2012 VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury SUV
Price: $62,990 ($77,790 as tested)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.5 l/100km
The new 2012 Touareg range landed in Australia halfway through 2011, and with it came high hopes that it would improve sales for the nameplate in the heavily-populated luxury SUV segment.
The subject of this review, the Touareg 150TDI, sits at the bottom of the range. However, after a week behind the wheel it’s plain that this is far from a stripper-spec base model.
Quality: The old Touareg was already gifted with a finely-built cabin, and the new Touareg takes it to new heights.
An integrated LCD multifunction display, a fresh console design, carpeted door-bins and soft-touch plastics give the Touareg a ‘premium’ feel, even if the piano-black centre console trim is prone to scratching.
Comfort: The front seats are commodious, although only manually-adjustable and trimmed in lower-grade leather in the base model 150TDI. They’re not heavily bolstered either, which reduces the amount of lateral support available.
On the plus side, there’s plentiful legroom and headroom in both front and rear, and the rear seatbacks are reclinable. The rear bench is wide enough to seat three adults, but the centre position seat is too firm for long journeys.
A centre armrest (which houses two cupholders) and face-level air conditioning outlets will help your rear passengers stay comfortable.
Equipment: Standard equipment includes a trip-computer, Bluetooth phone integration, USB/AUX audio inputs, a six-disc in-dash CD stacker, cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, foglamps and 17-inch alloys.
Our test car was also fitted with the optional Driver Assistance Package ($5400), which includes a heated steering wheel, lane-departure warning system, active cruise control, and blind-spot monitor.
Along with satellite navigation ($4900), the nifty ‘Area View’ camera system ($2500) was also fitted to our car, and made parking the enormous Touareg a breeze.
Storage: Seats up, the Touareg’s load space measures 580 litres and can easily swallow the average family’s weekly shopping or a couple of prams. Seats down, luggage space grows to 1642 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: On paper the Touareg 150TDI isn’t lacking in the power and torque department, with its 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 producing 150kW and 400Nm.
The standard eight-speed automatic is also a technologically impressive piece of equipment, but performance is blunted a little by the Touareg’s 2154kg empty weight.
With a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.0 seconds, it's brisk enough (and in keeping with the Touareg’s SUV design-intent) but shaded by most modern wagons.
The high-output diesel models in the Touareg range get there nearly two seconds faster.
But once up to speed, that’s when the 150TDI shows its best side. Helped by that buttery-smooth eight-speed auto, it glides along effortlessly at highway speed and has no trouble dealing with hills or heavy payloads.
Its braked towing capacity of 3500kg is also quite impressive - ample for the horse float or trailable flybridge cruiser.
Off Road: The 150TDI misses out on the more sophisticated 4XMotion 4WD system of the higher-output V6 diesel models. While its 4Motion system features constant 4WD, it has no locking differentials and no dual-range transfer case.
Turning the control knob from “On Road” to “Off Road” modifies the traction control calibration though, which improves grip on loose surfaces. Its not for fire-trails or for going too far off road, but the 150TDI's 4Motion system gives it ample AWD versatility for getting round the farm or on a slippery dash to the snow.
Refinement: It might say “diesel only” inside the fuel filler flap, but from within the cabin you can scarcely tell there’s a diesel engine up front. Engine noise is muted, there’s no discernable clatter and vibration is almost non-existent.
Tyre noise is kept at bay by the tall sidewalls on the standard wheel/tyre package, and even wind noise is well suppressed - remarkable given the Touareg’s big, bluff shape.
Suspension: The standard coil-sprung suspension is soft and cushy, and plenty comfortable on pockmarked urban roads. The tall sidewalls on the 17-inch alloys also go a long way to improving ride comfort.
It doesn’t feel wallowy on highways either; the Touareg feels quite well planted for a two-tonne SUV.
The hydraulic power steering is light and lacks a little feedback, but it does make parking very easy. VW says the Touareg’s turning circle is 11.9 metres, but it actually feels tighter thanks to a variable-ratio steering rack.
Braking: The brake pedal responds quickly and the big all-disc brake package seems resistant to fade. If you plan on towing a heavy load with your Touareg, these stoppers should have no trouble dealing with it.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: The Touareg is fitted with nine airbags in total - dual front, front side, rear side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee.
All occupants get a three-point seatbelt, and electronic aids like ABS, traction control, stability control, EBD, brake assist and hill hold assist help keep the car out of trouble.
Optional safety equipment includes lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitor and active cruise control. All were fitted to our test car, and all helped immensely in keeping a safe gap between the Touareg and other cars when out on the highway.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Standard scheduled services range in cost from $480 to $570, with major services costing around $1200.
Intervals are set for every 15,000km/12 months, and major services are scheduled for 60,000km/48 months, 90,000km/72 months and 120,000km/96 months.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Diesel ($60,000) - Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee is a massive improvement over its predecessor, and one of the more sharply-priced luxury SUVs around.
In Limited guise it gets plenty of equipment as standard, and its 3.0 litre turbodiesel produces more (177kW/550Nm) than the Touareg 150TDI’s powerplant. It can’t match the VW for interior quality though. (see Grand Cherokee reviews)
Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 ($68,490) - The Discovery 4 is the luxury SUV for those who occasionally dabble in actual off-roading, but it’s just as adept at cruising around the ‘burbs too.
The entry level TDV6 produces a healthy 150kW/440Nm, and the cabin also boasts a seven-seater layout. But much pricier than the VW. (see Discovery reviews)
Ford Territory Titanium AWD Diesel ($63,240) - Superbly executed and luxuriously equipped, the luxo-Territory’s smooth 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel (140kW/440Nm) is a match for the 150TDI, though the Touareg’s eight-speed transmission bests the Ford’s six-speed.
It lacks the cachet of the Touareg but offers car-like handling and brilliantly sorted on-road dynamics. (see Territory reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 150TDI may be at the lowest rung in the Touareg hierarchy, but it’s a polished performer and a premium product in its own right.
With what must be the best on-road ride quality for comfort in its class, the Touareg is both easy and enjoyable to drive.
The options list is expensive though, and ticking just a few boxes can see the sticker price shoot up rapidly. There are much cheaper options in the segment, yes, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more, then the Touareg 150TDI is solid value and well worth looking into.