2022 Volkswagen Taos Prototype Review (Again): Suspension Time


Volkswagen Taos Full Overview

This isn’t our first time behind the wheel of a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time version of the 2022 Volkswagen Taos: Last fall, we sampled the new 1.5-liter turbo engine, and this time we were invited to drive more prototypes with suspension tuning that both was and wasn’t close to final. Frankly, at this point we just want to drive the damn production version, but VW seems determined to draw out the introduction like some sort of romantic interlude, minus the candles and prosecco.

We’ll play along, though this time we’ll skip the long setup on the small SUV’s market position, tweener status, and baby-Atlas styling because we covered those in our First Look. This time ’round, we were invited to Volkswagen’s hot-weather proving grounds in Maricopa, Arizona, where two front-wheel-drive and two all-wheel-drive examples of the wee SUV awaited.

This exercise was of questionable usefulness. We started out on one of Volkswagen’s handling courses—the fuel-handling course, which is a narrow, twisty track with tight, off-camber turns designed to make fuel slosh in the wrong direction. It also featured a few sine-wave bumps, which we were advised to take below 40 mph lest our Taoses catch some sick air. Good fun, to be sure, but about as close to real-world driving as Volkswagen putting us behind the wheel and dropping the cars out of an airplane.

But that’s okay because the prototypes we drove weren’t quite real-world, either. The two front-drivers differed slightly but were close to production tune, we were told, while the all-wheel-drive prototypes were very different, both from each other and the final product. One was stiffer and more aggressive, the other was notably softer, and we were told the final AWD tuning would be somewhere between the two.

The sharp curves of the fuel-handling course put the FWD Taoses into a constant state of tire-squealing understeer, and the reverse banking of the turns exaggerated the sensation of roll to the point that we were in no position to properly judge body control. We’d hoped for a few midcorner bumps to potentially highlight the differences between the front-driver’s torsion-beam rear axle and the all-wheel-driver’s multilink setup, but the pavement was baby-butt smooth except for the sine waves, which were like the world’s smallest and least thrilling roller coaster.

The softer of the two all-wheel-drivers felt remarkably similar to the front-drive cars, though it exhibited better grip that let us carry a bit more speed through turns. Its steering was also slightly less precise. The stiffer-riding of the two Taos AWD prototypes was tidier in its motions and handling, and quieter, too. Despite seemingly a little less steering feedback, it was the one we preferred. Even though it’ll never make production. We can also reliably report that regardless of the number of driven axles or suspension tuning, the engines never starved for fuel.

Next up was a slalom and a high-speed lane change exercise, where we noted many of the same behaviors as on the fuel-handling course. After that we headed to VW’s bumpy road course, an abusive stretch of tarmac that makes Detroit feel like its streets are paved with slabs of marble. The bumps pummeled our backsides, but we noticed the stiffer all-wheel-drive version didn’t beat us up much worse than did the other three. This, in turn, made us wonder why Volkswagen couldn’t just make all of the Taoses drive like the one we liked best, because there didn’t seem to be much of a trade-off in ride quality.

Although we were a bit frustrated at not getting a better idea of how the actual 2022 Volkswagen Taos you will be able to buy later this year rides and handles, we did come away with a few useful observations, few of which relate to the suspension.

First, we’re really looking forward to seeing the 1.5-liter turbo-four in production. This 158-hp, 184-lb-ft mighty mite will eventually replace the 1.4T, with the goal of increasing power and fuel efficiency and reducing complaints from owners (particularly American ones) about hesitation on initial acceleration. Power from this little gem is very impressive, though some might still take issue with the hesitation from the dual-clutch transmission fitted to the all-wheel-drive version.

We like the interior, which is similar to the straightforward setup found in the Jetta, albeit with a bit more personality. We know from our time with the ID4 electric SUV that VW interiors are about to undergo big changes, and for the better, but we’re going to miss these old super-sensible cabins. And we like the size and packaging of the Taos, which delivers the maneuverability of a smaller SUV with more useful space, particularly in the cargo area.

We think there’s a lot to the 2022 Volkswagen Taos that we’re going to like—and if VW would just let us drive the final version already, maybe we could figure that out once and for all.

Looks good! More details?



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