Volkswagen and diesel; a combination that dominated the global news headlines since September 2015. Dieselgate has changed the German car industry but unlike anything else it has turned the word ‘diesel’ into something dirty. It makes you wonder is there still a place for diesel models in the world today?
To find out I am reviewing Volkswagen’s latest arrival: the third generation Volkswagen Touareg. At market launch the new Touareg is only available with a 3.0 liter V6 TDI engine with two different performance options; one with 231hp and one with 286hp. Both come with a 8-gear automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive and provide ample torque. A 340hp V6 petrol engine will join the range in the near future along with another diesel engine; a 421hp V8 TDI. The Touareg will only be sold in China, Europe and Russia. With a 367hp plug-in hybrid in the works for the Chinese market.
Dieselgate or not Volkswagen managed to close the gap to the premium segment in recent years and in terms of design I prefer the Volkswagen Touareg and Arteon over their more expensive Audi counterparts. The large front grill and horizontal lines of the rear emphasize it’s width and it reminds me a lot of a Range Rover both inside and out which is certainly not a bad thing.
The new Touareg is significantly different to the predecessor with a bold exterior design and very clean interior design. Two digital displays dominate the driver oriented dashboard with a large 15” touchscreen mounted in the center and the digital cockpit (12.3” optional) behind the steering wheel. All infotainment, navigation and climate control is accessed via the main touchscreen, voice control or the buttons on the steering wheel. The lack of buttons created space for additional storage space and cupholders. I have never been a fan of all touchscreen and do miss direct access to the climate control functions. Also the button to reach the menu on the big screen is placed at the top of the screen which requires the driver to stretch forward to reach it but overall the system works well and is quite intuitive to use.
The interior design is clean and seating position is good with plenty of leg space and good view all around. It looks and feels like a combination between a Tesla and a Range Rover with clean lines, quality materials and good ergonomics. The optional seats with massage function and seat cooling are worth every penny.
Our test car comes with the adaptive air suspension with all-wheel steering and roll-stabilizing. It provides a very smooth ride with surprisingly little body roll in corners. The all-wheel steering reduces the turning circle and makes it easier to drive in cities. Having said that it is still a very big car, too big for many European cities in my opinion, but out on the highway I can think of few cars that make for a better companion for long journeys.
The 3.0 V6 TDI engine does 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds and tops out at 238 km/h. The 75 liter tank allows for journeys over 1,000 km on one tank – a bit less so on the German autobahn. It is not the fastest and feels a bit squeezed power wise at times – possibly to reach better emissions – but its tremendous torque fits extremely well to this SUV. A shame is the typical and unnecessary diesel rattle which can be clearly heard in the cabin especially with a cold engine. It would have been great if there would have been a bit of sound engineering to mask this sound or enhance it like in the Audi SQ5 per example.
Optionally the new Touareg can be equipped with an extensive set of driver assistance systems. The latest version of the adaptive cruise control is on offer and not just slows down when there is a car in front but also adapts to the speed limit and slows down for corners in the road based on navigation map data. It now works up to 250 km/h but it remains weak when other cars are cutting into your lane in which case it brakes in the last second so always stay alert when the system is active.
What to spec?
Looking for a new Volkswagen Touareg and not sure what to spec? Here are some of my favorite optional extras.
Head-up Display – Projects the speed, speed limit and navigation instructions directly on the road in front.
Driver Assistance Package Plus – contains the must-have adaptive cruise control, lane assist and a few other useful driver assistance systems.
Parking Assist – Front and rear parking sensors. Should be standard in a car of this size / segment in my opinion.
Rear View Camera – Good addition to the parking sensors and comes with parking pilot that can help steer the car into the parking space. Not quite as advanced as some of the competitors but helps people that can’t park very well.
Adaptive suspension with roll-stabilizing – makes the Touareg less shy of corners and makes the ride a lot more comfortable thanks to air suspension and adaptive dampers.
DAB+ – More and more countries are switching to digital radio so DAB is a must for high quality digital radio.
Innovision cockpit – digital cockpit that can display anything from the navigation map to old school tacho and speedometer.
Keyless Access – Leave the key in your pocket to lock and unlock the car and start with the start button.
Front seats with massage and cooling – comfortable seats with 8 different massage programs and seat cooling.
What about the competition?
The Volkswagen Touareg is up against some stiff competition with the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Range Rover Sport to name a few. Design is a matter of taste but for me it is one of the most attractive cars in the segment. In terms of interior and infotainment it is one of the most state of the art cars on offer today. The new BMW X5 has a lot more traditional styling and the GLE is running towards the end of it’s life cycle. Some competitors offer a third seating row which Volkswagen doesn’t. The only car that can match the Touareg in terms of interior and equipment at the moment is the Q7. Volkswagen closed the gap to the premium segment very well but some of the competitors use slightly better and more exclusive materials. In exchange the Touareg is a bit cheaper though.
The new Volkswagen Touareg represents a big step forward for Volkswagen. The gap to the premium manufacturers has never been so small and in terms of styling and equipment it beats some of the more expensive competitors hands down. The V6 TDI diesel engine fits very well to this SUV and provides plenty of torque and range to make for a comfortable daily driver and travel car. However the typical diesel sound could have been masked a bit better.