The original Touareg, besides being the trailblazer into SUV territory for the Volkswagen Group, pioneered a completely new market positioning for the German outfit when it first appeared in 2002, reports FERDI DE VOS.

During the early clutches of the 21st century, the Touareg, which is also the spiritual successor to the agronomic Iltis, was the biggest and most audacious vehicle in Wolfsburg’s line-up, helping to establish the brand in a more premium segment.

Worldwide sales of the previous two generations amounted to nearly one million units but, while it shares its DNA with the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and lately the uber-luxurious Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, the Touareg has constantly been overshadowed by its more expressive (and expensive) cousins.


Volkswagen Touareg

This, however, is set to change because the third generation Touareg that was recently introduced in South Africa makes an even bolder statement in terms of design, handling and comfort. It is also the most technologically advanced Volkswagen of its era.

Compared to its conservatively styled forbearers, the design of the new and visually progressive Touareg was completed under the directorship of VW head designer, Klaus Bischoff.

Based on the modular longitudinal matrix (MLM) of the VW Group, the third-generation model now measures 4,878 millimetres in length, a stretch of some 77 millimetres compared to the second-generation model. It is also 44 millimetres wider and its roofline 7 millimetres lower than its predecessor, giving it more dynamic proportions.

Its expressive front end, with the chromed, solid grille seamlessly interwoven with the continuous lines of the signature LED lights, is particularly distinctive and according to Bischoff the sides, with accentuated front wheel housings and formed rear-shoulder edges, look like a stretched sail blown by a tailwind.

The Touareg’s visual dynamics is further enhanced by a new range of rims, with wheel sizes that range from 18 to 21”. Its wide shoulders and width are further emphasized by distinctive tail light clusters with L-shaped LED signature lights.


Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen’s new ‘Innovision Cockpit’ (optional in the Executive models) celebrates its world première in the new Touareg. While essentially an adaptation of Audi’s MMI system, this intuitive interactive interface adds to the allure of the newcomer.

The instruments (Digital Cockpit with 12” display) and Discover Premium infotainment system (with 15” display) merge to form a digitally-operated information, communication and entertainment unit that hardly needs conventional buttons or switches. And it works well, as we found during the local launch drive in the scenic Eastern Cape.

It also incorporates the largest range of assistance, both handling and comfort systems, ever to be integrated into a Vee-Dub. This includes optional Lane-Keep Assist and Side Assist with Night Vision and Head-Up Display.

Volkswagen Touareg

Inside, the materials and overall craftsmanship resonates a superior level of quality, while the fit and finish are very Audi-like. The added exterior length of the seven-seater bolsters its luggage capacity from 697, to 810 litres (with the rear bench in an upright position).

It also has ambient lighting (up to 30 colours in the top model), the largest panoramic sliding roof VW has ever realised as standard, and an optional Dynaudio sound system with 730-Watt power output and fantastic sound delivery.

Yet, despite its increased length and width, the new Touareg is 106 kg lighter than its predecessor, mainly due to its mixed material construction of aluminium (48%) and high-tech steel (52%).


Volkswagen Touareg

For now, both the Luxury and Executive variants are available in South Africa with just one engine option – the VW Group’s familiar V6 3.0-litre TDI, tuned to deliver 190 kW and 600 Nm (up from its forebearer’s 180 kW and 550 Nm). Petrol driven models will, however, follow next year.

The torquey turbodiesel is smooth and powerful, and the fluid eight-speed auto transmission coupled to a 4Matic system delivers power to all four wheels effortlessly and efficiently.

The Touareg’s new all-wheel steering system was impressive and contributed greatly to the large SUV’s agility and manoeuvrability on the twisty gravel tracks in the Longmore forest. Its turning circle is also noticeably reduced at low speeds.

Its enhanced 4-Corner air suspension with electronic damping control (available on the Executive model or with the R-Line Package) ensured a surprisingly smooth ride, even on the wide 20” rubber. In addition, ‘Terrain level’ increases its ride height by 25 mm, while the ‘Special terrain level’ functionality jacks the Touareg up by 70 mm, which increases both the ramp and break-over angles.

Add to this a 3.5-tonne maximum trailer weight, a new electronically retractable towing bracket and a mount for a four-bicycle carrier, and the versatility of the new Touareg is clear-cut. In fact, during our sojourn around the Garden Route, it performed so well that it can be described as a cut-rate Cayenne or a bargain-Bentayga.


Unlike many other high-end German SUVs, the Touareg is already comprehensively kitted out, even in basic specification, and at R999,800 for the Luxury model and R1,088,200 for the Executive, it substantially undercuts rivals like the Volvo XC90, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW X5 and its own stablemates, in terms of price.

Even so, the new Touareg will have its work cut out to gain market share. Still, if you can leave brand snobbery aside and appraise the new Touareg at face value, you will find it undoubtedly represents the best value for money in the premium SUV segment.



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