How do you inject some excitement back into an ageing – but still excellent – platform? In the case of the 2017 Volkswagen Touareg Adventure, you add some lifestyle-focused sorcery, and perhaps most importantly, affix a sharp pricing structure.
You’ll know from reading any of our previous reviews, that CarAdvice respects the all-round ability of the Touareg. There are various grades across the model range that suit a broad suite of buyers, and regardless what you need your large SUV to do, there’s almost certainly a Touareg to fill the brief.
As is the case with Volkswagen, the Touareg delivers a sense of premium quality, insulation, driving dynamics and comfort that combine to make the pricing structure reasonable – and that’s before it went out and created the Adventure model we test here.
If you asked most buyers to rattle off a list of luxury SUVs that are capable off-road, names like Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee or Range Rover Sport would probably head the list. The Touareg often gets overlooked despite having proved itself across a broad range of tests over the many years it’s been in the game.
This Adventure model is directed straight down the barrel at buyers who camp, tow a boat or caravan or head into the National Parks semi-regularly and it has features that separate it from the regular Touareg. That competitive price point I mentioned earlier? $79,990 is the starting price for the Adventure, which makes it cheaper than a 180TDI Touareg.
You can read our pricing story for all the details, but standard equipment highlights include: roof racks, unique sand/gold exterior colour, 19-inch rims, bi-xenon headlights, Vienna leather trim, adaptive cruise control with front assist and adjustable air suspension.
The engine – a familiar 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 – generates 180kW and a thumping 550Nm, which helps it easily haul a rated maximum of 3500kg. Part of that towing/cruising equation, a vital part too, is the exceptional eight-speed ZF automatic, a gearbox that seems to work faultlessly with engines of all shapes and sizes.
The fuel tank holds 100 litres, so with the ADR claim of 7.4L/100km, you get a theoretical touring range of 1300km on the open road with 50km in reserve. On test, our Touareg used an indicated average of 9.5L/100km – largely around town.
Adjusting your driving position in the Touareg cabin is like pulling on a favourite old jumper – we’ve spent so much time testing them over the years, it’s a familiar place to be. The driving position is excellent – near perfect in fact – thanks to multi-position electric seat adjustment and electric adjustment for the steering wheel, too.
You get that tall driving position that allows you to be the master of all you survey, but you can also sit down into the cabin if you’re a taller driver. Electric seats that don’t drop down as far as those in the Touareg don’t make a lot of sense, and taller than average drivers will love the way the Touareg’s drop right down.
The cabin is beautifully appointed with quality materials, faultless panel gaps, and a sense of solidity throughout. The soft touch surfaces are also excellent, and in general there’s a sense of calm ambience once you’re closed in.
The Touareg gets heated seats, plenty of storage, huge door pockets that are material-lined so items don’t rattle around (why doesn’t every manufacture copy that?) and nicely laid out steering wheel controls.
In general, all the main control touch points are well designed, positioned cleverly and arranged so that they all make sense. The front seats are excellent in both shape and firmness, accommodating people of all heights in comfort. Long drives won’t be an issue in the Touareg.
The infotainment system is of a high enough quality that it doesn’t feel cheap, but as we’ve seen with other Volkswagen product of late, would benefit from the new VW system that provides Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The proprietary satellite navigation is solid, but the screen graphics and resolution are not as good as more modern units.
We found the touchscreen to be responsive and both Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming worked faultlessly. We don’t comment as often as we should on this front, but the audio response was fantastic, even when we cranked it right up, crystal clear sound with plenty of depth. There’s a 12V outlet in front of the shifter, and a single USB input and 12V inside the console bin.
Whether you’re a driver or passenger, there’s an airy feel to the Touareg’s cabin despite that aforementioned insulated feel. The large glasshouse area provides plenty of visibility for all passengers – even in the second row – such that it never feels dark. The front seat headrests are noteworthy too, in that they adjust fore and aft as well as up and down.
Moving back into the second row, it’s spacious enough but not as commodious as say an Audi Q7. The Touareg is a large SUV platform but not enormous inside, by any means. There is however, enough room for four adults. Rear occupants get air vents but no temperature controls and only a single 12V outlet, while the back door pockets are on the small side.
While the second row is spacious enough, we’d like it to offer more legroom than it does despite providing space for two adults or three children. Part of that equation are the backrests, which recline, although they don’t slide fore and aft. The seat bases, while not heavily sculpted, are comfortable enough with the squab being deep enough so that you can actually sit into it.
Back in the luggage section, there’s an electric tailgate, electric seat releases, a fully flat floor, tie-down hooks at the edges, decent lighting, a recessed takeaway bag hook, and a sturdy luggage screen that retracts and has multiple positions from all the way open to all the way closed.
There’s a 12V outlet and net cover back there too, and the electric hatch lifts up high enough to stand under and not bash your head. That’s a solid feature if you’re trying to load things in, in the rain.
Despite having been around a while now, the engine still feels like it has more than enough power on-road, pushing the Touareg up to speed effortlessly and with a minimum of diesel clatter. The torque delivery is strong too, right up to when it maxes out, meaning the ZF can work to best utilise that torque under all situations.
We know the eight-speed ZF is clever and the gear shift is smooth and precise, regardless of what you’re doing. It will allow the Touareg to crawl along in traffic smoothly (with none of the nastiness you find in DSGs for example), but also shifts sharply under full load when you mash the throttle too. You’ll be surprised how nimble the Touareg can feel when you want to get moving snappily and you can slice around town quite easily despite the heft.
I don't like stop/start in general and the VW system used here is a bit harsh especially on shut down, which is at odds with the otherwise uninterrupted sense of luxury. The whole vehicle can shudder when it activates, which just seems to grate with the refinement of every other aspect.
Part of being able to dart around so easily is the steering which is near perfectly weighted from a standstill right up to 110km/h on the highway. The solidity of it at speed is reassuring such that it never feels floaty, but conversely, it’s light around town at parking speeds too. The Touareg is very much of the more car-like brigade of SUVs when it comes to driving dynamics. It certainly doesn’t feel like a heavyweight.
We didn’t tow with the Touareg for this test, but its easy power delivery would make it a great touring tow vehicle for those of you with caravans, boats, track cars and the like. The 3500kg tow rating certainly lends itself to those pursuits.
The adjustable damping system is great, too. We found Comfort to be the best mode on-road and you can feel the difference between settings. Normal works well in the city too, and Sport firms the dampers right up.
In Comfort mode, the Touareg is utterly unruffled around town, and it simply cruises over the worst you can throw at it. There’s almost no sense inside the cabin of how poor the road surface is, which is a non-negotiable expectation from any luxury SUV. It feels solid too, not a single squeak or rattle inside the cabin.
Previous Touareg tests have indicated the big SUV can tackle the harsh stuff off-road too, and while this Adventure model doesn’t get low range, it does get an off-road mode and height adjustable suspension, which will help in most off-road situations outside the really hardcore stuff. A quick blast through some powdery sand with off-road mode engaged and traction control turned off, indicated the Touareg can blast through that kind of terrain without so much as a whimper.
So, is there life in the old dog still? It would appear so, and the Touareg isn’t just limping along either. The Adventure not only retains all the strong points we’ve sampled from Touaregs past, it strengthens its value case with some lifestyle focused accoutrements.
It appears there’s more than one dirt-tough capable luxury off-roader you should be looking at if you’re in the market. Few will offer the value of the Volkswagen Touareg Adventure.