IF you have never driven a big SUV before, then walking up to the latest Volkswagen Touareg is going to be a very unnerving experience.
The new Volkswagen Touareg is big, brash and burly. It is larger and looks even more imposing than its predecessor.
Surprisingly, however, VW says that the SUV is up to 106kg lighter than before. This is down to the use of materials such as aluminium and high-strength steel.
I last drove a Touareg six years ago. Back then, the coolest and possible most advanced feature in the cabin was the set of dials for the SUV’s air suspension.
Fast forward to 2019 and the latest Touareg’s cabin is a technological tour de force.
When you climb into the cabin and settle behind the wheel, the first thing that greets you is the massive 15-inch screen, the largest component of the Innovision Cockpit.
The instrument panel is a slightly smaller 12.3-inch screen, and there’s a heads-up display on the windscreen as well.
The 15-inch screen is as large as some laptops, and big enough to scare the electrons out of a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Meanwhile, the dials that control the air suspension and drive modes have been enhanced. There’s even a “Sync” option that syncs the air suspension height to the chosen drive mode.
As you delve into the infotainment system, it becomes obvious why the Touareg needed 15 inches of screen real estate.
There are numerous menu options, but one of our favourites is the one for the seat settings. Here, you can tweak the bolster and thigh support and ventilation. You also activate the massage functions here.
Setting the various parameters for the Individual drive mode is also done in the system.
And as if you didn’t have enough to explore and manage, the Touareg has a long list of driver assistance settings to check out as well.
From Adaptive Cruise Control to Traffic Jam Assist to Driver Alert, the system lets you have a say in how they all work (or don’t).
It took me a good 20 minutes to get the hang of the system.
The Touareg’s generous dimensions translate into plenty of lounging room for backseat passengers. These occupants will feel pampered, too, thanks to the extra two climate zones in the rear.
And for your belongings, there’s an 810-litre boot (rear seats up). If you’re moving house or going on a furniture-buying spree, fold down the rear seats and the capacity expands to a panel van-like 1800 litres.
Thanks to the air suspension, the Touareg’s “backside” can be lowered up to 40mm to make it easier to load/unload items into/from the cargo hold.
The Touareg’s substantial size is not to be underestimated. If this is your first time driving an SUV, you’re going to be intimidated.
Fortunately, the Touareg R-Line comes with All-wheel steering as standard. This function reduces the turning radius by one metre and provides more stability at high speeds compared to non R-Line variants.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels.
At higher speeds, they turn in the same direction as the front wheels.
I found myself brimming with confidence in tight carparks, knowing that I had an ace up my sleeve.
I also appreciated the Traffic Jam Assist feature. If you’re feeling too lazy to deal with traffic, leave the Adaptive Cruise Control on and Traffic Jam Assist takes over at lower speeds.
But be warned. For safety reasons, the system leaves big gaps between you and the vehicle in front. That means a lot of cars are going to be filtering into your lane.
Ride-wise, the Touareg’s air suspension keeps things very cushy, even with the standard 21-inch wheels.
You can firm up the ride quality by selecting Sport mode. But why would you? The Touareg excels at cosseting occupants, not carving up corners.
Although the Touareg can be driven hard, it really doesn’t make sense to. You’ll only end up upsetting your passengers. Cushiness aside, the Touareg can be pretty quick, too. Despite weighing over 1.9 tonnes, this huge SUV scrambles from rest to 100km/h in just 5.9 seconds.
Plenty of room for three adults, but the sizeable floor protrusion makes it awkward for the middle passenger.
Turbocharged 3-litre V6 doles out 335hp and 450Nm, but also only manages about half the stated fuel consumption.
THE TOUAREG R-LINE’S STANDARD FEATURES MAKE THIS SUV EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN IT ALREADY IS.
That’s actually enough to “shame” the driver of a Mk 7 GTI, which is half a second slower.
Responsible for this turn of speed is a turbocharged 3-litre V6 that kicks out 335hp (340ps) and 450Nm from just 1340rpm. The unit is relatively refined.
With all-wheel-drive and the air suspension’s ability to raise the vehicle’s ride height, you can do some off-roading in this SUV.
However, most Touaregs will only ever see a muddy knoll and perhaps some ponding when the weather turns really wet.
Given this SUV’s size and its numerous bells and whistles, it’s strange that the Touareg, even the range-topping R-Line variant, does not have a 360-degree camera to aid parking maneuvers.
Even smaller and less expensive SUVs, such as the Mazda CX-5, for have this feature. And yes, it makes parking a lot less tricky.
The Touareg’s abilities and equipment level are impressive. But I’m not getting the human-machine connection I want. For instance, I’d like more feedback from the helm, although this is tough given the tyres’ size.
Perhaps, as an enthusiast, what I want to feel is that these technologies (apart from the safety features) are for my pleasure and benefit. But for some reason, I feel that they’re there to make the Touareg even more compelling than it already is.
That said, the Touareg’s price is also attractive. At $321,400 with COE (at press time), it can be seen as a less expensive alternative to a Porsche Cayenne, which starts at $343,488 sans COE.
By the time you spec’d enough options to put a base Cayenne on a par with a Toureg R-Line, you’d have added another $100k to its price tag.
Touareg’s techno-fest is highlighted by its massive 15-inch infotainment screen and suite of advanced features.
ENGINE 2995cc, 24-valves, V6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 335hp at 5300-6400rpm
MAX TORQUE 450Nm at 1340-5300rpm
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select 0-100KM/H 5.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 11km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 208g/km
PRICE EXCL. COE $321,400 (after $20k VES surcharge)
STORY JEREMY CHUA PHOTOS VERNON WONG