There’s an old jacket in your wardrobe that you love wearing. It’s dated, but still classy, and you know that it won’t be long before you need to throw it out and get a new one. The automotive equivalent of that jacket is the Volkswagen Touareg.
Released in 2002, the Volkswagen Touareg was updated in 2011 with the current model. It was barely a quantum leap forward from the original, but enough of a change to justify running it for another five or six years.
Today, the Touareg is one of the oldest vehicles in the Volkswagen range. Now, with a new generation on the horizon, we thought it was the perfect time to get behind the wheel of one of our favourite variants, the Touareg V6 TDI, which sits in the middle of the Touareg range.
Starting from $67,990 (plus on-road costs), the Touareg range offers three variants — the 150TDI, the mid-spec V6 TDI from $81,990 (plus on-road costs) and the top-specification V8 TDI R-Line at $114,990 (plus on-road costs).
From the outside, it still feels and looks prestige. Just like that jacket, it’s stylish and still feels quite modern. LED daytime running lights cut a line through traffic, while the wide body and car-like stance pronounce it further amongst other SUVs.
Chrome highlights and 20-inch alloy wheels give the car a premium feel, while the 275mm wide tyres on all four corners help improve its footprint on the road.
It’s inside the cabin that it all starts to feel a little dated. The layout looks quite familiar, with all the dials and gauges in the same places. While it is dated, the layout is quite clever, bucking the trend of a number of other manufacturers that are trying to digitise and consolidate the car’s functions.
The vehicle’s four-wheel drive controls are located at the bottom of the centre stack, while the climate controls live beneath the infotainment unit.
The 8.0-inch infotainment unit features a colour touchscreen and manages the vehicle’s satellite navigation, audio and telephone functions. The unit is quick and easy to use, but can be frustrating at times when attempting to perform tasks in succession — such as switching between the telephone and navigation.
Voice recognition is also available, but we found it to be a bit clumsy and ‘last generation’ — just like that jacket.
Like a lot of Volkswagen products, there are only a few options, most of which are bundled into packages. The Touareg is no exception with only four options available to choose from.
The $5400 driver assistance package comes with low-speed AEB, blind spot monitoring, heated steering wheel, active cruise control and lane departure warning.
The $3500 technology package comes with 360-degree cameras, heated steering wheel, keyless entry and start, automatic dipping and folding door mirrors and electrically adjustable steering wheel.
Also on offer is metallic paint for an additional $1500 and a panoramic glass roof for $3000.
A lot of these features should really be included as standard on the Touareg, given a number of them come standard on the Touareg’s price-comparative competitors.
There is a heap of legroom both in the first and second rows. Additionally, the bolstering on the driver and front passenger seats is perfect for an extended drive. It’s almost as if Volkswagen took the seats out of a regular passenger car and increased comfort to cater for long drives.
Getting into and out of the Touareg is also easy, despite its appearance as a tall SUV. The configuration of the first and second rows makes for easy entry and egress courtesy of wide door openings and low positioned seats.
It’s the same story in the boot, which offers 580 litres of storage capacity, accessed by an electrically assisted tailgate.
Powering the V6 TDI Touareg is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 180kW of power and 550Nm of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Touareg can slingshot from standstill to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds — not bad for a diesel SUV that weighs almost 2200kg.
Almost as surprising is how quiet the engine is. It’s started with a quick turn of the key and can barely be heard at idle. The noise picks up as the revs increase, but it’s only a noise that sounds befitting of a sporty diesel engine.
Equally as impressive is the fuel consumption, which sits at 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. This is partly thanks to a coasting feature, which disengages the gear when the throttle is lifted and a stop/start function.
Fitted standard to the V6 TDI is dynamic air suspension with adaptive dampers. The vehicle can switch between three suspension modes — comfort, normal and sport, each offering a unique ride height and suspension firmness.
In comfort mode, the Touareg offers an incredibly supple ride that soaks up everything thrown at it. It responds well to sharp bumps and tackles recurring wave bumps with little fuss.
When switched through to sport mode, the ride lowers and the suspension firms, transforming the Touareg’s character. The air suspension range varies from 160mm in its lowest setting to 300mm in its highest off-road setting.
Unlike other vehicles in the Volkswagen range, the Touareg still uses a hydraulically assisted steering rack. While it can be somewhat heavy at low speeds, it offers plenty of feedback and helps the vehicle err on the side of sporty when you come across a set of corners.
Throttle response is generally good, but can be hindered by turbocharger lag at times. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is very smooth and is normally accessible in the correct gear. It’s only let down at times when getting on the throttle when coming out of the vehicle’s coasting mode.
When the engine is in form and on boost, the 550Nm of torque offers a pleasant push in the back as the speed piles on. It’s matched with a meaty engine note that is often missing from diesel SUVs.
If you’re planning on heading off-road, the Touareg has most bases covered. An electronic differential lock teams with Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system and an off-road mode.
The off-road mode uses a custom electronic stability control setting that allows greater wheel slip and in some instances allows the wheels to lock for longer to dig into loose surfaces like gravel.
An off-road setting selected for the air suspension allows the car to be lifted to 300mm, allowing even greater ground clearance to get over larger obstacles.
Around the city, the Touareg impresses with excellent visibility outside the cabin, large wing mirrors and a tight 11.9-metre turning circle. It is let down by a poor quality reversing camera, which fails to offer clear visibility — especially at night.
Despite its age, we are huge fans of the Touareg. If you have your heart set on the Volkswagen Touareg, now’s the perfect time to buy. Great deals can be had that include extra warranty, drive away pricing and free servicing.
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