From the moment you climb aboard Volkswagen’s new flagship SUV, the Touareg, you know this is no mud-plugging workhouse. This is very much a luxury car.
From the “open pore” matt finish wood trim on the first car we tried, to the 730-watt Dynaudio sound system and award-winning ergComfort seats with massage functions, this third-generation car looks like a big step forward from the model it replaces.
Its large chrome-trimmed grille marks it out as the top of VW’s SUV tree, but it announces its status in a much more restrained way than its competition, which ranges from the Porsche Cayenne to the Bentley Bentayga, with which it shares a platform.
The new Touareg is wider, longer and lower than the last model, and its technology is pushing the envelope for a car of this type. The dashboard of the Innovision Cockpit consists of two large screens which abut each other. In front of the driver is a 12-inch screen which can show electronic dials or a full width sat-nav display.
The 15.3-inch central screen can be swiped or pinched like a smart phone to display and control the car’s various functions from sat-nav to infotainment, heating and ventilation etc. As a result there are very few buttons and they are on the steering wheel.
The system works very well, and the central sat-nav screen with Google maps is as clear and easy to follow as any I have used.
During darkness the Night Vision system uses 128 LEDs in each headlamp, some of which automatically switch on or off to either illuminate pedestrians or animals (which the system outlines in orange) or avoid dazzling oncoming vehicles.
When full beam is in use it is as if a curtain has parted and someone has switched on the sun, and in off-road situations its beam covers a full 180 degrees.
All cars at the Touareg’s international launch in Austria were 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesels with 286PS engines, eight-speed automatic gearboxes and four-wheel steering. Other options arriving in Autumn will include a 231PS diesel and a 340PS V6 petrol, and further in the future a 4-litre V8 diesel will join the range.
Despite being helped by four-wheel steering, which makes it slightly more agile at low speeds and reduces its turning circle, you are aware that this is quite a bulky car. There is a slight delay between pressing the throttle when stationary and anything much happening. But this car is about refinement rather than punch, and in that regard it works very well.
You can cruise in great comfort with very little mechanical noise or vibration and you could cover great distances without feeling much strain. The seats are very supportive and even the rears can be adjusted to provide either more bootspace or more legroom. There is no seven-seat version planned – probably to avoid competing with fellow VAG cousin, the Audi Q7.
The new Touareg seems to do everything with commendable restraint. It may be top dog in VW’s SUV line-up, but it certainly doesn’t shout about it.
Details: Volkswagen Touareg 286PS V6 TDI 4MOTION eight-speed auto
Top speed: 148mph
Combined mpg: 40.9 (claimed)
0-60 mph: 6.1 secs
Price: TBA. Starting around £49,000