Volkswagen Touareg (2015) Review

Volkswagen Touareg 1

The Volkswagen Touareg sits at the very top of Volkswagen’s offerings in SA, a large, comfortable SUV built for the road with a dose of off road talent if you’re that way inclined. This new Touareg has had VW’s styling team give it a makeover while the engineers have fettled with the suspension setup and thrown in some new tech. We traversed the Cape roads and dirt tracks to get a good feel for it.

New Touareg in a nutshell

The VW Touareg has cemented its name as a value for money offering in the large SUV market, then Volkswagen took it to the Dakar race and cleaned up the competition for three years straight before making a hasty exit - with added off road credentials intact. With no more racing for the Touareg Volkswagen purely focused on building a new car.

This new model features entirely new styling front and rear bringing it in line with the modern face of VW. I liked the old muscle-infused front end as opposed to this sharper and clean look, it makes the new Touareg look smaller and lacking presence on the road. The suspension has been optimised to improve agility, comfort and steering. Finally the interior has been brushed with aluminium in certain areas and the buttons are illuminated for added theatrics.

Engine

Our test model was fitted with the 3-Litre V6 turbodiesel with a BlueMotion badge that signifies it’s good at saving fuel. The diesel is capable of 180 kW and is packed with 550 Nm of torque and as far as engines go this is a great one. It accelerates from a standstill quickly, and the mid-range torque delivery makes 60-120kph a cinch.

The engine is combined with an eight-speed auto that takes the hassle out of everyday driving, it works seamlessly in the background doing its job perfectly, even when it’s forced to accelerate suddenly the quick shifts and torque delivery from the engine make it a perfect everyday driver. The Touareg diesel claims 7.2L/100km however we returned a figure of 10L/100km after our test period, not alarming but not as good as we were expecting. It does have a massive 100-Litre tank that means you'll clock around 1000km per fill up.

The Inside

The Touareg’s cabin is spacious and comfortable, but not outstanding. When it comes to infotainment systems especially, the VW touchscreen is not very responsive and lacks the ease of use of some of the newer systems from the likes of Merc, Volvo and General Motors. It also looks a bit dated in comparison when a world of high-res screens are everywhere.

The rear seats fold down easily with an electronic switch in the boot and there’s also the option for a stow-away towbar which is a good idea. Volkswagen is a little stingy with the options on the Touareg as it would be nice to have things like a reverse camera, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning as standard in an R800k car. They are all available as optional extras though.

Ride and Handling

The Volkswagen Touareg remains an impressive drive both on road and off it. The new suspension modifications hold it more upright in corners and the steering is well-weighted providing confidence in the capabilities of the Touareg at speed. The adjustable suspension allows the driver to choose between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes although I mostly swapped between Comfort and Sport as Normal feels like a compromise of both settings.

Comfort does a great job of ironing out bumps and feeding back a cushy ride. Sport as you’d imagine firms things up and turns the Touareg into a solid sports SUV, the Touareg corners with very little lean and stiffens up over bumps, not great for everyday driving but for the odd sprint through the countryside it’s good fun. Whilst our model didn’t have the optional 4xMotion system that’s tailored for off road use, it does still have a standard four-wheel drive system that can be activated with a rotary knob next to the gear lever.

Verdict

I kept trying to find value for money in the Touareg offering when I compared it to competition like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML, Land Rover Discovery and yes the Touareg is cheaper at R796 500, but not by much. Add a few extras (ours had R150k  worth of extras) and it starts to get too close to those rivals that offer a more premium package and in the Discovery, extreme off roading capability.

The Touareg though is still a good drive that’s capable in every environment and looks modern with its new facial upgrade, it’s just a step behind the luxury SUVs it competes with in the interior department. If I were looking for value for money in a luxury SUV I might lean towards something like a Volvo XC60 D5 AWD.

Second Opinion

As far as luxury products go, the Volkswagen Touareg acquits itself well. There's a strong engine in there, a smooth 8-speed box as well as a decent all-wheel drive setup. There's plenty gadgetry to keep people happy - the two-pin plug in the rear is genius! However, the Touareg would be a good product if there was very little competition. Sadly, the competition offers a lot more performance and prestige which makes the Touareg look out of its depth. -David Taylor

Pricing

3.6 V6 FSI Elegance (206kW)         R709 100 3.0 V6 TDI with BlueMotion Technology Luxury (180kW)        R796 500 3.0 V6 TDI with BlueMotion Technology Escape – Terrain Tech (180kW)    R822 100 4.2 V8 TDI Executive (250kW)       R990 600

We Like: Engine, ride and handling for an SUV

We Don't Like: Slow infotainment system, pricey

Also Consider: BMW X5, Volvo XC60, Land Rover Discovery

See a comparison between the VW, Discovery and Volvo here

Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Quick Specs

Engine 3-Litre v6 turbodiesel
Power 180 kW
Torque 550 Nm
Transmission Eight-speed automatic
Wheels 18-inch alloy wheels
0-100km/h 7.8 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 218 kph
Fuel Economy 7.2L/100km (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity 100 Litres

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