A base Touareg 150TDI with 3.0-litre V6 diesel costs $67,990 plus on-road costs, slightly beyond the top-spec Territory Titanium or Kluger Grande.
The Touareg V6 TDI, the one we’re testing here, costs $81,990 (plus on-road costs). It adds extra equipment and extra grunt – 180kW and 550Nm, up from 150kW and 450Nm – from the same engine as found in the base model.
But if you really want to shed the dollars, there’s the $114,990 (plus) Touareg V8 TDI R-Line packing a burly 250kW and 800Nm.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $81,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
Volkswagen is now as mainstream as it was when the Beetle went around with an engine in its backside. The Golf, for instance, may come with a segment-defining interior and features, and have a benchmark engine under its snout, but you can take one home for Corolla cash.
Repositioning hasn’t occurred with the Touareg, however.
The question is whether the four-year-old Touareg deserves its status. Would you choose it over the competing BMW X5 or Range Rover Sport?
- Standard equipment: Cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, multi-function trip computer, leather seat trim, electrically adjustable driver’s and passenger seat with heating, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, electric tailgate, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, automatic on/off headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with USB/AUX/SD card inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and satellite navigation
- Options fitted: $1500 metallic paint
- Cargo volume: 580 litres (1642 litres with rear-backrest folded)
Many of the expected luxury essentials are standard in the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI – Nappa leather seats with electric front adjustment and heating, a large colour screen, and handy automatic tailgate all feature.
However, it is missing some features that should arguably be standard, such as an electrically-adjustable steering column, keyless auto-entry and 360-degree camera that instead form part of a $3500-optional package.
A panoramic sunroof costs another $3000 extra, while City Emergency Brake (that automatically brakes the car below 30km/h to avoid a collision should a driver fail to respond) is part of a pricey $5400 option package bundled with high-speed semi-auto braking, collision and lane departure warnings and active cruise control.
Add those packs to the $82K list price and the Touareg V6 TDI becomes a $93,890 plus on-roads proposition.
The Touareg’s infotainment system is 2011-era, with a sat-nav system that pales in resolution compared with newer units from the brand. Newer models also score superb Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mirroring technology unavailable here.
Otherwise the plastics quality is excellent, the woodgrain furnishings surprisingly tasteful and the stitched leather door trims plush. The knurled silver climate and audio controls add a nice tactile feel.
Seat comfort is excellent – the rear bench slides forwards and backwards, or reclines in two stages – and space impressive. Boot volume is less than you may expect for such a large car, at 580 litres, though the area is nicely square.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link independent front and rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: hydraulically assisted mechanical steering; turning circle: 11.9m
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 3500kg (braked)
“Volkswagen” and “diesel” are dirty words at the moment. We’ll leave the inevitable political and financial fallout of the situation aside – but irony to please Alanis Morissette comes in the form of a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 that feels as smooth as fresh whipped-cream.
The V6 TDI however doesn’t quite feel as fast as 550Nm of torque or a 7.6-second 0-100km/h claim may indicate.
Blame some turbo lag off the line, predominantly, which in turn can be blamed on the portly 2159kg kerb weight.
But, once up and running, the eight-speed automatic takes care of business, seamlessly flicking between ratios, holding lower gears in Sport and even dropping out of gear when coasting off the throttle to save fuel.
Over a touring route punctuated by occasional congestion and hard driving, the Touareg averaged an impressive 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres. It probably won’t do much more whether towing (up to 3.5 tonnes) or heading off-road (its standard air suspension can raise from 147mm to 300mm clearance).
It’s worth noting height adjustable suspension only features on Touareg V6 TDI and V8 TDI R-Line. An off-road mode alters all-wheel drive software, but a locking centre differential and low-range gearing is no longer available locally.
The Volkswagen air system also provides Comfort, Normal and Sport modes.
Around town Comfort is lush, hiding the impact of large 20-inch rims. On rough roads at speed the Touareg starts to judder slightly, which isn’t removed in Normal mode that does however eliminate slight pitching over undulations.
While Sport mode (which lowers the body by a further 25mm) is only to be used on smooth surfaces, it highlights a beautifully balanced chassis that can make the Touareg feel like a supersized warm hatch.
Accurate and mid-weighted steering, and subdued coarse-chip road noise help complete this genuinely premium package.
ANCAP rating: The Touareg has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Seven airbags including dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera and front and rear parking sensors
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Audi Q7 3.0 TDI and Volvo XC90 D5 are new, impressive and family-oriented, while the BMW X5 xDrive25d and Range Rover Sport are more dynamic and less about lounging around.
All four can get expensive with options, but even in base form they give Touareg a nudge.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It costs more than the mainstream large SUV crew, but the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI mostly justifies the surcharge.
On a value analysis, however, the extra cost of cabin and technology equipment – that really should be standard for $82k – knocks a bit of shine off the big Volkswagen.
Besides that, and the lack of a seven-seat option and slightly niggly country ride quality, the charismatic and dynamic Touareg is a mostly complete package.
It’s the bigger picture items – superb drivetrain, lovely urban ride, backroad handling agility and plush cabin – that ensure it remains a relevant (upper middle) class contender.
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