Third-generation Volkswagen Touareg flagship SUV raises standard... and prestige image
PUBLISHED: 16:17 24 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 October 2018
Volkswagen's third-generation Touareg flagship SUV benefits from a big injection of style, technology and prestige which has done wonders for its image, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
For all Volkswagen’s success in the small car market, with the likes of the Golf and Polo, the VW badge doesn’t have the same cache at the top end of the market.
One such model is the large Touareg SUV which, despite seeing plenty on the road, I always felt was stuck between and rock and a hard place when it came to image – expensive to be classed as a workhorse but lacking the prestige image of classy rivals.
That changes with the third-generation Touareg – Volkswagen’s global flagship SUV.
Looks and image
I wasn’t a fan of previous Touaregs’ bulbous styling, and the wheels looked lost in the arches, but this new model is dressed to thrill.
Longer, wider and lower, it picks up the strong, angular lines of the smaller Tiguan, emphasising its width so it looks more imposing and a classy contender.
Under the bonnet
Launched with a 286PS, V6 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine, there is now also a 231PS version, both with eight-speed automatic and permanent all-wheel drive with on and off-road and snow modes. A 340PS V6 petrol and 421PS V8 turbo diesel are in the pipeline and a 367PS plug-in hybrid may follow.
The more powerful V6 diesel will be the best seller and, with 600Nm of torque, offers lusty, low-down pull, effortless mid-range punch, storming top-end performance and a lovely V6 burble. It will surprise a few sports cars off the lights – impressive for an SUV weighing just over two tonnes – and still returned 35mpg overall, 40mpg on a run.
How it drives
For a large SUV, the Touareg is surprisingly good to drive and, even with the R-Line models’ 20in wheels and sports suspension, it soaks up big bumps without any unpleasant feedback for passengers so, with noise levels also well muted, this is a mighty comfortable long-distance cruiser.
It also handles well with good poise and balance through a series of bends but, on small, twisty roads, the sheer size of the Touareg is the limiting factor.
Selectable driving modes also tune the shock absorbers but, if you want the ultimate in ride quality you can have air suspension with electronic damping control, all-wheel steering and new electromechanically-controlled anti-roll bars – opt for the lot and it’s £4,890.
Space and comfort
Unlike most rival large SUVs, the Touareg has only five seats – the seven-seat role is filled by the Tiguan Allspace – but it does five proud with oodles of head and legroom in the back and rear seats slide through 160mm and the backrests recline through three angles. Four-zone climate control means no passengers will feel the heat either.
The long boot has a high floor and 697 to 810 litres of load space with the 40/20/40 split rear seats in place and 1,800 litres with them folded flat. The back release from the boot but had to be pushed forward in the test car.
The cabin looks classy with soft trim high up on the dash and doors but the plastics are hard lower down, even on the centre console which is a little disappointing.
At the wheel
The highlight is the fascia, debuting Volkswagen’s new innovision cockpit with its customisable 12in digital instrument display, to prioritise driver data, and a 15in touchscreen infotainment to create a wide, panoramic control centre. Once you’re au fait with the various menus it’s easy to navigate, even on the move.
The high-rise driving position and large glass areas make for good visibility which, along with parking sensors and, on R-Line, rear-view camera and parking assist, takes the worry out of manoeuvring in tight spaces.
All models include active cruise control and a system to stop the car drifting out of its lane.
This Touareg is a huge step forward when it comes to style, kit, technology and, importantly, prestige image. It’s certainly good enough to mix it with the high-spec execs but it remains to be seen if the Volkswagen badge will command the pricing.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion 286PS £58,195 (range from £48,995)
Engine: 2,967cc, 286PS, V6 turbo diesel with eight-speed automatic transmission
Performance: 0-62mph 6.2 seconds; top speed 146mph
MPG: Urban 36.7; extra urban 47.9; combined 42.8
CO2 emissions: 173g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 37pc
Insurance group: 42E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,878mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,193mm; H 1,717mm