Team Y checks out the 2019 Volkswagen Touareg – an SUV that may just be flawless, and strike fear into its German rivals.
It’s a Bentley Bentayga. It’s an Audi Q7. It’s a Porsche Cayenne. Oh, but it’s also a Volkswagen Touareg. In fact, the greatest rival to VW’s premier SUV is itself – and what could be seen as its greatest strength in the past had also led to its downfall.
While we’re not daft enough to imply that a vehicle that costs a third of that of a Bentley is in any way rivalled by its more prestigious sibling, we’d like to point out that buying into a Touareg has always seemed like buying into a class system buffet, wherein you pay extra for the added thrills and frills (i.e. buying into the Porsche or Audi).
But not anymore.
Now in its third generation, the all-new Volkswagen Touareg brings to the table something it never did in the past: an image. And, as you’d imagine, image is everything – especially when you dish out northwards of RO23,000.
For that very reason, we think that the tables have turned – and to an extent in which its rival siblings are now having to play catch-up. Even fellow Germans such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW have nothing on the new Vee Dub: it incorporates the brand’s latest in-house styling nomenclature that blows everything else away.
The clever Matrix-style LED lamps that neatly adapt and sketch the lights on the road (literally), the heavily-accessorised bumper, imposing front grille and the sharp character lines on the hood all add to the persona of the SUV.
The SUV sits tall on sporty multi-spoked 20-inch (44mm) alloys, though the overall profile of the vehicle is longer (by a whole 77mm than before) and shorter (by 7mm). At 1984mm, it also sits wider than its predecessor by 44mm, thereby aiding the aggressive stance.
Rounding off the exterior are the LED tail lamps that draw patterns while indicating or braking. The rear may come across as a bit stark but with the dual exhausts and elegant-looking bumpers, the Touareg does transcend its competitors in looks.
It seems that Audi’s Q7 can definitely take a couple of cues – at least those that are legal – from VW’s book.
The surprises don’t end there, either. Only if you’d seen the look on our faces when we first entered the car could you tell the bombshell that was dropped on us. Unlike the Vee Dubs of old, the Touareg doesn’t throng its dashboard and centre console with buttons. Instead you’re presented with a devil-may-care-style 15-inch (38mm) screen, and subsequently, a 12-inch (50mm) screen upfront.
These control everything from your infotainment, a/c controls, navigation, seat ventilation, massage functions, applications, and above all, the in-ca settings. In short, the only real button you’re presented with is the one that controls the hazard flashers, and there’s an extra knurled metal knob to take care of the volume and a plastic one to handle the vehicle drive modes (Auto, Efficient, Comfort, Sport, Rock, and Snow).
It isn’t a particularly easy system to use, especially given how hard it would be to fiddle with a touchscreen in a moving car. You’ll find yourself spending a few days familiarising yourself with the features before you can learn to operate it while driving.
All the menus are well within an arm’s reach but there are sub-menus that you’d need to memorise beforehand. That said, it’s the most intuitive system we’ve ever used in a car; the graphics are slick and the responses are instantaneous.
The latter screen, though, is meant for the driver: it’s flexible and can display multiple screens and different vehicular functions. It’s all controllable using the steering-mounted controls, too.
Once settled inside, you’ll find the seats – both in the front and back – to be cushy and supportive, and that the new MLB Evo platform’s larger profile pays better dividends in leg and head room on both corners. The front seats are well bolstered and offer the best levels of lumbar support when compared with any SUV in this segment.
The lack of seven seats in the Touareg is justified by a large boot – 810 litres in volume to be precise. This is a whole 40 litres ahead of the Q7 and (figuratively) miles ahead of the BMW X5.
For the 2019 Model Year – out of European regulations – the VW engineers have dropped the naturally-aspirated for forced induction. This translates to a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 motor that – at its peak – can breathe out 340 ponies and 430Nms of twist.
All of that, coupled with the 8-speed automatic transmission, makes way for a naught to 100kph time of 6.8 seconds.
While the nearly turbo-lag-free engine and all-wheel-drive system on the Touareg makes for a sublime association, the duo are let down by the transmission that’s slow to shift when compared with that of VW’s other products (Golf, Tiguan, Arteon, etc.). On the upside, however, kick-downs are quicker than expected and the gear changes are slicker and smoother than ever. Obviously, any lag from the tranny can be negated by taking control of the shifts yourself.
Another department where the Touareg strikes all the right notes is in passenger comfort. Not only does the air suspension provide with a smooth ride, the active anti-roll bars also kick in to aid in fast cornering.
We were astonished – dumbfounded even – when we could push the SUV through a sharp bend at 80kph. That’s quicker than the Jaguar F-Pace we tested earlier – and much, much faster than any German SUV we’d ever tested.
In true fashion, the electric steering is light at low speeds but gains a fair bit of weight as you tread along. But really, ‘Sport’ mode is where the steering dynamics are at their best. The ratios are superb – and the response from the steering is great.
The brakes are strong with the pedal providing a progressive feel at latter stages. Initially, however, the
user can notice a slight jerk – owing to brakes readying itself – especially if the safety systems have detected a
With 285/4 rubber wrapped around the alloys, the grip levels are mind-boggling. There’s not a hint of under- and oversteer during cornering. Even body roll is mitigated to an extent that you’d feel that you’re riding on even roads.
Volkswagen’s Touareg may never have been a leader in its class – but that may change soon; very, very soon. For this generation, not only are the engineers approaching it with a radical design but also with some of the latest gizmos in technology.
It’s not a case you-saw-it-here-first, but the new Touareg still manages to steal the show from its fellow rivals from Germany by cramming in every possible feature it can. And while that puts it in the front foot on the market, their siblings have a bit of catching up to do. It seems to be that the VW boffins are playing a game of Jekyll and Hyde – and they may have accidentally created the flawless SUV.
• Engine: 3.0-litre ‘twin-turbocharged’ V6
• Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
• Power: 340hp
• Torque: 430Nms
• 20-inch alloy wheels
• 15-inch infotainment screen
• 12-inch instrument cluster
• Drive mode selector
• Matrix LED headlamps
• Leather upholstery
• Traction and stability controls
• Air suspension
• Head-up display
• Cruise control
• Steering-mounted controls
• Panoramic sunroof
• Electromechanical anti-roll bars