be one of the best if that system didn’t exist. The Audi version surely is the shining star on the latest tech, but the VW version did the job beyond expectations.

Much like the to-the-point infotainment system, the VW Digital Cockpit wasn’t trying to be the most flashy digital gauge cluster on the market. What it did perfectly is that it is with the times. The gauge cluster is fully digital but has a simple interface that ensured I could easily see everything I needed and nothing that I didn’t.

Hate: R-Line Does Not Add Any “R” Value

While we are big fans of the looks of the R-Line, we weren’t thrilled with its diluted nature. When you have a Volkswagen and see that “R” badging, you think of performance. But sadly, all those sporty looks of the R-Line package didn’t come with any added performance to back it up. It was all about appearances, and in this case, that felt like a missed opportunity.

Hate: Sub-200 Horsepower Just Isn’t Enough

The 2021 Tiguan fits nicely in the mid-size SUV segment, and being mid-size, we expected it to carry a bit more power. The turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 engine powerplant puts out 184 hp and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. For the right weight, that power could be enough, but for the Tiguan is just wasn’t.

I felt the lack of get-up-and-go the moment I threw my right foot down. Even though the Tiguan’s “S Mode” — the sportier automatic drive mode — helped chip away at that with better transmission shift points, in the end, it only helped so much.

Hate: Cheap Plastic Interior Materials

The SEL Premium R-Line is the range-topping trim package, but even that does not save the Tiguan from cheap, plastic interior materials. There are definitely some quality bits sprinkled throughout the cabin, but nothing said, “I didn’t buy an Audi” more than touching those interior plastics.

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line: We’ll Overlook Those Flaws

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line had many positive things going for it, including executing well on the simple things. Sure, it had some shortcomings (every vehicle does), but for the 2021 Tiguan, the good outweighs the bad.

About Danny Korecki

Danny Korecki is a financial analyst by day and a freelance automotive writer by night. His words, photos, or videos have been seen on many well known automotive sites across the web. When he isn't creating content he enjoys loving on his dog and daily driving his BMW E92 M3.