Volkswagen is billing its new Touareg as “the biggest leap forward in the history of the SUV” as it strives to position it further upmarket from its seven-year-old predecessor in a segment dominated by the likes of the BMW X5, Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The third-generation model, unveiled at a media presentation in Beijing, has been comprehensively redesigned and re-engineered.
Together with a raft of new technological features that Volkswagen says serve to make the Touareg its most advanced series production model yet, it also receives a more on-road focused character in line with studies that reveal customers rarely head off road. This is reflected in its exterior styling, advanced new chassis featuring four-wheel steering and a new anti-roll system for the first time as well a new interior that debuts the German car maker’s impressive new Innovision Cockpit touchscreen control system featuring a curved 15-inch touch screen display.
Speaking at the launch of the new Touareg, Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess, said: “It sets a benchmark at the top of the automotive world. It shows what Volkswagen can do in terms of design, technology and innovation.”
The more up-market positioning for the new model, which is planned to go on sale in Australia in 2019, comes as the high-riding five-seat SUV succeeds the discontinued Phaeton at the very top of the Volkswagen line-up with larger dimensions, greater accommodation, contempoary new connectivity solutions and added luxury features.
Significantly, the 2018-model-year Touareg is the first to be developed with such a clear focus on China, which in recent years has become its largest market in terms of sales volume on the back of rapid growth for SUV models of all sizes.
According to Diess, the SUV segment accounted for just 8.0 per cent of the Chinese market in 2007. Ten years later, it accounts for 45.0 per cent of all passenger car sales there.
“No where in the world have we seen such explosive growth in SUV demand,” he said.
A sister model to the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentagya, Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne – alongside which the new Touareg is being assembled at Volkswagen’s SUV manufacturing plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, it is among 19 SUV models planned for sale by Volkswagen by the end of 2020.
Visually, the new Touareg draws plenty of inspiration from the T-Prime Concept GTE, which was first revealed at the Beijing motor show back in 2016.
A significantly bolder exterior design dominated by a heavily structured grille similar in style to that used by the Aerton aims to provide the flagship Volkswagen SUV with greater presence than ever before. It also features tauter surfacing treatment, more heavily defined feature lines and larger wheelhouses - the latter housing 18-inch wheels as standard for the first time.
Volkswagen design boss, Klaus Bischoff, describes the new Touareg as an alternative to the establishment.
“The design makes it unmistakably clear that it is the dominant flaghip of the brand - a large and exclusive SUV from Volkswagen,” he says.
Integrated into the grille are new LED headamps. They can be ordered with a new IQ Light function featuring a matrix function that provides automatic camera-based dipped and main beam control.
Dimensionally, the new Touareg has grown. Length is up by 77mm and width has increased by 44mm at a respective 4878mm and 1984mm. With a lower ride height for improved aerodynamic efficiency and greater on-road refinement, it is also also a scant 7mm lower than before at 1792mm.
Volkswagen believes its latest model will attract both Touareg faithful as well as a greater number of conquest sales from other premium brand car makers, including BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. Emphasis has been made in leveraging the high-end functions and technology already seen on the Q7, Bentayga, Urus and Cayenne as Volkswagen attempts to give it a more exclusive slant.
The new Volkswagen is based on a heavily revised MLB platform, as used by its Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche siblings. As with the earlier incarnation of the MLB structure that underpinned its predecessor, it uses a steel monocoque design. However, the increase use of hot formed high-strength steel is claimed to have improved rigidity while containing weight despite the overall increase in size.
As with the exterior, the new Touareg receives a heavily redesigned interior offering greater accommodation and a more upmarket feel with higher grade materials than those found in its seven-year-old predecessor. Among its major developments is an optional 12-inch digital instrument display, new head-up display unit and new 15-inch centrally mounted touchscreen infotainment display. Together, they form part of a comprehensive range of new functions included in Volkswagen’s so-called Innovision Cockpit.
The customisable infotainment display provides controls for a number of functions, including the air conditiong, seat heating and seat massage functions. A small number of anologue controls remain, though the majority of controls are no touch based functions.
New front seats offer greater longitudinal and height adjustment, according to Volkswagen. Reacting to criticism of the lack of legroom up back, the rear seat now provides 160mm of longitudinal adjustment and three stages of tilt adjustment to allow occupants to alter the amount of rear legroom at the expense of load carrying capacity. Boot capacity is increased by 113 litres over the second-generation Touareg at 810-litres when the rear seat is engaged in forward settings.
The Touareg offers the most comprehensive range of driver assistance systems ever offered on a Volkswagen model. Among the highlights is a new night vision system equipped with a thermal imaging camera as well as an autnomous driving system conceived to provide semi-automated steering and lane keeping functions for up to 30sec together with automatic acceleration and braking capabilities up to 60km/h. They are backed up by Front Cross Traffic Assist
In markets outside of China, the new Touareg will be offered with just one initial engine when sales begin later in 2018. The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 unit offers two different states of tune with either 170kW and 500Nm or 210kW and 600Nm in a pair of 3.0 TDI models.
Also planned, but not set to be made available until later this year, is a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine developing 250kW and 450Nm in the 3.0 TSI as well as a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 diesel with 310kW and a generous 900Nm in the 4.0 TDI.
The German car maker plans to provide the new Touareg with a plug-in hybrid system. It mates a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor, though final details to the electrified powertrain are yet to be made official.
Volkswagen is yet to announce which engines will be made available in Australia, though officials suggest the 3.0 TDI, 3.0 TSI and 4.0 TDI mode will likely feature in the local line-up.
All engines come mated to a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox. It operates in combination with a centre differential that apportions drive between the front and rear axles to provide permanent four-wheel drive in a system dubbed 4Motion Active Control. It is programmed to send a maximum of 70 per cent of drive to the front wheels, with 80 per cent able to be sent to the rear wheels depending on prevailing traction.
A rotary dial within the centre console allows the driver to choose between five different on-road driving models: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual. Alternatively, the new Tourag can be ordered with an optional Off-Road Package which bring an additional five off-road driving modes: Snow, Off-road Auto, Sand, Gravel and Off-Road Expert.
Also included in the Off-Road Package a fuel tank boasting capacity of 90-litres instead of the standard 75-litres as well as a series of underbody protection measures. Although it hasn’t specified with which model it is achieved, Volkswagen says its latest SUV has been engineered to provide a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes.
The chassis of 2018-model-year Touareg receives standard steel springs, although like its predecessor it can be ordered with an air suspension offering electronic variable damping control and variable ride height control, including an off-road mode that provides an additional 70mm of ground clearance. With the air suspension, Volkswagen claims a fording depth of 570mm together with approach and departure angles of 18.5 and 25.0 degrees respectively.
New chassis developments include optional electromechanical anti-roll bars providing active roll compensation for reduced body roll as well as a four-wheel steering system that is claimed to offer added manouverability with a reduced turning circle at lower speeds and enhanced stability at higher speeds.
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