With the new 190TDI, it’s now 10 grand more affordable to get into the fresh-faced, new-generation Volkswagen Touareg.
Whereas the outgoing Launch Edition wanted for almost prestige badge money for a fulsome premium experience, the 190TDI’s $79,490 list price represents a more genuine middle ground between mainstream and uptown large-SUV options.
Success, then, is surely down to how much upmarket depth and goodness have been maintained, or indeed lost, in the 190TDI’s champagne aspirations on a boutique beer budget. And the new barometer, at least in features count, is the equally new 190TDI Premium version that, at $85,490 list, effectively replaces the Launch Edition as the Touareg flagship.
On key features, there’s certainly nothing cut-priced about the ‘base’ version. It gets full LED lighting, 19-inch wheels, electric heated front seats, leather-appointed trim, 9.2-inch Discover Pro infotainment with sat-nav and smartphone mirroring, a powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, plus front and rear sensors with reversing camera and parking assistance.
No corners were cut with safety, with the entry variant benefitting from the Touareg’s ‘full’ suite that includes all-speed AEB with pedestrian monitoring, lane keeping with adaptive guidance, and both front and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
Arguably the Touareg range’s biggest drawcard, the lusty 190kW and 600Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, is fitted. No made-do four-cylinder stuff here.
The one-powertrain-fits-all premise means the 190TDI also benefits from the same eight-speed auto, clever torque-variable permanent all-wheel drive and smorgasbord of traction and drive-mode choices that made the Launch Edition an impressively satisfying on- and off-road experience.
But if petrol power is your thing, you’re plumb out of luck.
Where does the 190TDI lose out? The major difference is suspension, the base SUV fitting a passively damped steel-spring format instead of the Premium’s adaptive air-sprung design.
The high-spec version also adds 20-inch wheels, higher-grade exterior lighting and leather trim, and extra touches such as front seat cooling and massage functionality. In some eyes, a worthy six-grand splurge, if for largely superfluous extras.
For core goodness, then, the 190TDI lacks little. It’s handsomely presented, feels solid and well made, and has a genuine ambience of substance, outside and in.
The cabin is as roomy as its size intimates, though you sit low and the high window lines impart a cosy feel. It’s undeniably ‘Volkswagen’ in design and material choice, neat and classy, nicely restrained in overall effect, if techy and slick in key areas, such as the tidy displays and crisp screen resolution.
There’s no evident cost-cutting and some care in details, including the double sun visors and flocked tray and bin lining to prevent oddments rattling about. The so-called Vienna trim is a medium-grade leather that’s hardy, yet supple enough for the desired semi-premium effect.
You don’t get the bombastic Innovision panoramic digital display – conjoined 15.0-inch infotainment and huge 12.3-inch driver’s screen – but that’s no foul. You still get a huge digital speedometer and the 9.2-inch Discover Pro system does, bar a lack of DAB radio, cover essential bases. Just why infotainment is oriented so strongly towards the driver is a head-scratcher.
The five-seater-only format won’t win favour with big families or buyers chasing ‘just in case’ expandable occupancy. That space is (literally) occupied by Volkswagen’s ‘stretched’ Tiguan Allspace.
That said, row two is impressively roomy, smartly proportioned and covers all convenience bases: dual air vents, two USB ports, a 12-volt outlet, cupholders in the armrest, large door bins and retractable window screens.
The rear seat back has 40:20:40 split-folding capability for flexible stowage options, and the smartly proportioned 810L boot area converts to a fulsome 1800L when converted into a two-seater. Despite room under the floor for a full-sized spare, the 190TDI gets an inflatable, temporary-style wheel.
Despite being easily the most humble extrapolation of type, the undeniable ‘family’ DNA shines through in the core comfort, polish and refinement of the 190TDI driving experience.
What strikes you first is how quiet it is. There’s impressive environmental isolation from inside the cabin on the move, particularly the lack of extraneous noise. The V6 is impressively smooth and quiet, emitting a pleasingly muted thrum during part-throttle, around-town or highway driving. It’s certainly one of the most dignified and serene experiences I’ve had in a Volkswagen.
The powertrain is tremendously flexible in character; its seamless and unstressed nature at hauling around two tonnes of heft – not counting loved ones and luggage – presents a genuinely premium sense of occasion.
The thick layer of torque provides decent response that's mostly lag-free, the delivery is nice and linear, and the sheer thrust of the thing once you plunge the right foot is heady and immensely satisfying.
The form guide suggests the 190TDI will hit 100km/h from a standstill in 6.5 seconds – Golf GTI quick – yet return combined consumption in the mid-sevens. We found that for general driving its thirst for diesel is a couple of litres worse, though it’ll return sevens stretching its legs out on the open road.
The steel-sprung suspension errs towards a softer, more comfort-leaning ride and handling balance, and to generally positive effect. Between the pliant damper tuning and thick tyre sidewalls, any impacts over speed humps and potholes are smoothed over and isolated well from transmitting into the cabin.
In its ‘naked’ spec, the 190TDI doesn’t offer electronic damper control, nor can you option the tricky electromechanical active anti-roll smarts and the turning/stability-enhancing all-wheel steering of the R-Line package, available only on the Premium variant.
In short, the base Touareg doesn’t suffer by any significant measure for lacking these enhancements, though it does have a slightly floaty nature on-road and can wobble about a little with its slightly flaccid body control.
There’s no erring towards sporty pretensions here. The handling, steering character and straight-line stability aren’t as clear and connected as, say, Porsche’s Cayenne. And the net effect is that the Touareg doesn’t quite ‘shrink around you’ like some large SUVs wearing premium badges do. But press on in a corner and it’s more than dynamically capable, responsive and downright grippy, reassuringly safe transit by measure of driver cooperation and control.
Well-calibrated parking sensors and a large, sharp reversing camera are handy allies when parking in confined spaces, though it is a large rig, and it’s a little tricky to judge its proximity to other cars and objects. Because of this, the front and rear cross-traffic alert systems are particularly handy, and not nearly as trigger-happy and alarming as some other applications on the market.
In fact, in an age of increasingly heavy-handed safety hyperactivity, the Touareg’s protocols are reserved and well calibrated for the cosy confines of downtown commuting.
In short, the Touareg 190TDI hopes to rub shoulders with the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, and it certainly delivers on merit in areas that count most. What makes this cut-priced version particularly enticing is that its drawcard powertrain hasn’t been diluted at all, and reservations – warranted or not – about a lack of badge cachet are compensated for with its relatively friendly price.
Better yet, the Volkswagen is covered by a five-year warranty rather than the slimmer three years offered on many premium-badged alternatives.