– Premium interior feel
– Good ride and handling
– Excellent rear legroom
– Pricey with options
– Low-range gearing optional
– No third-row option
The Volkswagen Touareg underwent a complete from-the-ground-up makeover in 2011, and it turned out to be so good that the company hasn’t messed with the formula since then. A facelift came in 2015, and we ran a Sport V6 for a week to see what’s new.
The “new” Touareg looks pretty much the same as the old one, with tight overhangs, tight build quality and clean lines. Redone design features are limited to bumpers, wheels and lights. It is a conservative yet handsome look overall, with few stylised elements such as the triangular exhaust tips and the generous use of LEDs, aside from the sizeable 20-inch wheels on our mid-range tester.
The ground clearance is good, but the step-in height into the cabin is still low enough for even kids to jump in with ease. And you’re greeted with a superbly upscale interior. Premium soft-touch materials adorn the upper dashboard and upper door panels, with cloth on the pillars and headliner, tasteful wood trim and padded leather door inserts and armrests that match the leather seats. Hard plastics are relegated to below-the-belt panels, as before, and changes are limited to new interior colours, some new switches with white back-lighting.
Cabin space inside this midsizer is great on all counts, including rear legroom. The front seats are well-bolstered, while the back has a typical split-folding bench. There is no third-row seating, even as an option. Boot volume is adequate for a few big suitcases and enough for most cases, although overall space is a bit less than some tall-roofed rivals. There is no shortage of covered cup-holders, door pockets and seatback nets.
The 2016 Touareg features an updated multimedia system with a capacitive touchscreen on the dash which controls most of the car’s infotainment features, with quick shortcut buttons below it. Features include smart keyless entry with starter button, cruise control, HID headlights, front power seats with power-adjustable bolsters, panoramic glass roof, touchscreen navigation, electric parking brake, front and side-curtain airbags, big colour LCD between the gauges, and a great four-zone a/c, complete with rear digital controls and vents. The premium CD/MP3 stereo sounds great, although the awkward proprietary cable that serves as a USB port is carried over from old. The Touareg can be outfitted with a million other luxury options, such as adaptive cruise, lane assist and cooled seats, which can drive the price up considerably.
Also carrying over is the 3.6-litre V6 churning out 280 hp at 6200 rpm and 360 Nm of torque at 3200 rpm, enough to move the Touareg at a respectable pace with the help of a proactive all-wheel-drive system and a smooth 8-speed automatic. Our as-tested 0-100 kph time of 9.5 seconds in hot May weather isn’t particularly impressive, but rolling acceleration is pretty decent, with no shortage of overtaking kick in all those gears. The trip computer also indicated a fuel-consumption of 14.2 litres/100 km, decent but not much different from class competitors. These numbers are a bit higher than the last Touareg we tested, but the Sport has extra features adding weight, such as a height-adjustable air suspension system.
The Touareg is probably one of only a handful of midsize SUVs in which we’ve managed to find the perfect driving position. We sat higher than in comparable American SUVs, making for great all-round visibility, aided by the thinnest front A-pillars we’ve seen in its class. The all-round cameras and sensors make it even easier to park. And the highway ride is pretty smooth and very quiet, with or without air suspension.
It’s great to be able to hustle an SUV around corners too. Like all Touaregs before it, this new one also drives like a sporty car, offering great grip thanks to the 275/45 tyres on 20-inchers, with some body roll noticeable only when taking the sharper curves quickly. There are no awkward rebounds or floatiness on exiting curves, but while the steering and pedals are nicely firm, they offer little feedback. The brakes are decent, stopping the heavy car quickly on emergency stops, but feeling slightly vague in slower rolling stops, although better than before.
As mentioned earlier, our Touareg Sport also came with air suspension. While the basic terrain-management system only has settings limited to “Onroad” and “Offroad” and there is still no low-range gearing, the suspension can be raised so high that the car can now clear most obstacles without fear of damaging the delicate bumpers. It can cruise along just fine on soft sand and even on the dunes as long as you keep moving and manage your throttle well, but it bogs down if you slow down, thanks to those fancy 20-inch alloys. We believe VW now offers an option for low-range gearing and centre/rear locking diffs as well, which would make it a complete offroad-capable package, unlike the Volvo XC90 or the BMW X5.
The VW Touareg is easily one of the most refined vehicles in its class, and with all the ways that it can be configured, we believe it should be a benchmark that other non-luxury carmakers should strive to match. Of course, pile on the options and the price starts looking like that of a luxury vehicle, but if you leave out what you don’t need and opt for the lower-spec SE and SEL models, you are looking at a very satisfying drive.
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