Volkswagen Touareg 3,0 V6 TDI Executive
The new Touareg speaks softly but carries a big stick
IT’S a fact that, as a species, we are a remarkably fickle bunch. That we fall for fake news and are often mesmerised by whatever’s the biggest, brashest, loudest and possessed of the most Twitter followers goes to show being softly spoken in this maelstrom of madness is tantamount to being invisible. And that’s what’s gradually happened to the Touareg since its arrival in 2002.
Having met with much fanfare, including a stonking V10-engined turbodiesel and stunts such as towing a Boeing 747 and netting (albeit in the heaviest of disguises) top honours in the Dakar Rally, VW’S halo SUV has otherwise gone about its business quietly toiling away on the cusp of SUV stardom so enjoyed by the likes of the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport, not to mention lending its underpinnings to flashier relatives from the Audi and Porsche stables.
It’s a posting that, to be completely honest, is ill-deserved; the Touareg has perennially proved itself to be a beautifully crafted and suitably robust piece of luxury SUV. It’s just not been shouty enough to garner the attention it’s sorely due. With the release of the third-generation car, Volkswagen has again opted for this softly-softly approach but this time round it may not be a bad thing.
The new Touareg’s styling certainly doesn’t send heads whipping in its direction; instead, it’s suitably Volkswagen-neat, taut
and, in places, slightly crystalline in its execution. It’s a design that, when static, is almost invisible. On the move, however, with its slivers of LED daytimerunning lights flowing into the grille louvres, it suddenly exudes a pleasing purposefulness from its otherwise conservative frame.
Generation-three Touareg is spun from Volkswagen’s MLB Evo platform, which already sees service underpinning such glamorous wares as the Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. Measuring 4 878 mm long, the Touareg is 77 mm lengthier and 44 mm wider and, at 1 702 mm high, 7 mm lower than before. Luggage space also takes a 113-litre hike north of the previous car’s, with VW claiming 810 litres with the seats in place.
But, while it’s bigger, yet still something of a stealthy premium SUV, the cabin is where the new Touareg really shines. Our flagship Executive-spec test drive unit was fitted with the optional (R70 000-odd) Innovision Cockpit which ups the ante when it comes to the sheer acreage of virtual instrument screen a dash can house. The system comprises a 12-inch virtual binnacle cluster and a 15-inch central display. This crisply defined interface is lag-free and oversees a wealth of ancillary functions, including climate controls and all manner of media and vehicle settings in between. While the interface sports large, easy-to-prod tiles, it’s a system that can be deeply mined and, without likely time-consuming familiarisation, may prove a bit daunting to navigate on the go.
It’s not just the infotainment system which boasts the segment-leading span of glazing, though: the Touareg’s interior is bathed in light from the largest panoramic roof to ever grace a VW, a whopping 1 270 mm long and 825 mm wide.
The Touareg’s new platform,
along with the utilisation of numerous lightweight materials in its construction, has shaved an impressive 106 kg from the kerb weight of its predecessor.
This lighter frame is propelled by a 3,0-litre V6 turbodiesel (the one soon to do service in the Amarok) serving up 190 kw and 600 N.m of pull through Volkswagen’s multi-mode AWD system. The underpinnings can be further bolstered by an optional four-corner adaptive-suspension system and an all-wheel-steering setup. Both make threading the Touareg’s substantial frame round tightly packed urban obstacles at low-speed a grimace-free affair.
Our route between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay took in a wide variety of surfaces, from smooth motorways to the tarmac patchwork of country roads and a considerable stretch of loose-surfaced dirt road with a generous helping of washboard corrugations in between. No matter what was thrown the Touareg’s way, it calmly ironed out the lot. Driving at pace on gravel, the new car feels less bulky and noseheavy than its forerunner, and the brakes scrub off speed with impressive determination.
Those seeking involving driving dynamics may be left cold by the Touareg’s light steering and, at times, leisurely throttle response, but that’s missing the point of this car. Move to the motorway and the Touareg becomes a consummate fire-and-forget cruiser wafting you along effortlessly, quietly cocooned in an impeccably built cabin hewn from a wealth of soft-touch and other wonderfully tactile materials. The quiet innards do mean tyre roar permeates the cabin, though.
It’s frustrating a car of the Touareg’s calibre has been perennially relegated to the periphery of our awareness when it comes to premium SUVS. Given the latest car’s showing, however, it’s heartening to know in our loud, look-at-me world, there’s always a space for something like the softly spoken but substance-packed Touareg.
clockwise from below Executive model comes as standard with an R-line kit; 12-inch Digital Cockpit display can be fully customised; air-suspension system adjustable through various heights; eightspeed transmission makes great use of the TDI’S strong torque.
clockwise from above Optional Innovision Cockpit pairs a 12-inch instrument display with this massive 15-inch central screen that (pictured right) handles all the main operating functions; ambient lighting available in 30 colours, while Ergocomfort seats offer electric adjustment and heating.
from top Wheels up to size 21 inches are offered; Dynaudio sound optional; R-line badges pepper the interior; the new Touareg uses 48% aluminium in its construction, allowing that mass reduction of 106 kg.