IN A desperate bid to lift sales, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) has slashed pricing on its luxury Touareg SUV ahead of a mid-life facelift arriving next year.
VGA has also revised the line-up, dropping the $99,990 224kW/410Nm 4.2-litre V8 petrol model and introducing two new V6 engines.
The company has increased specifications but trimmed $5000 off the entry six-speed Tiptronic automatic 2.5-litre R5 TDI and cut $15,000 off the range-topping V10 TDI by deleting the standard sunroof, satellite-navigation and wood-leather steering wheel. These items are now optional.
The two new V6s are a 3.0-litre TDI and latest-generation 3.6-litre FSI petrol engine.
The price revisions come just as a refreshed Touareg was unveiled at the Paris motor show last month, featuring a new 257kW/440Nm V8 FSI petrol engine and mildly upgraded exterior and interior styling.
Although unconfirmed for Australia, the new petrol V8 and possibly Audi's 4.2-litre V8 TDI could eventually be seen in local Touareg models if there was demand.
The facelifted Touareg will not arrive until mid-2007 but VGA managing director Jutta Dierks said the company needed to become more aggressive with Touareg sales ahead of the facelift.
"There was no time to wait," she said. "We are in launch mode."
She was confident the latest price cuts and availability of a torquey 3.0-litre V6 TDI would lift sales and buyer awareness without having to resort to finance deals or other sales incentives used in the past for the slow-selling SUV.
Over the past 12 months, VW has embarked on an unprecedented launch attack across its range, including new Passat, Jetta, Golf R32, Polo GTI and Transporter variants. This Touareg repositioning represents the last piece of the VW puzzle to be put into place.
VW sales are up 39 per cent this year, sitting at 15,737 YTD – 4412 more than last year. This has positioned the brand in 11th place behind Kia (which is 500 units ahead YTD) and enables it to claim the title as the strongest European importer this year.
VGA general manager marketing Peter Dierks said the price alignment on Touareg was required and the SUV needed more specific marketing attention "in an increasing competitor environment".
The big off-roader has been on sale in Australia since September 2003, but has failed to gain traction among luxury SUV buyers, selling just 561 last year in a luxury SUV market that has experienced strong growth against other declining SUV segments. VW has sold 359 units YTD, down 13.9 per cent on the same period last year.
Apart from keener pricing, the entry five-cylinder R5 TDI, with 128kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 2000rpm also benefits from the bulk of the equipment changes.
R5 standard equipment runs to 4Motion 4WD system with low-range, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, six airbags, ABS and ESP, brake assist, hill hold and hill descent control, 17-inch "Canyon" alloys, cruise control, a trip computer, multi-function steering wheel, net partition and luggage cover, front foglights, front and rear parking sensors, exterior chrome package, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, heated side mirrors, a hinged rear window, remote central locking and six-stack CD.
The V6 FSI and V6 TDI models add an alarm system, walnut wood and brushed aluminium highlights, cricket leather, electrically adjustable and heated front seats.
The V6 FSI develops 206kW at 6200rpm and 360Nm at 2800rpm, endowing the car with a zero to 100km/h time of 8.7 seconds and top speed of 215km/h. Average fuel consumption is 13.8L/100km.
The common-rail piezo-injected V6 TDI, which VW Group Australia expects to make up 70 per cent of sales, develops 165kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm between 1500-1800rpm. The V6 TDI accelerates to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds and has a top speed of 205km/h. Average fuel consumption is 10.9L/100km.
The 5.0-litre V10 adds myrtle wood and aluminium highlights, air suspension with automatic load levelling and electronic damping control, a keyless entry and start system, electric height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, 19-inch alloys, bi-Xenon headlights, four-zone climate-control air-conditioning, and electrically adjustable front seats (with position memory).
The 10-cylinder offers GTI-like performance, developing 230kW at 4000rpm and a blistering 750Nm from 2000rpm. Average fuel consumption is 12.8L/100km. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.8 seconds and has a top speed of 225km/h.
The Touareg has a commodious luggage area that can vary from 555 litres to 1570 litres with the rear seats folded.
Suspension remains double wishbone front and rear suspension with the electronic air suspension standard on the V10.
All diesels models now come with a standard particulate filter to trap harmful emissions.