A perfectly competent, capable all-rounder, and more accessible up-market offering in the then newly burgeoning SUV market when first introduced in 2002, the Volkswagen Touareg might not have been a particularly inspired or charismatic of vehicles in its first two generations. Now, however, the third generation Touareg may in passing seem a subtle evolution, but at closer examination it becomes evident that it has been virtually transformed. A bona fide premium SUV competing with the best the segment has to offer, the new Touareg also proved to be an unexpectedly rewarding drive with improved comfort and technology, and newfound agility and urge.
More upmarket and better driving than the vehicle it replaces, the new Touareg launched globally late last year and is already available in several Middle East markets. Not the first Touareg sharing architecture with more exotic and up-market cousins, Volkswagen’s latest large SUV however now features more of the technology, refinement and driving dynamics. Using the same Volkswagen group MLBevo platform as the Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q8 and Q7 models, the new Touareg uses more aluminium intensive construction. Consequently, its body is 106kg lighter despite it being slightly larger and considerably better equipped car than its predecessor.
Distinctly classier in design, the new Touareg ditches the outgoing model’s rounded body in favour of tauter, more chiseled surfacing with sharper and more deliberate lines, ridges and edges. Its chrome-heavy fascia seamlessly incorporates browed headlight clusters and LED elements with a vast multi-slatted grille. Featuring better flowing lines, detailing and lines, the new Touareg’s roofline is faster and more rakish, while side views feature better defined wheel-arches, rocker panels and surfacing. At the rear, its design is better resolved and design elements more tightly packaged, and include slimmer, sharper rear lights, more pronounced tailgate-top spoiler and dual integrated chrome-tipped exhaust ports.
Launched in most markets with turbo-diesel power and petrol on the way, the Touareg however arrives in Middle East markets with 4-cylinder and V6 petrol engines from the outset. Driven in top Highline specification with Volkswagen’s now familiar direct injection 3-litre turbocharged V6 TFSI petrol engine, the Touareg develops 335BHP and 332lb/ft torque. Though unspecified, maximum torque is on tap at what is evidently a broad and low range. Meanwhile power plateaus with relatively low-revving accessibility. Responsive and almost imperceptible turbo lag from idling, the Touareg’s delivery features fulsome mid-range delivery and a smooth, refined and almost elastically urgent climb to redline.
Convincingly athletic and consistently responsive, the Touareg’s digs deep to a develop a welling mid-range torque that gives way to top-end power, and makes short work of overtaking maneuvers and is swift pouncing out of corners. Estimated to complete the 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.9-seconds and to be capable of 250km/h, the Touareg’s slippery 0.32 aerodynamic drag and torque rich engine make it a willing and confident high way drive. Driving all four wheels through a smooth and swift shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox with a broad ratio spread for best performance, response, versatility, refinement and efficiency, the Touareg also features different driving mode profiles.
With its engine positioned longitudinally and just ahead of front axles for excellent front wheel traction and power delivered to all four wheels with the ability to redistribute power back and forth at up to 70% to the front or 80% rearwards as the situation dictates, the Touareg feels ever sure-footed. With excellent road-holding on tarmac, the Touareg features both different driving mode that adapt different systems for different situations on-road, as well as off-road. An optional Off-road Package allows for yet more off-road modes specifically tailored for sand, gravel and individual tailored characteristics. Furthermore, optional air suspension allows for increase ride height and 550mm water fording.
Smooth, stable and supple at speed or whether cruising in town despite huge 20-inch alloy wheels and low profile 285/45R20 tyres – as driven on smooth Dubai roads – the Touareg’s air suspension offers a refined and comfortable ride that helps isolate one from harshness. That said, the Touareg surprisingly never felt disconnected or vague, and for a big SUV, felt surprisingly agile, despite some body lean through corners. If anything, the Touareg felt alive and tautly elastic through corners, with electronically controlled anti-roll bars tightening up to tidy up body control and four-wheel-drive re-allocating power and clawing back traction from a rear shift, just as one re-applies power and blasts off onto the next corner.
More nimble its height and estimated 2-tonne weight suggest, the Touareg benefits from quick, well-damped, light and direct steering and tidy turn-in, and tyrelessly good brakes. Offered with optional four-wheel-steering, the Touareg is more agile and maneuverable than anticipated. With rear wheels turning opposite to the front at low speeds and its wheelbase effectively shortened, the Touareg can make a 180° in just 11.19-meters and deftly maneuver through twists and turns. Meanwhile at speed the rear wheels turn in the same direction for quick and sure-footed cornering like it is glued to the road, and for stable lane changes at speed.
A high tech SUV packed with standard and optional convenience, comfort, infotainment, safety and driver assistance systems including massaging front seats, night vision thermal cameras, partly automated steering and lane departure Traffic Jam Assist system, heads-up display, and interactive LED headlights, the new Touareg’s electro-mechanical anti-roll bars are meanwhile powered by a 48v battery system, which would also theoretically allow for numerous other high tech systems as used by the Audi A8. Inside, the Touareg is the most digital Volkswagen to date and features a huge high definition and user-friendly 15-inch infotainment screen and 12-inch configurable digital instrument panel.
Comfortable, classy and uncluttered inside, the new Touareg feels and looks like a considerably more premium SUV with a cocooning yet spacious and highly adjustable driving position, and airy ambiance created by its large panoramic sunroof. Using good quality materials, leathers and plenty of soft textures, the Touareg feels upmarket and sophisticated without being gaudy, overstated or pretentious. Seating five in comfort, it can generously accommodate 810-litres of luggage, which expands to 1800-litres with the rear seats folded down.
Specifications: Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6
- Engine: 3-litre, in-line, turbocharged V6-cylinders
- Bore x stroke: 84.5 x 89mm
- Valve-train: 24-valve, DOHC, direct injection
- Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
- Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 335 (340) 
- Specific power: 111.8BHP/litre
- Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 332 (450)
- Specific torque: 150.2Nm/litre
- 0-100km/h: 5.9-seconds (est.)
- Top speed: 250km/h (est.)
- Fuel capacity: 75-litres
- Length: 4,878mm
- Width: 1,984mm
- Height: 1,702mm
- Wheelbase: 2,894mm
- Track, F/R: 1,653/1,669mm
- Ground clearance: 188mm (+70mm adjustability)*
- Approach / departure angles / break-over: 23.3° / 17.2° / 13.5°
- Water fording: 550mm (with optional air suspension)
- Aerodynamic drag co-efficient: 0.32
- Headroom, F/R: 1,049/990mm
- Cabin width, F/R: 1,584/1,547mm
- Luggage volume, min/max: 810-/1,800-litres
- Kerb weight: approximately 2,000kg
- Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
- Turning Circle: 11.19-meters (with optional four-wheel-steering)
- Suspension: Five-link, optional air suspension
- Brakes: Ventilated discs
- Tyres: 285/45R20
- Price, UAE, starting from: AED204,629