VW’s Holding Back on Rs from USA, But Which New R Do We Want MoRe?

In the last few weeks, Volkswagen has unveiled two new R models that will add a whole lot of power to some of its coolest models. The Tiguan R and the Arteon R will get well over 300 hp and R-performance torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. What’s the problem? VW has no plans to bring them to North America from Europe. That started a virtual office Slack chat debate: Which R would be the R we’d want most the ARrteon or the TiguaR? And maybe we get a little (Ed. Make that a lot) off-topic.

There was no debate over which one was better looking. The Arteon’s mild refresh leaves it still the looker over the smoothed out Tiguan’s new face. Even over the R model’s larger bumper. That’s even without taking the Arteon Shooting Brake into account, because we all know that one’s not coming here unless someone imports it when it turns 25.

“The Arteon’s lighter and it only has 5 cubic feet less interior space behind the seats. And it’s got loads more front and rear legroom!”

“Yeah, but like four people are gonna buy the Arteon”, said Editor in Chief Sebastien Bell. And while that’s an exaggeration, he’s largely right. While VW loves to remind us that the shrinking sedan market is still significant, the brand sold 2,449 Arteons last year and 109,572 Tiguans. That’s almost 45 to 1.

The base vehicle being more popular isn’t all there is to it, though. These vehicles are about performance and image, with a 316 hp turbo-four. “Neither is a good track toy,” they’re too big for that, Bell said, “so they’re both designed to make you feel like you can rip onto to the highway.” That’d make the Arteon R the logical choice, because it’s lighter, but we’re talking just a few kilos here, and quick acceleration is more surprising in a crossover than a sedan.

“I’d rather blast onto the onramp in something that’s 10-inches shorter so it doesn’t feel like it’s gonna roll over,” I replied, but we doubt that the Tiguan R is going to feel tipsy when it hits the Autobahn.

“Arteon is trying so hard to be some kind of luxury car, but not even in the silly interesting way the Phaeton was, just in the cost-efficient way that the old Sonata used to be.” Maybe, but look at that new interior. Especially the LED lighting panels. They’ve upgraded the materials here, and that’s a big deal for a car that’s practically new. That might change things up?

“What does the Arteon actually compete with? Accord? K5?” VW says Nissan Maxima, Kia Stinger, and Infiniti Q50, but a 2.0L four would have a tough time against the more powerful V6s offered by Kia and Infiniti.

“Urus proved that there’s an appetite for performance SUVs. That’s what the cool kids want.” Sure it did, but that’s at the $300k price point, not the mid-40s. “People think Lamborghini is performance. The RS Q8’s also selling well. [The Tiguan R is] visual [performance] enough. And I think people associate SUVs with more luxury than any sedan.” Good point to the boss.

And, “Tiguan is in a space that almost no one else is. The nearest competitor is RS Q3 and its ilk?” What about the X3 sDrive 30? It’d have about the same performance, but with a more prestigious badge. “Yeah, but presumably a much bigger price tag, too.”

This is when things started to veer a bit off course because there’s one model we think would be better than either, as well as making more sense for North America.

SB: “Forget the Tiguan R, I want [an Atlas] Cross Sport R!”

EW: “That’s a great idea, but what engine would you put in there? It has to be something in the family already.”

SB: “How much power can they safely squeeze out of a VR6? What about the SQ5’s V6?”

EW: “Isn’t that longitudinal?”

Right, it is. What does that leave? Even the Cayenne’s VR6 didn’t make much more power than the Atlas.

SB: “It could use the I5.”

Hold the phone, now we’re onto something. An Atlas Cross Sport with somewhere around the 394 hp of the Audi RS3, plus that long-five sound? If it’ll fit in the TT RS, it’ll fit in the Atlas. They’re both on MBQ, and the Atlas is way wider.

SB “They’d have to beg Audi to let them use it, but I don’t really think it’s competition like the Golf R would’ve been. And also [VW USA CEO Scott] Keogh’s friends with Audi.”

But an Atlas CC R would step all over the base Q7 and maybe even the Q8, so that probably doesn’t work in the company lineup. “I still think it’d be fun.”

Ok, back to the ARteon and Tiguan R.

As people who prefer cars and love wagons, we seemed to be in agreement that the Arteon R would be much cooler. But the Arteon would sell approximately zero, since you could get a much faster S5 for just a few thousand more. With Audi, it might even lease for less. The Tiguan R, though, with the massively higher volume of the base model and the incredible popularity of the quick crossover, would probably be the logical choice.

Why aren’t we getting either? We’re not sure, but, then again, we’re enthusiasts and not accountants. We’re pretty sure VW has lots of accountants, and they’re probably pretty good at what they do.