This adventure began with a push from Mercedes. As the owner of a 2015 mid-life upgrade GLE 350d, I was at the top of the list for info on the new replacement models. Somehow things went bang quietly before stock was available, and my only choice in the showroom was the four pot 180kW without air suspension. This was a yawn-worthy experience.
In any case, I decided to shop Audi, BMW and surprisingly, the VW Touareg Launch Edition. Audi is in disarray and the local dealership was a basket case, so I didn't even do a test drive there. It was not much better news on the BMW front, either. Calls were not returned and the website was very confusing - sometimes I think it would be better to have three choices, "minimum fruit, comfy fruit or the whole orchard" instead of so many options.
What a relief it was to find the Audi cousin VW Touareg in Launch Edition format. For me it was close to the whole orchard at a reasonable price. A similar basket of goodies on the Mercedes would see me spending more than 50 per cent above the Launch Edition price.
The test drive was great. Most things were where they should have been. Coming off 22-inch spokies on the Mercedes, the Touareg was a little more floaty but in a good way. Every question I had regarding comfort and convenience was answered. The Touareg is certainly way more car-like to drive and the "hold" function disguises any potential turbo lag beautifully. Only on rougher bitumen surfaces is there significant noise inside.
The sound system did not match the super system in the outgoing Mercedes but it had better radio reception and was way easier to operate. Both the test vehicle and my eventual purchase came with the Vision package, which has the super-sized dash display with myriad touch functions. I still haven't mastered everything, but the voice commands are easy and it understands old man strine very well.
The quality leather seats have seemingly infinite adjustments and come with both heating and cooling functions, along with a huge variety of massage settings. Adjusting the steering wheel for all aspects is electric and easy. The included air suspension is extremely well sorted.
I would have liked extenders in the side sunvisors, and I would have preferred that the central control panel was tilted towards the driver, as some functions are a stretch and can be distracting. Some of the tactile controls are also a little too small and fiddly and take some getting used to.
The brakes are superb, and the gears are well sorted, except for the odd time when they hunt in low speed situations. But generally, power is readily available at all revs.
There is almost an absence of body roll on any corner and the cruise control works well. The biggest issue is that the system picks up peripheral obstacles in town situations, but you get used to it.
A five year warranty with five year roadside assist if you service at the dealer, and it costs $500 per annum for services over five years, if paid in advance.
At this early stage I am a convert.
NOTE: We have used a CarAdvice photo of the 190TDI Premium with this story.