Ad­ven­tur­ing in lap of lux­ury

ROAD TEST/ Volk­swa­gen has el­e­vated its flag­ship Touareg to even loftier heights of so­phis­ti­ca­tion, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Volk­swa­gen’s Touareg SUV has al­ways been some­thing of a non­de­script en­tity, a ve­hi­cle with the right sub­stance un­derneath, but all cloaked un­der a veil of vanil­la­like styling. It, how­ever, never quite achieved the ap­peal of its Porsche Cayenne cousin, which con­tin­ues to share the Touareg’s un­der­pin­nings.

En­ter the third gen­er­a­tion model, which shares most of its un­der­pin­nings (MLBevo plat­form) with the newly launched Porsche Cayenne, Lam­borgh­ini Urus, Audi Q7 and the Bent­ley Ben­tayga to name a few.

Us­ing more light­weight alu­minium in its con­struc­tion has seen the new Touareg shed 106kg of weight, en­dow­ing it with a new-found light­ness and dy­namism, but more about that a bit later. What re­mains a stand­out fea­ture of the new model, in my view, is its new­found de­sign mojo. Granted, it might not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, but it is any­thing but non­cha­lant and got its fair share of at­ten­tion dur­ing our test ten­ure.

Thanks to its large chrome grille and squared off head­lights, there’s an el­e­ment of as­sertive­ness to the new Touareg. Ve­hi­cles ahead of you vol­un­tar­ily give way to let you through, such is the ve­hi­cle’s men­ac­ing vis­age. On test here is the flag­ship Ex­ec­u­tive model, which comes stan­dard with the sportier R-Line pack­age that adds some spicy bits to the recipe such as 20-inch al­loy wheels, a more pro­nounced front valance and rear boot spoiler.

The cabin, mean­while, is a blend of tech and min­i­mal­ism thanks in part to the ex­tra large in­fo­tain­ment screen that en­com­passes most cabin func­tions. This op­tional In­novi­sion Cock­pit has the screen an­gled to­wards the driver and flanked by the in­stru­ment clus­ter to cre­ate a seam­less in­te­gra­tion of the two.

Over­all space for pas­sen­ger quar­ters is gen­er­ous while the boot space at 810l can swal­low a fair amount of lug­gage even in stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion, while fold­ing the rear seats for­ward expands it to 1,800l.

Pow­er­ing the Touareg is the com­pany’s tried and tested 3.0l V6 turbo diesel that now pushes out 190kW and 600Nm through an eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box to the 4Mo­tion all-wheel drive sys­tem. The pow­er­plant is silky smooth in its op­er­a­tion and, al­lied with the equally smooth gear­box, cre­ates a seam­less wave of power and torque de­liv­ery right through the gears. There are var­i­ous driv­ing modes avail­able rang­ing from Eco to Sport to Off-road and Snow at a turn of a ro­tary dial or via the in­fo­tain­ment screen. There is also a lift­ing mech­a­nism for the air sus­pen­sion to add fur­ther ground clear­ance or lower the ride height.

The air sus­pen­sion works an ab­so­lute treat in this ap­pli­ca­tion. I have driven many an SUV with such sus­pen­sion, but none has man­aged to blend waf­tage with dy­namism on ei­ther side of the scale this elo­quently. Body con­trol is su­perb with the ve­hi­cle re­main­ing fairly flat un­der brak­ing, ac­cel­er­at­ing and cor­ner­ing.

In fact it is the han­dling that im­pressed me the most. Hurl the ve­hi­cle into a se­ries of sweep­ing cor­ners and it fer­vently sticks to a cho­sen line and this is thanks to the lighter plat­form and the air sus­pen­sion work­ing in tan­dem to make the Touareg a sur­pris­ingly ag­ile large SUV.

It also proved rel­a­tively fru­gal, re­turn­ing a best fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure of 8.4l/100km, which for a ve­hi­cle of this size and en­gine ca­pac­ity is quite ex­em­plary, if not close to the op­ti­mistic 7.1l/100km man­u­fac­turer claimed fig­ure.

The new Touareg has im­proved in just about every re­spect from its pre­de­ces­sor. Type: Six cylin­der, turbo diesel Ca­pac­ity: 2,967cc Power: 190kW at 3,250r/min Torque: 600Nm at 2,250r/min Type: Eight-speed au­to­matic Type: Four-wheel drive 0-100km/h: Not sup­plied Top Speed: 235km/h Fuel Con­sump­tion: 7.1l/100km Emis­sion: 188g/km

For me, the only fly in the oint­ment with the pack­age, and this is some­what triv­ial, is the steer­ing wheel — an ex­act item lifted from the Polo range — that looks a lit­tle out of place in what is oth­er­wise a very up­mar­ket sanc­tu­ary. That aside and at the price, the new Touareg is noth­ing short of a class act.

EN­GINE TRANS­MIS­SION DRIVETRAIN PER­FOR­MANCE (claimed) STAN­DARD FEA­TURES

Mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, dual-zone climate con­trol, in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with Blue­tooth and voice com­mand, driver as­sist tech­nol­ogy, eight airbags, Isofix child seat an­chor­age points, elec­tric boot, dual USB ports, 230V power socket, cen­tral lock­ing, LED head­lights and tail lights, LED day­time run­ning lights, front and rear park dis­tance con­trol, re­verse cam­era, 20-inch al­loys

COST OF OWN­ER­SHIP

War­ranty: Three-year/120,000km Main­te­nance Plan: Five-year/100,000km Price: R1,140,200 Lease*: R24,321 per month

The new Touareg has more road pres­ence than its anony­mously styled pre­cedessor.

The In­novi­sion Cock­pit is a stylish but ex­pen­sive R74,900 op­tion that com­prises a 30.4cm dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter which flows into a 38cm cen­tral in­fo­tain­ment hub.

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