Volkswagen was a latecomer to the crossover segment and really didn’t make much of a dent until launching the long-wheelbase Tiguan and Atlas models a few years back. Suddenly, U.S. motorists started to take notice. SUVs accounted for 45% of the automaker’s sales in 2019 and 64% during the first quarter of this year. Now, VW is betting that will jump to an astounding 75% for all of 2022.
How does VW get there? By rolling out two all-new utes, starting with the next-generation Tiguan coming to market later this year. But it will be beaten to showrooms by an all-new model, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos. It’s more than 9 inches shorter than the current Tiguan yet manages to offer a surprising amount of roominess for passengers and cargo. Taos also defies the traditional perception that you’ll have to pay a significant premium for a VW product.
To get a feel for the new crossover, I headed out to the trendy town of Chelsea, Michigan and then, along a meandering path that took me through some of the best driving roads in the Mitten State. I started out in the front-drive version of the 2022 Taos and then switched into the all-wheel-drive model. Based on the admittedly brief experience I can comfortably anticipate Taos jumping to the top of the sales chart among VW’s expanding line-up of SUVs.
The design of the new Taos is close enough to that of the Tiguan that casual observers might confuse the two. You’ll spot the subtle influence of other members of the VW SUV family, as well, starting with hood bulges borrowed from the big Atlas. And the most distinctive difference between Tiguan and Taos is the full-width light bar that tops the new crossover’s honeycomb grille, linking the standard LED headlights
Taos skips the coupe-like curve of many current models in the compact crossover segment, the better to retain good headroom for both front and rear passengers. A sharply creased character line links front and rear lamps. And buyers have a choice of 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels and tires. One odd touch: fake exhaust outlets in the rear fascia.
Taos measures 72.5 inches wide, 64.4 inches tall and 175.8 inches, nose to tail. That’s roughly the same size as the original version of the Tiguan — and 9.3 inches shorter than the current, long-wheelbase model. The Taos interior package won’t seem that much smaller, however, thanks to careful engineering and a wheelbase that, at 105.9 inches, is only 3.9 inches smaller than Tiguan’s.
Offered only in a two-row, five-seat configuration, Taos will offer 99.9 cubic feet of passenger volume, only 1.6 cf less than the current base VW crossover. Cargo space, meanwhile, is 28.1 cf behind the second row, jumping to 66.3 cf with that back row folded down. That’s more than most competitors, such as Jeep Compass, but a bit less than the newly redone Hyundai Tiucson.
The roominess of the Taos likely will immediately impress those who check out the new offering. But so will the refined appearance and choice of materials. The horizontal layout of the instrument panel is meant to enhance the apparent width of the cabin. Two-tone seats are standard on all models and the base cloth fabric can be upgraded to a combo leather and leatherette. A heated, 8-way driver’s seat is also available.
My morning drive started out with the front-wheel-drive version of the 2022 VW Taos — appropriate since it will come to market a few months ahead of the all-wheel-drive package.
While Volkswagen planners considered offering a hybrid driveline, all versions of the Taos will share a single powertrain package — albeit one using the “super-efficient” Miller Cycle, explained Jose Bravo, the CUV’s product manager. The use of plasma spray cylinder liners reduces friction and further improves efficiency. Add a variable geometry turbo and the results are even better.
Precise mileage numbers haven’t been released yet but the 1.5-liter turbo-4 makes 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, quite competitive numbers in its segment and more than what the current Jetta puts out. The front-drive model will pair that engine with an 8-speed automatic. Buyers will have the option of a 4Motion all-wheel-drive package, the turbo engine mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Standard features include push-button start and auto-dimming headlamps, with options including keyless access, rain-sensing wipers and a dual-zone climate control system.
With Taos, VW is moving completely away from conventional, analog gauges, all models getting the reconfigurable Volkswagen Digital Cockpit. The automaker’s Car-Net telematics system and onboard WiFi are built into all models. And the MIB3 infotainment system and wireless charging, paired with an 8-inch touchscreen, is standard on mid- and upper-trim models. Base models get a 6.3-inch display. High-line versions also get 10-color ambient lighting and an 8-speaker version of the BeatsAudio system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and mid to upper trim packages get wireless versions.
All Taos models get VW’s IQ.Drive advanced driver assistance package which includes forward collision warning with auto braking, blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise, lane keeping assist and more. Additional ADAS technologies, such as park distance control, are available.
Both versions of the 2022 Taos will feature a strut-type front suspension. The AWD model will get a multi-link rear, the FWD a torsion beam rear-suspension.
My drive varied from highway to back roads and even a couple gravel stretches. A run through my favorite test route through Hell, Michigan put the two crossover variants to the test on some of the state’s twistiest roads. It doesn’t take long to notice the difference between FWD and AWD. That said, even the front-powered model remained surprisingly composed until I really pushed the limits. That’s when the 4Matic system and the AWD’s multi-link rear really shone. Torque is normally directed up front but is quickly redirected to the rear, when needed.
Both versions exhibited only modest amounts of body roll and with the crossover’s predictable steering, it was easy to flog them around all morning. The brakes were more than up to the task of slowing down before entering a sharp corner.
I did grumble a bit about throttle response. In standard Comfort Mode the transmission seemed to lag before downshifts longer than expected. That problem largely vanished in Sport Mode, however, especially with the AWD model’s DCT gearbox.
Overall, the 2022 Volkswagen Taos delivered more than I expected, both in terms of features and in its driving manners. It’s roomy, attractive and fun to drive. And the pricing is designed to appeal. The new crossover starts at $22,995 — before delivery fees — with front-wheel drive, $25,040 with 4Motion. The top-trim SEL jumps to $31,480 and $33,045, respectively. VW also plans to offer an entry lease package starting at $199 a month. The 2022 VW Taos reaches showrooms in the coming weeks in front-wheel drive, the AWD model to follow a few months later.