The nameplate of the 2018 Volkswagen Touareg Monochrome couldn’t be more apt, because the formula behind this limited edition model grade truly is black and white.
New vehicle manufacturers tend to do a couple of things with an ageing generation of model – either lower the price or raise standard equipment – and indeed the Touareg is now in the final months of its Slovakian production after an eight-year run.
Following last year’s Touareg Wolfsburg Edition, which as expected was loaded with kit but priced from $88,990 plus on-road costs, comes this more affordable Touareg Monochrome at $74,990 (plus orc) but with less kit.
This time around it is also based on the base diesel version, not the high-level V6, and indeed the pricetag for this five-seater still isn’t exactly cheap. So the question is simple: is it worth snapping up a bargain here, or holding off for the next model?
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $74,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 150kW/450Nm 3.0 V6 turbo diesel | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km | Tested: 10.6 l/100km
The Touareg is a premium large SUV, but it has long been oddly placed among rivals. It is only a little larger than a new Volvo XC60, which also seats five, has a similarly powerful engine, but is technically classified as a premium medium SUV.
It delivers a half-tonne-higher towing capacity than a Toyota Prado, and it matches the 3.5T rating of both the Land Rover Discovery and Jeep Grand Cherokee, but in each case without the off-road focus. Yet all those not-quite-competitors, in equivalent specification, cost from $73,990 to $78,000 (plus orc).
The $74,990 (plus orc) pricetag of this limited edition model is $6000 more the Touareg 150TDI. But it does add 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless auto-entry and push-button start, leather trim, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel with paddleshifters, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Keeping with the Monochrome theme, there’s also black mirror caps, grille and roof rails, dark-tinted LED tail-lights, piano-black/aluminium interior trim and grey-on-black leather. Let’s see if this loaded-up limited edition makes a clear-cut case for itself.
- Standard Equipment: Power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather trim with electrically adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric tailgate.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 60Gb internal drive, single USB port and twin SD card readers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 580 litres.
Times have changed since the second-generation Touareg launched in 2010. While it’s tagged a premium large SUV, premium medium SUV models such as the XC60 have narrowed the size gap.
The 4.8-metre-long Volkswagen stretches 113mm further than the Volvo, while being 74mm taller and only 38mm wider. And the differences are even less pronounced inside, with the Monochrome offering similar space. The point is, if you never tow or go off-road, this model loses its advantage to a far superior, newer Swedish model.
If you do head off-road, go look at the Toyota Prado, Grand Cherokee and Discovery, with the latter best blending the Touareg’s on-road ability and towing prowess.
To match the Monochrome’s leather-trimmed electrically adjustable seats, swivelling headlights and dual-zone climate control, however, the $74,560 (plus orc) Discovery SD4 S needs to be bypassed for the $83,450 (plus orc) Discovery SD4 SE.
Further Land Rover options then need to be ticked to add adaptive cruise ($3290), electric tailgate ($1140), heated front seats ($830) and steering wheel ($510), for an $89,220 (plus orc) total – or nearly $15,000 above the Volkswagen.
Although by comparison the Monochrome seems like good value, it does feel dated inside. The touchscreen, in particular, is a low-resolution item with a slow response rate, while the switchgear and dials could be from a decade-old Golf.
The Discovery is also a new generation, where this Touareg is in run-out, so for the price it’s disappointing that there is no surround-view camera (only rear-view), no apps connectivity such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, no one-shot voice control, no digital radio, no premium audio system, no auto park assistance, no lane-keep assistance, no blind-spot monitor, no sunroof and no three-zone climate control.
On the flipside, the quality is absolutely first-rate and decidedly high end. From the lush plastics to the premium leather, the flock-lined storage bins and immaculate fit of everything that opens and closes, in this way this Volkswagen has aged well.
The front seats are perched high in a commanding position, and the back bench – although there’s no comfort or legroom advantage over a smaller XC60 – can slide forward or backwards and provides rear riders with decent support.
The 580-litre boot is also sizeable – 75L bigger than the Volvo – and it includes one-touch buttons for the 40:20:40 split-fold backrest. The Monochrome only gets fixed steel springs, however, whereas last year’s Wolfsburg Edition provided air suspension that could lower the vehicle to provide easy loading of heavier objects.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 150kW/450Nm 3.0 V6 turbo diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering
With two states of 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine tune available in the Touareg, the Monochrome gets the 150TDI’s 150kW of power and 450Nm of torque, the latter produced between 1250rpm and 2750rpm.
That’s down from the 180kW/550Nm available higher up from $85,490 (plus orc) in the Touareg V6 TDI. It also leads to respective to 0-100km/h claims of 8.5 seconds versus 7.6sec, and combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres versus 7.4L/100km.
All models use an eight-speed automatic and a permanent all-wheel drive system with ‘off-road’ mode that changes the auto’s shift points, engages hill descent control and changes the electronic stability control (ESC) to suit. Some Touaregs come with a locking centre differential and low-range gearing, too, but not this one.
The Monochrome also gets fixed suspension and, teamed with 19-inch alloy wheels, it provides a decently comfortable baseline for occupants inside. On either extremity of predominantly smooth surfaces, however, it can jostle and jolt occupants over lumps at low speed and then thump and bump over larger ones in the country.
At first it feels unnecessarily firm, but there it is equipped to tow 3.5 tonnes.
Indeed, the auto feels too keen to downchange on even tiny inclines, as though it is constantly predicting that it is towing, while it also aggressively downshifts on small declines. As a result, the impeccable refinement of this V6 diesel is lost, and with torque produced so low, it doesn’t demand the revs the eight-speed forces upon it.
On the upside, under 15.0L/100km on-test around town is impressive for such a heavy (2146kg) vehicle, while getting to the overall 10.6L/100km was easy even if the claimed figure proved fanciful.
That firm suspension, in concert with excellent Bridgestone Dueller Sport tyres, does help deliver flat and composed cornering. This is no sporty SUV, and once beyond grip levels the chassis shows little sign of fluent balance. However, the steering is nicely linear and at a moderate pace the big Slovakian can be fun.
As with the ride and auto, though, it can lack finesse. An inconsistent ESC can sometimes be invisible in response, and at others times overly intrusive, while the old-school hydraulic steering is nice at speed but too heavy around town.
ANCAP has not tested the Volkswagen Touareg.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, driver’s knee, rear-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, and forward collision warning with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Volkswagen’s capped price servicing program covers the first six years or 90,000km, with checks annually or every 15,000km at a higher-than-average cost of $533 each for the first two and $853 for the third and $719 for the fourth.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Jeep is no premium large SUV, so it works best in more affordable sub-$60,000 specification.
The Land Rover doesn’t need equipment to shine, but it could ultimately have more of it for the price. Would we take an under-equipped Discovery over a more fully featured Touareg, though? In short, yes.
The Toyota is for died-in-the-wool, off-road-crazed Prado fans only – it’s slow, floaty, boaty and cheap inside – while conversely the XC60 D5 R-Design is the pick for those who favour technology, class and driving panache over towing ability.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Land Rover Discovery SD4 SE Toyota Prado VX Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If the Volkswagen Touareg Monochrome was absolutely loaded for this price, then it could score a higher rating here.
However, without air suspension it lacks the suppleness of higher models, and the less powerful engine teams less fluently with an abrupt automatic. The infotainment is dated, and the cabin feels more mid-sized than the full-sized exterior suggests.
For all that, though, the Touareg still remains decent. Its cabin is high-quality, the V6 is a smoothie, and it could tow a couple of large horses effortlessly. You could either pay more for a Discovery, less for a Grand Cherokee, or without a need for towing just buy an XC60.
Call it a fine balance between them or just a compromise, but either way the Monochrome’s combination of virtues still become as clear as day.
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