I don't ask too much out of my taillights. I don't think any of us do. We want them to look reasonably good and tell us important information. The only job of a taillight is to communicate — I'm stopping, I'm turning, I'm here. Simple. Maybe that's why when a taillight is deceptive, it seems like such a betrayal.
A deceptive taillight is a dangerous taillight. And the new VW Tiguan has deceptive taillights. Let me explain.
Here's the Tiguan's taillight. You'll note that like many taillights, especially on imported cars, the taillight has two primary color areas: red and amber. There's also a small section under the red lens with a potent light that shines white, indicating reverse. We all know these colors and their meanings.
I was following a Tiguan the other day (stalking is such an ugly word, but she knows why) and was calmly noting VW's pleasant graphic lighting design within the light as the brake lights illuminated. Eventually, the Tiguan got in a turn lane, and prepared to turn. Naturally, years of driving led me to watch the amber section, eagerly awaiting the pulsating light that indicates a turn.
But that's not what happened. The amber area stayed dead, inert, while the red brake light section blinked its horrible, crimson blink. It was a deep, deep betrayal. Sure, I know in the US — and, oddly, only in the US — taillights are free to use red for rear turn indicators, and there's plenty of cars that do just that. That's fine.
I wasn't able to get video, but I'm sure you can find a turning Tiguan, or maybe go to a dealer if you need to confirm the horror.
But if there's going to be an amber section in the lens, you'd sure as hell think that would be the indicator — why else would it be there? It's like a cruel bait-and-switch.
I think I know why it's like this: my guess is that the actual physical area of the amber is too small for US regulations, so VW just cheaped out, left the lens the same as the Euro one (where the amber does indicate a turn, as god intended) and wired the same brake light LEDs or bulbs to blink for the indicator.
While I'm being a little goofy with the histrionics here, I actually do think this sucks. It is a little deceptive to have the dead amber back there, and confusion is not a good taillight quality. The only time I've ever seen this before has been on American cars in the '70s when amber-rear-indicators were something of a design fad. I think maybe the Mercury Monarch had fake ambers in the rear? I can't remember. I think there was also an early 90s Escort sedan that had confusing amber reflectors at rear.
Colors mean things on taillights, Volkswagen. Either remove the amber entirely or make a global lens with a larger indicator. Either way, stop playing with our minds, VW.