Volkswagen’s premium SUV gets updated styling, driver aids and enhanced safety technology
MUNICH, Germany – The price of fuel continues to be high and our streets are not becoming any less congested with traffic, but the popularity of large and luxurious SUVs continues unabated. Witness Volkswagen’s Touareg. First seen in 2002, the Touareg was one of the German automaker’s largest and most luxurious products to date. Alongside the VW Phaeton fullsized luxury sedan, the all-wheeldrive Touareg offered the room and performance of much pricier luxury SUVs — such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class — but at a more down-to-earth price.
Twelve years, two generations and more than 800,000 copies sold worldwide later, the Volkswagen SUV continues to impress with its classy combination of luxury and both on- and off-road capabilities. And for 2015 — four years after the Touareg was redesigned in 2010 — the SUV is getting updated styling inside and out and new driver aids and safety technologies to keep it top of mind in a very competitive class.
You’ll have to squint pretty hard to see the exterior changes VW has made to the 2015 Touareg compared to the current 2014 model. The front grille has a more horizontal theme with bi-xenon headlights as standard. And there’s a chrome band that wraps around the SUV’s sill line. That’s about it. Inside, the changes are equally subtle, with VW saying there are some new leather colours, decorative trims, updated aluminum buttons and controls that used to be illuminated in white now lit in red.
Underneath its fancier knobs and dials, the 2015 Touareg gains some new high-tech driver assistance and convenience systems. For instance, there’s Lane Assist and Side Assist (which warns of any vehicles approaching from behind when changing lanes). Also new are Automatic Post-Collision Braking System (which prevents any further dangerous collisions after initial impact) and Automatic Cruise Control with Front Assist, City Emergency Braking function and optional Stop-and-Go function. And, finally, an Area View assistance system (which uses four cameras to recognize what’s around the Touareg when parking).
What hasn’t changed for 2015 is the impeccable build quality and use of top-notch materials inside the big Volkswagen.
Compared to higher-level Jeep Grand Cherokees, the Touareg’s fitand-finish elevates it to the major leagues, right up there with luxurybrand SUVs at twice the price. Details such as the high-quality and easier-to-use graphics on its touchscreen interface and its completely rattle-free cabin makes the Touareg feel like a bank vault on wheels.
While those looking for minivanlike seating will have to wait until VW’s American-made three-row crossover (based on the CrossBlue Concept) arrives in a few years, the five-passenger Touareg still offers plenty of flexibility in its cabin design when it comes to hauling people and their stuff. Its 40/20/40-split rear bench seat slides so you can swap cargo room for knee room. Fold the VW’s rear seats down fully, and there’s a generous 1,642 litres of luggage room.
get their choice of eight-and six-cylinder diesels and gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains, for 2015, Canadianmarket Touaregs will continue to be offered with a pair of six-cylinder engines.
Carrying over will be the Touareg’s 3.6-litre gas mill. It makes 280 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, and is rated at 12.3 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 8.8 on the highway. The 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel also returns. It’s rated at 240 hp and a healthy 406 lb-ft, and is rated at a more economical 10.8 L/100 km in the city and 6.7 L on the highway.
Whether you go for the gas or diesel, both engines employ an eightspeed automatic transmission and VW’s 4MOTION-branded all-wheeldrive system with adaptive torque distribution. And when the refreshed 2015 Touareg arrives in Canadian VW showrooms in January, expect starting prices to be similar to the current $50,000 to $65,000 range.
Although VW doesn’t offer a highperformance Touareg to compete against V8 brute-utes such as the Grand Cherokee SRT or MercedesBenz ML 63 AMG, it’s still a very competent and confident vehicle to cover great distances in short periods of time.
VW says the 2015 Touareg’s standard steel-spring suspension has been “optimized,” with improvements to deliver “more agile steering” and “extra comfort.” During a day driving on both two-lane back roads and unlimited autobahn highways around Munich, the big VW SUV always felt nimble in a way you would not expect a vehicle of this size to be.
Excessive body roll, the usual modus operandi of these SUV beasts, is held in check, even in tight corners. And the steering actions of the Touareg are surprisingly crisp and accurate, letting the driver place the VW SUV with some precision on the nar- row Bavarian farm roads we were navigating.
When the original Touareg arrived, it was hailed as a capable offroading machine. In the time since, the thought of taking a luxury SUV off pavement has become a rarity. But VW set up a light off-roading course to remind us that the Touareg isn’t afraid to gets its knickers dirty. And note: with its optional air suspension, the VW’s ground clearance can be jacked-up to as much as 300 millimetres. Just the thing to deal with an unplowed Canadian winter side street, eh?
In fact, the updated 2015 Volkswagen Touareg is just the thing to handle many driving needs. Luxury cross-country driving machine, roomy people-hauler, off-road SUV: whatever you need, the big VW seems capable of dealing with it.
The Touareg’s fit-and-finish elevates it to the major leagues, right up there with luxury-brand SUVs at twice the price.