Whereas it’s largely understandable why Volkswagen never introduced its grand saloon, the Phaeton, on the local market, we’ve been perplexed why the Touareg doesn’t sell in greater numbers. The Volkswagen brand is not perceived as a logical fit for the luxury sedan market, where even the A8, produced by the Wolfsburg brand’s premium-positioned Audi sibling, underperforms. Premium SUV buyers have – until now – been exposed to one and a half generations of the Touareg which, in contrast with the Phaeton, has no pretensions to the state of the art – perhaps the off-roader’s just gone about its business a bit too quietly…
In response, cosmetic updates to Touareg v2.2, though subtle, ramp up the Volkswagen’s kerb appeal handsomely. Both rear bumpers are revised and are complemented by expansive chromed grille sections, new bi-xenon headlamps with cornering lights and LED lighting elements all-round. The unit we evaluated was equipped with a chrome trim package and silver roof racks that contrasted with the elegant Moonlight Blue metallic finish and 10-spoke 18-inch rims.
And, as it is so often in life, when endowed with a more purposeful appearance, more of your talents become apparent. We were afforded the opportunity to evaluate a 3,0 TDI V6 Luxury model during a long-haul return journey and found the Touareg particularly adept at touring. The turbodiesel powerplant is not only sufficiently torquey and refined under load, but its feels well calibrated with the eight-speed transmission. Overtaking acceleration, especially between 100 and 140 km/h, is impressive, even though the Volkswagen’s throttle response seems imprecise in cut-and-thrust driving and the steering, albeit well weighted, feels a trifle numb at centre. The ride quality delivered by the optional air suspension (R35 000) is lumpy at low speed, but at freeway velocities and in serpentine passes the body control is fluid and forgiving to a fault.
Up to this point, the Touareg does not give an inch to its luxury SUV rivals, and the interior feels well made and suitably upmarket too – if somewhat lacking a sense of occasion owing to a plethora of derivative switchgear. Adornments of brushed aluminium-look trim and piano-black inserts contrast tastefully with the textured soft-touch plastics and smartly stitched leather upholstery. The cabin is a study in occupant comfort, with 14-way electrically adjustable seats (with lumbar support and memory function for the driver), a 6,5-inch touchscreen that’s a pleasure to use, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control and heated, folding side mirrors. The optional panoramic sunroof is expansive, as it should be at R13 500, while other luxuries such as adaptive cruise control, lane and side assist, a reverse camera and power tailgate closing/opening are regrettably extra-cost items (especially in the case of the latter two).
Meanwhile, the Touareg acquitted itself well on gravel routes and the patchwork country roads of the Eastern Cape during its two-week trek; the SUV’s on-road demeanour remained palpably measured and composed, and what’s more, it returned an average fuel consumption of 8,6 litres/100 km, which included sections of spirited driving, and even used a meagre 7,5 litres/100 km when CAR’s road-test assistant evaluated the 3,0 V6 TDI Luxury on our standard road-test fuel route.
As ever, buyers who consider a model from the flagship range in Volkswagen’s local line-up as a potential purchase will need to decide whether the newcomer’s restrained personality and relatively demure image resonate with theirs – or not at all. Irrespective of what personal views might be, the Toureg 3,0 V6 TDI Luxury is one of the best large SUVs on the market because, given the starting price of R796 500, a prudently specified example would a veritable bargain.
Engine:3,0-litre, 6-cyl, turbodiesel
Power:180 kW at 4 000 r/min
Torque:550 N.m from 2000 r/min
0-100 km/h:7,8 seconds
Top Speed:218 km/h
Fuel Consumption:7,2 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:5 years/100 000 km
Notes:*According to Volkswagen South Africa