Volkswagen has a new 2.0T, and a lot of confidence in its upcoming small SUV. We drive both, and get a little dirty.

– Ann Arbor, Michigan

EA888 Generation 3B. Engine designations are rarely poetic, but the in-house signifier of Volkswagen’s newest turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder is satisfyingly nerdy. Car writers, engineers, and armchair enthusiasts will be rattling that one off with a sense of self satisfaction for years to come.

So it’s exciting for me to be here at the start. VW is preparing to bring newly revamped Tiguan and Passat models to market, both with this force-inducted two-litre under the hood. It’s a big enough deal for Volkswagen—don’t forget that this engine’s predecessor lives in the current Passat, Jetta, Beetle, and Golf ranges—that it wanted to show it off early.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype

So, rather than wait for the full model launches of the Tiguan and Passat, I’m in Ann Arbor, eating lunch at Zingerman’s, and waiting for my turn to press the starter button(s) for the first time. I won’t have access to the final versions of either car, and the Tig will only be available for an off-road loop, but, hell, who doesn’t want to try a new engine?

Before I head out, let’s talk about that “B” stuck to the end of the engine designation—it’s critical. B stands for “Budack cycle” here, which closes the intake valves earlier than in the traditional Miller cycle, with the net effect being lower fuel consumption and more torque. When compared with the 1.8T engine it will supplant, VW says that the new 2.0T is expected offer better fuel economy ratings, and 20 percent more torque. Total output is up to 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet.

When compared with the 1.8T engine it will supplant, VW says that the new 2.0T is expected offer better fuel economy ratings, and 20 percent more torque.

Oh, and the non-B 2.0T engine—that’s the one we all love driving in the GTI—isn’t going anywhere. The Miller-cycle version of this engine (called EA888 Gen. 3… try to keep up), is still more powerful, and better for applications like a hot hatch, or a three-row SUV like the new Atlas.

My drive to the off-roading park where the new Tiguan waits is about an hour by country roads, and VW has provided a Passat with the new B engine for me to drive out there. This isn’t a new Passat, but rather a kind of engine mule for the new mill.

As a refresher, the 2017 Passat you can buy today uses the 1.8T engine, making 170 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque, and returns 10.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city, and 7.0 on the highway. Thankfully, only a few weeks separate my driving the existing car the last time, and this powertrain mule today.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype

On the highway, the new engine makes the Passat feel very capable up to and over 80 miles per hour (128 kilometres per hour). Accelerating up the on-ramp calls out the added torque pretty readily, in fact, and the engine seems to spin up quickly, without much drama. I’m sure that VW still has a load of tuning to do with both the engine and this six-speed automatic transmission (provided that sticks around for the final car), but the truth is that the two work really seamlessly together already.

Perhaps more encouraging is the story the in-car fuel economy gauge is telling me. Of course, the baked-in systems aren’t always accurate, but on my 80-odd-kilometre drive of fast roads and aggressive stints of acceleration, I saw about 6.9 L/100 km. Solid highway mileage for the new Passat seems very likely, at a minimum.

The new engine with the complex designation is pretty promising. So is this new Tiguan.

When the ’18 Tiguan launches this summer, the new 2.0T will be the only engine on offer. That’s not a negative, at least not based on my entertaining (yet short) drive around the Bundy Hill Off Road park.

I’m actually going to be attending a full First Drive program of the Tig in the not-distant future, but this time around VW just wants to offer a taste of what it’s compact soft-roader can do in the dirt and sand. The trail I drive over may not do much to challenge Wranglers or Land Rovers, but it’s far more steep, sandy, muddy, and camber-y than most crossover shoppers would ever consider.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Prototype

But, with a click of a dial to activate the Tiguan’s off-road settings, I’m off and about in the woods and hills. The off-road mode does a few things for me out here: It retards the accelerator somewhat, to smooth out my inputs; it shifts up later but also holds the gear in manual mode; it slows down intervention of the stability and traction control systems; and it activates both the hill start and hill descent assist systems. And, as you can see from some of my casual photography, it allows me to get this pretty orange Volkswagen really muddy, without my getting it really stuck.

I was also able to drive up a ramp made from dirt and a crushed old pickup truck... That’s not really impressive from a technical standpoint, but it looked rad.

In short, the new engine with the complex designation is pretty promising. So is this new Tiguan. I look forward to driving both more and sharing fuller impressions and data with you, dear reader, in the months to come.

 

Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com

 

Be part of something big