Braving cold conditions, I jetted up to the NSW Southern Highlands to sample Volkswagen’s newest model addition – the new Volkswagen Touareg.

2007 V10 Volkswagen Touareg Exterior

According to Volkswagen, 2,300 new components have been developed for the new Touareg – ranging from front and rear end design, right through to electronic systems such as ABS Plus and active rollover protection. The new components also welcome a downward adjustment of pricing for the Australian market, which is good news for consumers.

The interior remains fairly familiar territory. Minor details, such as the seat design, instrument cluster and control knobs have changed to further improve user comfort. The Touareg still remains an incredibly roomy vehicle with enough space to easily accommodate five adults in comfort.

Outside, the Touareg has undergone some cosmetic changes. A totally new front and rear end design further enhances the Touareg’s stance on the road. Although the previous Touareg was by no means ugly, the new design brings it up to date and streamlines the vehicle.

As always, the Touareg remains a competent off-road vehicle – unlike some of its competitors. A low range gearbox, along with height adjustable suspension (standard on V10, optional on V6) allows the Touareg to venture into territory that most owners wouldn’t even dream of attempting. The 4WD track at Tugalong Station featured hair raising ascents and descents set to test all aspects of the Touareg’s 4WD systems.

One feature in particular that caught my attention was the ABSplus system. The philosophy of traditional ABS is to limit the locking of brakes; the system locks and unlocks the brakes up to 15 times per second in a bid to allow maximum control of the vehicle’s direction.

This normally doesn’t work well on loose surfaces as the ABS works overtime and stopping distance is therefore increased. ABSplus allows the brakes to lock for longer, giving the tyres a chance to dig into the surface to reduce braking distances by up to 20%. This is an invaluable feature for those who often drive off-road or on roads with loose surfaces – such as gravel, sand and mud.

Active rollover protection - yet another of the ground breaking safety features - can individually lock wheels in an attempt to rapidly swing the vehicle back onto all four wheels in the event of a rollover. If a rollover is imminent and it cannot be saved, the side and curtain airbags are deployed fractions of a second prior to the vehicle making rollover contact.

One of the other impressive - yet invisible - safety features is the brake primer. In wet conditions, the vehicle permits the brake pads to make slight contact with the rotor, in a bid to remove any liquid that can build up on the rotor whilst driving in the wet. This feature reduces braking distances by proving a liquid free rotor when emergency braking is required.

Potential Touareg customers have never been so spoilt for choice. Four models are available in the Touareg range – the R5 TDI, V6 Petrol, V6 TDI and V10 TDI (where TDI is techno-babble for turbo-Diesel). Pricing is $64,990, $74,990, $74,990 and $121,990 respectively for each model.

Under the bonnet, all engines perform exceptionally well. The R5 Diesel produces 128kW and 400Nm of torque. The V6 Petrol exhibits 206kW and 360Nm, whilst the V6 Diesel makes 165kW and an impressive 500Nm. The leader of the pack – the V10 Diesel – pumps out 230kW and an absolutely colossal 750Nm of torque! Fuel consumption is rated at 10.6l/100km, 13.8l/100km, 10.9l/100km and 12.8l/100km respectively.

Standard features across the range include: Rear fog lights; central locking; cruise control; power windows; power mirrors; auto dimming rear vision mirror; dual zone climate control; dust and pollen filter with air quality sensor; automatic headlights; 6-disc in dash CD player with 10-speakers; alloy wheels; front and rear parking sensors; electric seats; heated seats and leather seats (except R5 TDI). A 5-star EuroNCAP rating and 4-star child protection rating make this one of the safest 4WDs on the market.

Safety features included as standard equipment are: Driver and passenger front airbags; driver and passenger side airbags; front and rear curtain airbags; ABS brakes (with ABSplus); Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD); Brake Assist (BA); hill descent and hill holding functions; rollover sensors; engine brake control; Electronic Stability Program (ESP); permanent four wheel drive and engine immobiliser.

There has never been a better time to own what is potentially one of the best, versatile 4WDs on the market. With impressive looks, a raft of standard features and off-roading ability to put most of the competition to shame; the new Volkswagen Touareg is the perfect compromise between power, fuel efficiency and ability.

Oh, and keep an eye out for Volkswagen's new Touareg advertising campaign. It includes real footage of a bet involving two Volkswagen employees. One bet the other that the V10 Touareg could pull a full-sized 747 airplane...and it did!

- by Paul Maric