Volkswagen Tiguan In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Tiguan is a practical, family-friendly compact SUV that has a premium look both inside and out.

It’s fun to drive compared to other small crossovers in its class while still remaining relatively affordable.

So it’s no surprise that it’s stood at the top of Volkswagen’s sales charts for the last few years. 

But can this German car hold its own in the winter months?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Tiguan and find out how well it does in the snow and on slippery icy roads. 

Here is the short answer to whether the Tiguan is good for snow and winter driving:

The VW Tiguan has a good ground clearance at almost 8 inches which allows it to handle deep snow quite easily. It also uses Volkswagens’s tried and tested 4Motion AWD system which gives you more traction on snow and ice. It’s a competent SUV that will serve you well even during really bad winters.

Is the VW Tiguan Good in the Snow?

The Tiguan is an excellent winter vehicle and does very well in snowy driving conditions. 

Despite being an SUV, it’s on the smaller end of the range, which makes it lighter than full-sized SUVs and trucks.

This means it’s less likely to get stuck in deep snow and can easily roll through the slush even if it doesn’t have a big honking engine. 

The Tiguan also has pretty decent ground clearance at 7.9 inches which will allow you to drive through 6 to 7 inches of snow quite comfortably.

Many models also come with Volkswagen’s proven 4Motion All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system which will automatically send power to the rear wheels when the front tires start slipping.

The AWD system will not only give you more traction on slippery roads, but will also give you better handling when cornering.

The Tiguan’s AWD should allow you to easily deal with tricky situations in the winter such as:

  • Deep snow 
  • Unplowed roads
  • Slippery inclines
  • Icy patches of roads
  • Off-road driving

Even the Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) version of the Tiguan should do fairly well in the snow given its higher ground clearance.

To compensate for its lack of AWD, you’ll need to put on a set of winter tires to improve the car’s grip and snow handling abilities during the winter.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

The Volkswagen Tiguan is really not an extreme off roader, and is more of a family vehicle (especially with its third row seats).

But it’s packed with a long list of modern driver aids and electronics that make it a reliable daily driver even in really bad winters.

We highlight some of these important features below and discuss how it improves the Tiguan’s winter driving capabilities.

4Motion All-Wheel Drive System

The Tiguan uses the same 4Motion AWD system that’s found in the larger Atlas SUV, as well as in the Golf and the Alltrack. 

It’s a very capable system that automatically sends power to the rear wheels when the fronts start slipping.

This gives you better traction on slippery roads that are covered with snow and ice where even trying to move forward from a standstill can be a challenge. 

The Tiguan’s AWD system also improves the vehicle’s handling when you’re cornering at higher speeds since it can give you more traction than either a FWD or RWD car.

Electronic Differential Lock

All Tiguans come with an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) which automatically transfers power to the drive wheels that need it the most so that you can get moving in the right direction.

  • Computerized system that detects wheelspin via ABS sensors
  • Applies brakes to wheels that have no grip and are spinning
  • Results in the torque being transferred to another wheel that has more traction

EDL is extremely useful especially in FWD Tiguans because it keeps them from getting stuck on very slippery surfaces.

Instead of just spinning one wheel endlessly, the system can get the opposite drive wheel to turn to move the vehicle forward.

The EDL also makes the AWD Tiguan a better offroader as it works on both front and rear wheels.

When one of the wheels lifts off the ground or if the vehicle hits a really slippery patch of road, power will be sent to the other wheels to keep the car moving.

Electronic Stability Control

Every Tiguan comes with Electronic Stability Control, a computerized system that improves the car’s stability by detecting and limiting skidding (loss of traction).

The Stability Control system uses different sensors to monitor the car’s behavior during turns and evasive maneuvers. 

When it senses that you’re about to lose control due to oversteer or understeer, the system will apply the brakes and reduce engine power to keep you from sliding out.

This is obviously extremely useful in the winter when the roads are extra slippery. 

Traction Control

When the roads are covered with snow and ice, your tires may lose their grip and will spin endlessly. 

The Tiguan’s Traction Control system, or what VW calls Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), will automatically reduce engine power when it detects that the wheels are spinning too much for the vehicle’s current speed. 

Most of the time, reducing wheelspin allows the tires to grab the road surface better and will help the car move forward.

When you combine Traction Control with the Tiguan’s AWD system, you’re less likely to get stuck in the snow and you’ll be able to easily go up steep inclines.

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do VW Tiguans Last?

Antilock Braking System

All VW Tiguans come standard with ABS which dramatically improves braking performance in all weather conditions. 

Slippery winter roads not only make moving forward more difficult, it also makes slowing down and coming to a stop trickier. 

Since your tires have less grip in the winter, you’re also more likely to lock up the wheels and skid out of control.

The ABS prevents this from happening by quickly pulsing the brakes on and off.

This keeps the wheels moving and gives the tires as much grip as possible when you’re trying to slow down the vehicle.

Electronic Brake Force Distribution

The Tiguan’s braking system uses Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) which automatically sends more brake pressure to the rear wheels whenever necessary.

This helps shorten braking distances when the rear of the car has more weight pushing down on it due to additional cargo or passengers. 

Normally, most of the braking power is sent to the front wheels because that’s where most of the grip is.

Aside from the weight of the engine and the driver pushing down on the tires, the car’s weight shifts forward when you step on the brake pedal. 

But when there’s more weight in the rear, it also has more grip.

In this scenario, applying adequate brake pressure to all four wheels will dramatically shorten the car’s braking distance compared to simply relying on the front wheels to bring the car to a stop.

Engine Brake Assist 

Engine Brake Assist (EBA) is a feature that prevents you from skidding when you downshift too fast or suddenly let off the throttle

In normal driving conditions, engine braking helps cars come to a stop faster. But on really slippery roads, it can make the car unpredictable especially when combined with regular braking.

EBA compensates for this by making the engine braking forces applied to the drive wheels a bit gentler which minimize the chances of your wheels locking up. 

Hill Descent Control

The Tiguan also comes with Hill Descent Control which is becoming a popular feature in a lot of premium SUVs. 

When you engage Hill Descent Control by switching to Off-Road Mode, the car will slowly roll down steep inclines at a controlled pace on its own. 

You won’t even need to step on the gas or the brakes. You just need to steer the vehicle, which makes going down slippery hills less daunting.

Hydraulic Brake Assist

In addition to all the braking assists we’ve mentioned, the Tiguan also comes with Hydraulic Brake Assist. 

This system monitors how aggressive you are with the brake pedal and will automatically add more brake pressure when it senses an emergency braking situation. 

Of course, you won’t have to worry about sliding out of control due to the additional braking forces because the ABS will always be there to save you.

Hydraulic Brake Assist just ensures that the vehicle will come to a stop, even if you let go of the brakes too early or don’t step on it hard enough. 

Heated Seats, Mirrors, Steering Wheel and Wipers 

All Tiguans, including the base S model, come with heated side mirrors which help with visibility in the winter. 

Higher trim levels of the Tiguan will include additional creature comforts like heated seats and a heated steering wheel which make driving in really cold winters more bearable. 

All trim levels starting from the SE model come with heated windshield washer nozzles which will heat up your washer fluid so you can easily clear away any frost on your windshield.

The top-of-the-line SEL Premium R Line model also includes heated wipers which prevents them from getting frozen in place in freezing temperatures.

Remote Start

Tiguans can also be fitted with a Remote Start feature by the dealer.

This is really convenient during the winter because it allows you to turn on the heaters and let the cabin warm up before you get in the car. 

In really cold regions, remote start will also help get the doors unstuck so you won’t have to spend time outside in the freezing cold just trying to break them loose. 

The Tiguan can be remotely started from up to a quarter mile away using Volkswagen’s Car-Net app which also controls a lot of other vehicle functions.

Driving Assist Systems

On top of all the modern safety features we’ve already listed, the Tiguan also comes with active collision monitoring and other electronic driving aids that contribute to your overall safety in the winter, as well as in regular driving conditions.

These include:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Pedestrian Monitoring
  • Rear Traffic Alert

These use radar sensors and cameras that watch out for obstacles and other potentially dangerous situations. 

With the help of these modern systems, surprises are kept to a minimum and you’re always aware of what’s going on around you. 

Related: 8 Most Common Problems With Volkswagen Tiguan (Explained)

Does a Volkswagen Tiguan Have Snow Mode?

All AWD Tiguans feature a Snow Mode which makes it start off in second gear and shifts up earlier in the rev range, all of which reduce the occurrence of wheelspin and reduce throttle sensitivity.

To turn on Snow Mode, you need to rotate the Drive Mode Dial that’s next to the shift lever to the ‘snowflake’ icon.

For more challenging terrain, you can turn the dial over to ‘Off-Road Custom’ and adjust the vehicle settings to your liking. 

If you find yourself stuck on a slippery patch of ice or in deep snow, and need some wheelspin to dig yourself out, you can also turn off the Traction Control or ASR through the Settings menu via the infotainment system.

Some of the driving settings you can change to your liking include:

  • Steering sensitivity
  • Throttle response (Drive System)
  • Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Assistance systems

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on a Tiguan?

If you live in an area where winters last for several months and the roads become really unpredictable at times, you can easily fit your Tiguan with different kinds of snow gear.

When all-season tires and even winter tires just aren’t enough to get you through the winter, you can put on more extreme snow gear such as:

  • Tire chains
  • Snow socks
  • Studded tires

In places where temperatures regularly drop to below freezing, you can also install the following on your Tiguan to ensure that you’ll never be stranded in the cold:

  • Engine block heater
  • Battery warmer
  • Tow hook

How Much Snow Can a Volkswagen Tiguan Handle?

With the Tiguan’s higher ground clearance of 7.9 inches, you can expect it to handle up to 7 inches of snow with ease. 

If your Tiguan is equipped with the 4Motion AWD system, you can easily plow it through much deeper snow for short spurts.

This makes things like getting out of your driveway much easier because you won’t have to shovel all the snow out of the way.

Just don’t expect to drive it through unpaved roads with really deep snow that goes way past its undercarriage.

Even the best four-wheel drive system won’t do you any good if the tires can’t even touch the ground.

Even the FWD Tiguan can easily handle light to moderate snow and icy roads, as long as it’s fitted with proper snow tires, or at least some high quality all-season tires.

How Does the Tiguan Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

Since the Tiguan uses a modern fuel-injected engine, it should immediately start up even when the temperature drops.

Its engine computer will automatically adjust parameters like the air-fuel ratio to keep it running optimally in different conditions.

For really extreme winter conditions, here are a couple of things you can do to make sure your Tiguan keeps running in great condition:

  • Switch to engine oil rated for winter
  • Use a battery tender to keep the battery charged
  • Install a block heater to warm up the engine faster
  • Swap out the all-season tires for winter tires 
  • Keep emergency gear like tire chains, jump packs and tow cables in the car

Can a Volkswagen Tiguan Drive on Ice?

Tiguans can safely drive on icy roads since they’re all equipped with modern driver aids that will keep you from sliding out of control.

The Tiguan is also relatively lightweight compared to much larger SUVs and trucks which helps it come to a stop faster.

Lighter vehicles don’t carry as much inertia as a really heavy vehicle and require less stopping power to slow down effectively.

Even the FWD Tiguan can easily deal with icy roads as long as it’s fitted with winter tires that provide more grip in colder weather.

Does the Volkswagen Tiguan Have 4WD?

The Tiguan is available in either All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) versions. 

The AWD versions use Volkswagen’s 4Motion AWD system which automatically transfers power to the rear wheels when the car’s computer detects that you need more traction. 

AWD Tiguans also have a dedicated Off-Road Mode which helps you drive through gravel roads and mud much easier.

What About Older Volkswagen Tiguan Models and Winter Driving?

Even the first generation Tiguan is a fairly modern vehicle since it only was launched just over a decade ago in 2008. 

These older Tiguans already featured lots of driving aids that make driving in winter much easier and safer such as Traction and Stability Control, ABS and AWD systems.

Like the latest Tiguan models, the older versions also have good ground clearance that will help it drive through deep snow and unpaved roads.

Does the Tiguan Need Snow Tires?

If you live in a place with long winters and lots of snow days, winter tires are going to be essential. 

Winter tires will give your Tiguan better traction throughout the season because they use special rubber compounds that work really well even in extremely cold temperatures.

They also have deeper grooves and special tread patterns that allow them to dig through the snow much better than standard all-season tires.

But if you only have to deal with a couple of snow days a year, you can just keep using all-season tires on your Tiguan.

In these situations, AWD will still be a big help and can get you out of really sticky situations when road conditions become unpredictable.

Can You Mount a Snow Plow on a Volkswagen Tiguan?

Even though the Tiguan is a very capable winter vehicle, we don’t recommend fitting it with a snow plow. 

Snow plows are meant to be mounted on trucks and SUVs that use a body-on-frame construction.

The Tiguan uses a unibody design and doesn’t provide any good mounting points for a real snow plow, unless you’re willing to damage your bodywork. 

Tiguans also don’t have a proper Four-Wheel Drive system that features lower gearing, so it won’t be able to plow through really deep, hard-packed snow.

Related: 8 Best & Worst Volkswagen Tiguan Years (With Facts & Stats)


  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...