Evolution rather than revolution, the revised Volkswagen Touareg remains an impressive all-rounder with plenty of appeal.
The 2015 Volkswagen Touareg might have been released with the most subtle of changes, but evolutionary improvement is no bad thing when the platform is already so strong. Always a solid performer both on- and off-road, we’re expecting the new Volkswagen Touareg to be even better than the outgoing model.
Updated nose and tail designs might be the most visible changes to the layperson, but some clever tweaks to the engines - namely bringing improved efficiency with them - are key to the new Touareg’s appeal.
Based on a platform that also underpins the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, it’s always surprised me that the Volkswagen Touareg hasn’t had a greater following in Australia, such is the quality of the chassis and drivetrain combination. The Touareg also makes a great tow vehicle if you need to haul a trailer around regularly, with a ute-bettering 3.5-tonne capacity.
The big SUV's challenges could have something to do with its pricing, which can’t be described as cheap - certainly not for a vehicle wearing a Volkswagen badge. You can read our pricing and specification breakdown for the 2015 Volkswagen Touareg here, but first let’s take a quick look at the changes.
The Touareg range has been cut down to three variants and, despite the bragging rights appeal of the flagship V8 TDI Touareg, we reckon we've got the smart money pick of the range in the mid-grade variant. The V6 TDI as tested here starts from $81,990 plus on-road costs.
Our test model has a few options, helping the price creep up a little - just in case 80 grand-plus wasn’t already enough. Metallic paint adds $1500, while the Technology Pack - including surround-view camera, folding side mirrors with auto-dipping when parking, memory settings for both front seats, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and push-button start and a 100-litre fuel tank - adds another $3500.
That takes the as-tested price up to $86,990 plus the usual array of on-road and dealer costs. There are driveaway deals on while this model is still fresh in showrooms, but post-promotion a Touareg with these options could see you parting with more than 90 grand to have it in your driveway.
Under the bonnet, there’s a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine that pumps out a smooth 180kW and 550Nm, which on paper should be more than enough to get the large SUV moving rapidly. The real world testing bears that point out, more on that later.
The V6 now gets a coasting function, which helps reduce fuel usage by effectively disconnecting the engine from the driveline when there’s no load on the throttle. Improved aero efficiency, lower rolling resistance tyres and stop-start engine technology play their part too in improving consumption. The stop-start can be annoying, laggy and slow to respond, so it was deactivated for much of this test drive. Regardless, the system is there and you can use it if you want to drop your fuel usage down as low as possible when in traffic.
With all the improvements taken into account, the Touareg uses a claimed 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres. On test, we used an indicated 10.7L/100km primarily driving around town, with only a short freeway run. According to Volkswagen, the Touareg as tested will scoot from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds. To put that into perspective, that’s only around one second slower than a Golf GTI.
With torque reaching its peak from a low 1750rpm, the Touareg is more spritely around town than you’d expect a large SUV to be. It gets up to speed quickly and never feels like its working too hard to do so. Freeway speed - and roll-on overtaking from 60, 80 or 100km/h - is dispatched with ease, such is the rich vein of torque on offer across the rev range. There’s a relaxed, long-legged sense to the way the Touareg cruises along the freeway. It seems built to cover long distances in comfort.
There’s no discernible lag when you need to get cracking off the mark either, with the turbo diesel cranking into life quietly and efficiently. There’s almost no diesel chatter to disrupt the experience and there’s a level of finesse about the way the Touareg’s engine works that will have passengers questioning whether it’s actually a diesel at all once on the move. There’s a distinct lack of wind and road noise up to freeway speeds too.
The engine’s broad strength is enhanced by the exceptional ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox that is standard across the range. Majority of shifts are smooth, regardless of road speed or engine load, and the quality of this conventional automatic leaves you wondering about CVTs and DSGs and their relative strengths and weaknesses. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the traditional automatic when it’s this well sorted. That said, we did notice some clunking at low speed when shifting between drive and reverse, during three point turns - something that we’ve never experienced with a ZF gearbox before.
Congested city arterials aren’t necessarily the strong point of a large SUV’s resume, but the Touareg is one of the most competent vehicles available for this kind of task. It is wide, and you’ll notice that factor on tight streets and in underground carparks, but it never feels cumbersome when you’re on the move - no matter how slow that might be.
On that point of exterior width, numerous CarAdvice team members remarked that they would appreciate auto-folding wing mirrors when the Touareg is locked. You can fold them electrically from inside the vehicle, but you need to remember to do that before you get out and lock the vehicle with the key fob.
Regardless of the road surface, the standard adaptive air suspension proved phenomenal. It offers several pre-set ride heights (a 147mm loading level; 197mm road level; 247mm off-road level; and 300mm extra-high level), and the system possesses the ability to iron out just about any imperfection, and it does so with amazing control. Even sharp, repetitive corrugations are no match for the Touareg in 'Comfort' or 'Normal' suspension modes, and harsh, deeper bumps in the surface are similarly no issue.
'Sport' mode lowers the Touareg down and firms up the ride, but there’s no harsh crashing or jarring through the chassis. The Touareg simply cruises along unfazed. Despite enjoying the sharper handling of the Sport setting we spent most of our time in Comfort mode.
Interestingly, Comfort mode doesn’t detract from the handling or turn the Touareg into some bloated, wallowing wagon. Its steering remains sharp enough, just with even more competent bump absorption compliance a step ahead of Sport mode.
We didn’t get to take the Touareg 'properly' off-road for this review, but it’s always been a capable performer in the rough stuff based on previous testing - certainly more capable than most owners will ever ask of it.
Those of you familiar with the existing Touareg’s interior will feel right at home. The high-riding seating position, extensive range of adjustability and relationship between the dashboard height and stubby bonnet ensure visibility is never an issue.
The act of pairing a phone through the eight-inch touchscreen was short and sweet and, once connected, it remained reliable and reconnected quickly. Call clarity was impressive from inside the vehicle and callers backed that up saying the Bluetooth system was crisp at their end too. Audio streaming worked well also, as did a direct iPod connection and the audio system delivers quality sound.
If price is the Touareg’s most visible issue in the market, second-row seating space is the number two concern for large SUV buyers. The tightness of the second row borders on criminal for a vehicle that is so physically imposing externally. I know two buyers personally who opted for an Audi Q5 over a Touareg, such is the compromised packaging of the Volkswagen's interior.
Its 580-litre luggage space is generous, but the Touareg really needs a more capacious second row to truly compete on a level playing field in this segment. On top of that, there's no third-row seating.
There’s no doubt the Touareg remains a genuinely competent, comfortable and impressive all-rounder in the luxury large SUV class - a class that is becoming more and more competitive every year. And it’s that increasing competition that means the Touareg’s issues are more apparent than they otherwise might be. Space - a premium consideration at this end of the scale - is simply tighter than it should be.
And while the Touareg is a luxury SUV, it is still a Volkswagen and should be priced accordingly. Badge credibility delivers serious cache at this end of the SUV market and the Touareg can’t trump certain brands in that regard.
So it isn’t perfect, but rather than wondering why buyers should be spending more, perhaps we should question why premium buyers aren’t spending less? If you’re in the market for an Audi Q7 or a Porsche Cayenne, don’t count the Touareg out of your considerations. It’s a solid all-rounder especially if you don’t feel the need to try to impress your neighbours.
Click the Photos tab for more 2015 Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI images by Mitchell Oke.