When touring around Australia I guess the initial thought is to do the trip in an old trusty (or is that rusty) VW Kombi Van. However, I don’t have one and with the high average age and milage of such vehicles, I’m not sure they are that trusty.
When my previous car was due for replacement, a Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 litre diesel became my vehicle of choice for my ‘I’ve been everywhere’ adventure and everyday use. Having initially test driven the car in the Central Coast, I was ultimately impressed by the deal and professionalism of the VW dealership in Maitland, NSW – Hunter Volkswagen – who ultimately won my business. Rob, Steven and the team at Hunter VW went out of their way to locate a vehicle to my specification without the wait of a custom order from Germany. I have subsequently used the garage for servicing and continue to be impressed by their desire and ability to keep the car in tip top condition for the ‘everywhere’ adventure. Not all garages are the same, and I’m very pleased I’ve found one of the best.
Now, classed as an all-wheel-drive SUV, the Tiguan is not a typical hardcore outback vehicle. There are no roo bars on the front, no HF Radio aerials, no multiple spare tyres, no winches and the like – all of which are probably essential if you live permanently in the outback. Without such features you have to recognise your limitations and stick within them. The Tiguan is unlikely to get you though two foot of mud during a torrential downpour in the Queensland tropics for example.
Instead, with a Tiguan you get features that are ideal in a suburban environment but can help you in the harsh outback. An obvious example of this is the all wheel drive capability. The Tiguan is very firm footed, it will go in the direction you point it. It will handle the sealed road as well as many, but not all, unsealed roads. The engine is also of sufficient power for all driving scenarios. Whether you need that extra push to overtake a road train or to accelerate you up a hill the horse power is waiting under the bonnet. The Turbo may take a brief moment to kick in so bear this in mind if a surge in acceleration is what you need.
If you live and work in the bush you would probably travel along with the window wound down and an arm dangling. I however prefer my comforts and found that even in temperatures of 44 degrees the air con kept the interior cool and the air filter kept the dust and odours at bay.
The Tiguan is my first vehicle fitted with cruise control. I have found it intuitive to use and also a great aid to less tiring motoring. On long empty roads it makes driving a breeze and when combined with an automatic gearbox leaves you free to focus on your driving and whats happening outside the car rather than inside the vehicle. I was cautious at loosing ‘the stick’ from a car but having driven an automatic and now understanding how responsive they can still be means I am probably going to be apprehensive to go back to a manual any time soon.
Also adding to an enjoyable motoring experience is the cars excellent ergonomic design. I remained comfortable through long stretches of travel due to the flexible positioning of the seat and steering wheel. In addition, the hight and reach adjustable centre arm rest supports your left arm helping you to maintain a comfortable grip on the wheel – it may sound mundane, but this central support helps a lot. The typical VW firm seats provide good support and even after 1,000km days I remained relatively fresh.
There is still an element of vulnerability with the Tiguan though. On one outback road, 150 KM from anywhere and out of phone signal range I had a puncture. This was easily fixed but driving a long on a temporary spare limited to a top speed of 80KM did leave me feeling apprehensive. I had a can of tyre fixer in the boot should the worst happen to another wheel, but if I were on a dirt road rather than the hard surfaces I typically stuck to, I would have been a bit stressed to say the least. If I were venturing on more unsealed roads I would look to take a full size spare and also look to upgrade my tyres from the urban variety to something with a larger tread.
When the rains came (and boy did the rains come) the automatic windscreen wipers adjusted to the conditions admirably and the Tig remained as surefooted as ever. The sheer force of the rain washed much of the accumulated dust off the vehicle, but unfortunately a few dismembered locust bodies remained in various crevices at the front of the vehicle. I am looking forward to giving the car a good wash and using some bug cleaner on the front surfaces. (If VW can come up with a self cleaning car, I think they would be on to a winner.)
In these days of environmental concerns fuel economy is an important consideration. On my outback adventure at the time of writing, my diesel fuel consumption is averaging 6.9 litres per 100 KM. I believe this to be very good for a vehicle of it’s size and performance. I was concerned following a trip to Maitland about the availability of low flow diesel fuel pumps. This was to be ill-founded as only in a few instances have I been to garages with only hi-flow pumps. With upto 960 KM between fills, this has not proved to be a problem and with care, a hi-flow pump can be used, just don’t pull the trigger on the nozzle too fast or quick!
In conclusion, after 15,000km of driving the Tiguan (7,600km in less than two weeks) I still look forward to getting in and going somewhere. Whether it is a trip to the local shops or around the Queensland bush it is an enjoyable and confidence inspiring vehicle to drive.