October 11, 2019

Honda Pilot, VW Tiguan Are The Un-Mini-Vans

Honda Pilot, VW Tiguan Are The Un-Mini-Vans

The conversation usually starts with somebody coming to me with the need of a large vehicle to haul their big family, multiple tennis partners, or all of one’s golfing buddies plus their clubs.  Of course, they do not want a big guzzling truck or an SUV.  I tell them they need a mini-van and begin extolling all of their virtues.  Eyes glaze over. Snores begin.  Then, I say, “What about a three-row crossover?”  Consciousness resumes.

2019 Honda Pilot Is The Un-Mini-Van

From an engineering standpoint, the Pilot is essentially a taller Odyssey mini-van with front-hinged rear doors.  That’s obvious in the vehicle’s proportions.  A short rounded nose flows into a tall and long box riding on 20-inch wheels and doused with chrome from brow to side trim and across the rear.  LED headlamps gleam from squinty slits high in the front facia.  It makes little pretense about being a hard-core off-roader.

Of all the three-row crossovers, the Pilot’s interior is perhaps most like a mini-van’s.  There are lots of storage cubbies, roomy middle-row captain’s chairs, and a third row that adult humans can inhabit.  A digital instrument cluster and intuitive touchscreen help drivers focus on their job.  Wireless phone charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, and rear seat video system provide miles of entertainment.

Our Elite edition came loaded to the panoramic roof with heated and ventilated front seats, heated middle row seats, and a heated steering wheel.  A 590w audio system includes ten speakers and a subwoofer to rock out with the entire clan, with which the driver can communicate via the “CabinTalk” P.A. system.  Tri-zone automatic climate control, navigation, rain-sensing wipers, and a hands-free power tailgate add to the toybox.

Safety was a priority.  The Pilot comes standard with forward collision warning with mitigation braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, and multi-angle rearview camera.  Blind spot detection and a lane centering system are also available.  Keep hands on the wheel, but you can relax a little with the adaptive cruise and lane centering system keeping on-track.

Moving the big crossover is a 3.5-liter V6 delivering 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque through a 9-speed automatic transmission.  The Pilot’s traction management system allows drivers to configure the powertrain for snow, sand, or mud.  Tow up to 5,000 lbs. of RV or boat.  Unloaded, the Pilot is rated 19/26-MPG city/highway.  A couple more MPGs would be even better.

If you’re looking for a high-performance pocket rocket, the Pilot is not it.  Its mission is to carry up to seven peeps in the comfort expected of a full-size luxury crossover…or mini-van.  While you can buy a Pilot for as little as $31,550, our luxury wagon slides in at $48,120.  Competitors include the VW Atlas, Subaru Ascent, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Kia Telluride.

The 2019 Vokwagen Tiguan R-Line. (provided photo)

2019 VW Tiguan R-Line Is A Three-Row Autobahn Cruiser

What if you could upgrade to a three-row, Autobahn-bred, super funky crossover for just $595?  OK, you’ll have to pay for the base two-row version first, but it’s a pretty affordable way to gain space for the sports team or dance class.  It also happens to be a pretty enjoyable driver when Dad or Mom wants to flog on weekends.  It handles the daily commute pretty well, too.

Unlike the somewhat feminine previous generation “classic” Tiguan, this one is the “he-heer” he-sled – especially with the slammed sport attire in R-Line trim.  It’s deftly sculpted flanks are accented by corner-following LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, and R-Line specific bumpers, side sills, and badging.  Power folding mirrors and rain-sensing wipers add convenience.

In German tradition, the driving zone is all business.  Upright heated leather seats face VW’s Digital Cockpit with clear flatscreen instruments and large glassy touchscreen for audio, navigation, and vehicle controls.  It’s all quite intuitive as simple knobs and buttons adjust the dual-zone automatic climate control.  A perfectly sized heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel falls right at hand while a panoramic sunroof and ambient lighting add ambience.  The Fender audio system is heard as if sweet cherubs are performing on the hood; safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto braking, blind spot monitor, and lane keep assist systems.

There’s a power rear hatch for loading gear, but if that extra seat is in passenger-carrying configuration, you might invest in a roof.  And, with the seat ready to accept humans, I’d make sure very tiny ones dare trek to the rear.  It’s a bit snug.  On paper, our Tiguan seats seven.  In reality, it’s more like four with a nicely upholstered kid tray.

Between the fenders is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 184 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed to VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system through a 6-speed automatic transmission.  It’s a joy with a few aboard, but load it up with six or seven passengers, and it will struggle to rocket away.  Fuel economy of 21/29-MPG city/highway seems a few MPG shy.

Still, the Tiguan is an enjoyable vehicle to drive.  It cruises competently and seemingly erases rough pavement with its four-wheel independent suspension system.  Light steering combines with beefy tires to encourage weekend shenanigans on curvy backroads.  A Sport mode makes the most of the power that does exist.  In daily driving, there are few complaints.

Think of the rearmost seat as a little extra passenger space for kids and the Tiguan makes sense.  More power is always nice, but it looks handsome and rides well.  Interior amenities are on par with its base $24,295, or $40,485 as-tested price.  Step up to the VW Atlas for $30,895 if you need more space.  Competitors include the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Subaru Forester. 

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.


2019 Honda Pilot Elite

  • Seven-passenger, AWD Crossover
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 9-spd auto
  • Output:  280hp/262 lb.-ft. torque
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Luxury, Performance
  • Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Lincoln, Alabama
  • Base/As-tested price: $31,550/48,120


2019 VW Tiguan

  • Seven-passenger, AWD Crossover
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter T4, 6-spd auto
  • Output:  184hp/221 lb.-ft. torque
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Luxury, Performance
  • Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Puebla, Mexico
  • Base/As-tested price: $24,295/40,485
Support independent journalism today. You rely on WFYI to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Donate to power our nonprofit reporting today. Give now.


Related News

Indy’s last bicentennial mural will depict 43 Hoosiers in blue and gold
What’s old is new again at The Stutz
New art exhibit hopes to start more community conversations around mental health