Volk­swa­gen Touareg 3,0 V6 TDI Ex­ec­u­tive

The new Touareg speaks softly but car­ries a big stick

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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.

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