Volkswagen Touareg 2011

Volkswagen Touareg Review

Rating: 8.0
$112,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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Lighter, faster, more efficient and much better looking: the new Volkswagen Touareg is destined to make an impact
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The new second-generation Volkswagen Touareg has arrived in Australia with prices starting from $62,990. While keeping all the things we loved about the first Touareg, the new one comes with a wide variety of technological and fuel-saving updates.

From the outside the new Volkswagen Touareg has been restyled to look more like the rest of the Volkswagen family with a definite and obvious similarity to the new Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Polo.

Although it sits closer to the ground than before, the new Touareg is bigger than the model it replaces. Measuring 4898mm long (144mm longer than previous generation), 1965mm wide (+37mm) and sitting 1732mm tall (+6mm or +16mm for 4Xmotion variant), Volkswagen has increased cabin space while keeping the overall shape relatively unchanged.

The new Touareg’s front-end is enhanced with restyled headlights and grille which give a more distinctive look. The updated rear-end makes do with more curvy tail lamps and pronounced twin-exhausts. Overall, the new shape is definitely an evolution of the old model as Volkswagen has played its styling on the conservative side. Even so, it does portray a sportier look than before.

Going by official sales figures, the Volkswagen Touareg has strong competition in Australia. In reality it’s not directly competing with the Japanese, but it’s also not on the same level as its Luxury SUV contenders (a category in which it’s placed).

The figures suggest it goes up against a wide and varied field of luxury SUVs from the Germans, Swedes and even the Brits. Since supply of the old model dried up some time ago, year-to-date the Touareg has been outsold by both its siblings: the upmarket Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne (which all share the same platform). So in a strange way, you will have more exclusivity owning a Touareg than you would a Cayenne!

Either way, there’s no doubt that Volkswagen Australia has plans to increase its market share with the new model.

In order to do that though, the new Touareg needs to appeal to buyers that want more than just a top of the range Ford Territory but are not willing to fork out the big bucks for a BMW X5. It also needs to persuade buyers away from the excellent but ageing Volvo XC90 and the mighty Land Rover Discovery 4. So how exactly does it differ itself, given it sits right in the middle of standard and luxury SUVs?

Although all Touaregs are capable of basic to moderate off-roading (more so if equipped with the 4XMotion four-wheel drive with low-range gear system), in reality not many will ever see the dirt. For that reason Volkswagen has omitted the low-range gears from all but one variant. The Touareg’s main drawcards are practicality, safety and efficiency.

To test the new Volkswagen Touareg, we spent a week with a Touareg 150TDI ($62,990) and another with a Touareg V6 FSI ($77,990). The base model diesel is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine that produces 150kW (at 4000rpm) and 400Nm of torque (2000rpm), while the petrol V6 gives you 206kW and 360Nm of torque.

Our Touareg 150TDI press car was equipped with the Driver Assistance Package ($5400), which adds adaptive cruise control with front assist and emergency brake function, plus lane assist.

The adaptive cruise control system can be set to follow the vehicle in front at a given distance up to a set speed (using two radar sensors). For example, it can be set to maintain a 50m distance from the car in front and go up to 110km/h. The system will automatically adjust its speed to the vehicle infront, slowing down and speeding up to match traffic (up to set speed).

It works all the way from maximum speed down to a full stop, so it can even be used in traffic. However if the Touareg is stopped for more than two seconds, the driver will need to re-engage the active cruise control – pressing the resume button on the steering wheel will get you another 15 seconds to move with traffic.

Although it sounds complicated, in reality the system is very handy and not that hard to use once you’ve got the hang of it. We used it on the highway from Brisbane to Gold Coast and didn’t have to touch the brake or the accelerator pedal for the entire 45-minute journey. Simply set your desired speed and the car will slow down, speed up, and pretty much make sure you don’t hit anyone. It can be pretty useful for those long drives, so long as you don’t fall asleep.

If there is a sudden emergency situation where another vehicle merges in front far too close for safety, the front assist system first provides a visual and audible warning to give you some time to back off. If that doesn’t happen it will give the brakes a gentle jab to slow you down, and if all that fails the system will go into emergency brake mode to reduce the severity of the crash. This gave us a bit of a shock when it sounded a loud audible warnings as we were trying to overtake and it thought we were getting too close for comfort.

You’re probably thinking, but won’t it steer for you too? Well, no, not yet. But it does half the job already. If you happen to wander out of your lane (without indicating) or attempt to merge into someone that’s sitting in your blind spot, the blind spot indicators in the mirrors will flash orange and the steering wheel will vibrate (much like how an aircraft gets a stick-shaker to warn of a stall). We found this to be a little too intrusive as the bright orange warning lights on the mirrors became a distraction at night and at times even made it difficult to look in the mirror (although you can dim the brightness, we couldn't figure out how).

Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and many other makes have had similar systems in place for quiet some time, with much more subtle implementations. We turned lane assist off within a few days.

Apart from the fancy driving assistance gadgets, standard across the Touareg range is Volkswagen’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. Mated to the 150TDI it provides smooth shifts and allows for start-stop technology. This means the Touareg can turn itself off when stopped and instantly turn back on when the time comes to drive away.

This helps save a good amount of fuel and is incredibly handy for traffic situations, with Volkswagen’s implementation being pretty good. When you come to a set of lights and stop, the engine will turn itself off, the second you let go of the brake pedal to go for the accelerator, it will turn itself back on. It does this so quickly you won’t even notice.

Even so, we would’ve liked to see the engine restart not just by monitoring brake pedal but also the steering wheel. If you happen to want to move the steering wheel when the car is in STOP mode, given the lack of power steering, it becomes rather difficult. Other makes have designed their start-stop technology to be responsive to steering movements as well as brake/accelerator pedals but this is not really a major issue. We found in the petrol V6 that the Bluetooth audio streaming was interrupted by the start-stop technology very frequently, however this didn’t seem to be as persistent in the 150TDI.

Power delivery from the V6 diesel is smooth but can at times be a tad laggy. This can be fixed if you decide to engage sport mode or simply work the accelerator pedal harder. The 150TDI does the 0-100km/h dash in nine seconds flat and uses 7.6L of diesel per 100km (this will go down to 7.2L/100km from MY12)

The petrol V6 is by and large the pick of the two if fuel economy is not important to you. It emits a very sporty sound and helps the Touareg sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds. It does this while drinking about 10.1L of 95RON (premium unleaded) fuel per 100km. You can also go for the higher spec V6 TDI models (same price as petrol) which provide 176kW (180kW from MY12) and 550Nm of torque. That results in the same 0-100km/h time as the petrol but fuel consumption of just 7.6L of diesel per 100km (down to 7.4 from MY12)

Ride and handling is pretty good even on rough surfaces and we found the cabin ambiance to be top notch thanks to very low amounts of noise coming in from outside.

Move inside and Volkswagen has done a good job of maintaining a more luxurious cabin over its Asian and Australian rivals. It’s no BMW or Mercedes, but it doesn’t cost as much either. Soft touch plastics are aplenty and there is an excessive amount of black used throughout the cabin. There is plenty of room in the front seats and the rear can accommodate three adults without too much hassle.

The satellite navigation system could be a little more intuitive but it does have full Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity. We couldn’t get our iPod or iPhones to work when plugged in via the provided cable, but they easily synched for wireless music streaming.

Overall it’s a very pleasant cabin to be in and you’d be inclined to go for the Sports interior package ($1000), which gives you a multifunction steering wheel with paddles, brushed aluminium dashboard and pedals plus scuff plates with aluminium inserts.

If the looks and the price have got you over the line, the next question for buying a Volkswagen Touareg is, which variant? The base model 150TDI actually uses the same engine as the mid-spec V6TDI but with a different tune.

The new Touareg currently on sale is the model year 11, which despite being the new-generation, is slightly different to the MY12 coming out later this year. It uses a little more fuel and has a little less power (V6 TDI) but not enough to be a concern. All new Touaregs are built at Volkswagen’s factory in Slovakia.

If your budget doesn’t stretch past $70,000, then the base model 150TDI ($62,990) with a few options is a pretty good choice. However, if you can spare another $15,000, the V6 petrol and V6 TDI (both $77,990) are excellent propositions as well. If off-roading means a lot to you, best to check out the Land Rover Discovery 4, or pay $82,990 for the Touareg V6 TDI 4xMotion.

As with all Volkswagens, safety is top-notch with the Touareg equipped with nine airbags as standard. It's also constructed with occupant protection as a high priority and has a 3,500kg braked towing capacity.

Volkswagen expects the vast majority of customers to go for one of the three diesel choices, which is a good indication that Australians are finally starting to get the benefits of diesel.

The Volkswagen Touareg is an excellent mid-point between the Asian and European offerings. It gives the technology, class and prestige of a European SUV but has a starting price low enough to entice new buyers into the brand.

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