Car reviews - Volkswagen - Touareg
High build quality, quiet cabin and engine, comfortable ride, space-age Innovision infotainment, step-up in quality over predecessor
Room for improvement
Overzealous lane-keep assist, Innovision prohibitively expensive and can be intimidating, Innovision package cannot be split
Volkswagen gives Audi Q7 some food for thought with all-new third-gen Touareg
3 Jun 2019
VOLKSWAGEN’S all-new, third-generation Touareg large SUV has been a long time coming – the second-gen version first arrived locally in early 2011, with an update in 2015 keeping it (relatively) fresh against its rivals in the premium large SUV range.
However, in 2019 its age was starting to show, meaning the arrival of the new version is particularly timely for the German brand.
Now underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform used on a number of other well-regarded premium SUVs, the Touareg is ready to give a scare to the segment leaders such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
But how does it stack up against the best the segment has to offer?
Given it has been eight years since the last time an all-new Touareg landed on our shores, it would be correct to assume a lot has changed about Volkswagen’s flagship model, with changes both skin deep and to the core.
One of the most important elements of the new Touareg is its switch to Volkswagen Group’s modular longitudinal matrix (MLB) platform, which also underpins the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus – fine company, indeed.
The new platform means the Touareg is now constructed from 48 per cent aluminium, resulting in a weight reduction of 120kg despite the new model being longer and wider than the previous model.
For the average car buyer, hearing a car rides on a new platform probably won’t mean much – however going from the old model into the new one will likely make you see why Volkswagen Group Australia product marketing manager Jeff Shafer described it as one of the most important changes to the new range.
Getting into the Touareg for the first time is punctuated by a solid thud when closing the door, followed by a hushed cabin that immediately emanates a sense of quality and luxury.
Starting the engine and pulling onto the road, the Touareg’s tried-and-true 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 is barely heard, with VW engineers clearly doing a bang-up job of minimising noise intrusion into the cabin.
The impact of the MLB architecture can also be felt out on the road, with no rattles to speak of and a stiff chassis that allows for a communicative and sharp driving feel.
Our time on the road with the Touareg consisted of a mix of rain, sleet and snow on the road, so we were unable to properly push the SUV to its dynamic limits, however most Touareg owners will not be driving their vehicles like a racecar anyway.
Driving through the winding roads of inland Tasmania, the Touareg impressed us with how settled and comfortable it feels on the road, with a confident driving nature that drives well in and out of corners.
Our only gripe for on-road driving is the lane-keep assist system, which is best described as overzealous. Insistent on keeping the car directly in the middle of its lane, the system constantly makes quite forceful steering inputs, making you feel as if you are constantly fighting the steering wheel for control of the car.
Ride comfort is also comparable to its more expensive MLB cousins, with its multi-link air suspension helping to make short work of bumps and rough road conditions.
The air suspension can also be raised or lowered to help loading items into the boot.
Underpinning the Touareg is Volkswagen’s trusty 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 which has been updated for the new generation, and now produces 190kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm at 2250rpm, driving all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Our time behind the wheel gave us the impression that the oil-burning V6 is an unremarkable but perfectly suited option, with a quiet, smooth driving character that lends itself well to everyday driving.
At no point is engine noise intrusive, and the eight-speed automatic works seamlessly in the background to provide a smooth pedal response that easily deals with the 600Nm on offer.
While no performance SUV, the Touareg still packs plenty of punch, and the V6 will be more than enough engine for most.
The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system can variably transmit up to 70 per cent of torque to the front axle or 80 per cent to the rear, and can be changed to suit a number of different driving modes.
During our time in the Touareg we recorded an average fuel consumption of between 8.8 and 9.3 litres per 100km, up from the official figure of 7.4L/100km.
According to Mr Shafer, the other most notable change for the new Touareg is the infotainment system, which was getting particularly long in the tooth after eight years.
Volkswagen is offering a 9.2-inch infotainment system as standard to go with an analogue instrument cluster and TFT display, however all vehicles tested were fitted with the $8000 Innovision package, which bundles a massive 15.0-inch infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, colour head-up display, ambient interior lighting and a volume scroll wheel.
The 15.0-inch screen is unlike just about anything else we have encountered in a car for sheer size, making for an impressive sight especially when using the map feature.
It can also be quite intimidating and daunting, with all functions contained on the screen meaning users have to know their way around the system first.
Usability and ergonomics are good, however some tech luddites may be scared off the Innovision system.
Its $8000 pricetag is also particularly intimidating, and we would like to see individual elements of the package be offered as separate options. You shouldn’t have to pay $8000 if you want a head-up display on your $90,000 SUV.
The interior otherwise has a classy and premium feel – some black plastic trim aside – and wouldn’t feel out of place in an Audi showroom.
Head and legroom for front and rear passengers is more than ample, and boot space is also plentiful, however the absence of a third row – even as an option – strikes us as a bit strange.
Overall, Volkswagen has a lot to be excited about with the new Touareg. It is now able to better compete with the cream of the large SUV segment while still retaining a price advantage over competitors, and most of the changes over the old model have been wholesale improvements.
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