2019 Volkswagen Touareg Review
Paul Horrell’s 2019 Volkswagen Touareg Review with interior, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL The big Touareg looks glitzier now and has a menu of high-tech extras. Unfortunately, especially without some options ticked, the drive is a bit ordinary
2018 Volkswagen Touareg Specifications (Europe)
Price N/A Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine 3.0L V6 diesel Power 210kW at 3500-4000rpm Torque 600Nm at 2250-3250rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive all-wheel drive Body 4878mm (l); 1984mm (w exc mirrors); 2193mm (w inc mirrors); 1717mm (h) Turning circle 12.2m Towing weight 3500kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 2070kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 75 litres (opt 90) Spare Space saver Thirst 6.6L/100km combined cycle
THE TOUAREG has always had an unusual position. Its shares its roots with some very sophisticated luxury SUVs, but it can also be had in more of a workhorse spec that puts it up against some of the smarter members of the utility SUV crowd. The chrome-heavy front end gives a clue that the new generation is aiming more to the luxury end of the spectrum.
What is the Volkswagen Touareg?
It’s longer and wider than ever, meaning it’s got as much rear legroom as most of us would need, lots of width for three-abreast seats, and a colossal boot. What it doesn’t have is seven seats, not even as an option.
Because the new platform has significant aluminium instead of steel, it manages to be lighter than before, to the benefit of economy and hauling ability – payload (including the people and fuel) is now up to 855kg.
It shares its platform with VW’s range of SUVs that doesn’t just take in the Audi Q7, but goes all the way up to the Bentley Bentayga. And sure enough, this has brought some really spangly options to the price list. How about night-vision, active anti-roll chassis, four-wheel-steering, semi-autonomous driving and a set of cockpit screens the size of a decent greenhouse?
The test car has the big screens and a head-up display, but the mechanical spec is more real-world, with the standard coil suspension, no rear-steer, and a V6 diesel engine.
What’s the interior like?
First the theatre of walking up to it. That big chrome monoface – grille and lights all as a unit – certainly makes an impression. Unlock and you get an animated welcome from the strafing indicators, plus a barrage of different LEDs doing their lightshow dances. Behind it all is a bulk of steelwork with the sort of deeply-punched crease lines we’ve come to expect from VW.
The front seats are big thrones, adjustable for any body to find a decent driving position. The ones on the test car have optional massage function and electrically powered adjustable side bolsters for the cushions and backrest independently. Awesome. They’re controlled, as these things tend to be these days, by a series of animated graphical menus on the big central screen.
It’s hardly economy-class out the back. The bench is easily wide enough for three adult backsides, and the space enough plenty for the attached six legs. (Not so much as the Bentley, since you ask, as that has a longer wheelbase.) The up-spec Touareg versions give a/c with two independent rear zones as well as two up front.
The boot also gains by the car’s huge width. It’s 810 litres, plus a big underboot compartment that held, on the test car, a collapsed spare and air pump. There’s also tons of storage around the cabin.
The Touareg’s cabin material quality and finish used to be a thing of wonder, because there were few luxury SUVs when it launched. Now all the premium brands are at it. The Touareg hasn’t moved on far enough, so some of the materials around the lower dash feel pretty ordinary by today’s standards. It looks good at night though, with many of its contours picked out by LED backlighting.
For real wow factor, then, you need the version with the so-called Innovision cockpit. This mates a 12-inch TFT driver display to a 15-inch centre touchscreen packing 1920 by 1020 pixels.
The operating system takes a bit of getting used to. But because the screen is so darned huge, it’s possible to set it up with shortcuts and a series of mini-tiles that give the info you want. Mostly the display is uncluttered because the virtual buttons appear only when a proximity sensor sees your finger approaching.
Usual glass-cockpit moans apply though. Firstly the screen is so big it’s hard to accurately jab onto the button you want. Second, some things are too deep in the menus – for instance tone controls for the audio. Third, it soon gets covered in messy fingerprints. At least it does if you’re as greasy as I evidently am.
The system has four USBs, a wireless hotspot, and inductive charging mat. You’ve all the usual choice of inputs – USB, CarPlay, Android, Bluetooth, DAB, radio, SD card. The top version has a hybrid radio system that uses both web radio and DAB, seamlessly switching between depending on available signal.
The standard stereo serves up a pretty powerful and vivid sounds.
Basic-spec Touaregs get a slightly smaller screen with most of the same abilities, including connected apps. But they have a set of actual buttons to control the climate. I’d be happy with that.
With all this glass on the dash, it looks like the centre air vents have been relegated to a position where they can aim only at your belly button. In fact there’s a diffusing grille on top of the dash. I found the cabin climate nice and balmy even as the temperature soared to 31 degrees. Yup, that’s cool by outback standards but I’m a pale Pom and it was hot for London.
The head-up display option is crisp and clear, and as comprehensive as any.
What’s it like on the road?
The launch engine in Europe is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, mated to the familar 8-speed autobox. It’ll figure in the Oz lineup too. The engine is a renewed one, meeting Euro 6 emissions rules through AdBlue exhaust fluid injection – you need to add 12 litres of the stuff every 10,000 km or so.
We tried the same engine in the Audi A8 and A7. It’s smooth and quiet when you’re using it gently, but in the Touareg it voices a sharp rattle as you dig deeper into the performance.
But performance is certainly there for the taking. The torque figure of 600Nm results in really useful acceleration, even well beyond 100km/h. It’s hard to see that it’ll be too badly crippled by a trailer.
But travelling unladen, the autobox is annoying, being inclined to shift too often. So if you just want to gain say 5km/h to do a clean merging lane change on a freeway, it’ll often change down even if you’ve just tickled thee pedal. That’ll likely give more acceleration than you want, making small speed changes difficult to dish out.
I suspect the the box has been calibrated so eagerly because beneath it all is an engine that, despite its strong torque when the turbo has spooled up, does show annoying lag below about 2500rpm. You feel it most departing from junctions: the Touareg pauses, gathers itself up, then just as traffic bears down on you, it shoots forward and slams your head back. You have to adapt your inputs.
Steel coil springs are used in the base suspension. On this undercarriage the Touareg doesn’t feel too luxurious. The ride has sharp, percussive edges, even at town speed, and on rural roads there’s too much side-to-side rocking if one wheel goes over a bump and the opposite one doesn’t. This is a result of stiff anti-roll bars, set up that way to check cornering roll.
Sure enough in smooth bends it does track tenaciously and roll little. The Germans call this sporty, and indeed the steering is precise if low-geared, but it’s also short on feedback. Add some bumps to the bend and again you’re being jostled around. Overall then, not much fun or sportiness. But it is stable and trustworthy. Brakes are reassuringly firm and strong too.
However, the Touareg can be specified with various trick suspension systems that might ease its troubles. First is air suspension, which should be able to soften the ride unladen, while still coping with the duress of cargo or trailering. It’ll also jack the car up for better off-road clearance.
Adaptive anti-roll is also available, a system that does a great job on the Bentley Bentayga. This decouples the anti-roll bars when the car’s running straight, which should remove that side-to-side rocking. They’re also decoupled for off-roading, to give better wheel articulation. But they firm up in bends to keep the car from leaning over.
Finally there’s a four-wheel steering option. Like nearly all such systems, it steers the rear tyres in the opposite sense to the fronts at low speed, helping manoeuvrability. Going faster they instead go crabwise, the same as the fronts (but to a lesser degree), making things more stable.
Back to the spec I drove. The 255/45 20 tyres kick up a fair bit of noise on coarse surfaces, undermining what’s otherwise a pretty quiet cruise. All-in, the Touareg certainly doesn’t have the hush of the related Audi Q7.
Off-road, the Touareg offers as standard a 500mm wade depth, rising to 580mm with air suspension, which has an 80mm (extra) off-road height setting. An optional off-road pack adds underbody protection plates, tow eyes, not to mention a 90-litre fuel tank. It has separate traction-and-powertrain modes for snow, gravel and sand. You won’t find a low box though. This is no Discovery.
What about safety features?
No independent crash tests have happened yet. But the Touareg is closely related to the Audi Q7, which does very well. It scored 94 percent for protection of the people inside during the various EuroNCAP (equals ANCAP) impacts, and also got strong marks for the effectiveness of the electronic safety systems.
Standard on the Touareg are is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), including Front Assist, radar sensor controlled distance monitoring system, City emergency braking system, cruise control and speed limiter. Though they weren’t working on the test car. Muck on the sensor? Couldn’t see any.
Also side blind-spot warning. Plus lane keeping assistance. That was also not working on the test car… but it wasn’t a camera fault because the standard traffic sign recognition was fine. This is a camera controlled system that reads not just speed limit signs but such as sharp-bend warnings and no-overtaking.
Wade into the options and you can go for a traffic-jam assist system that works up to 60km/h, steering and braking and accelerating the car with your supervision. (Well it will if the sensors are working…) There’s also a front-warning system that checks for crossing traffic as you pull out of a junction. Also optional is a night-vision by thermal camera.
The Touareg also has available adaptive LED headlights, using 128 LEDs per headlight. It shapes the beam around other traffic, and focusses it on different distances and angles, depending on inputs of speed, cornering info from the steering wheel angle, a windscreen camera and even satnav data. Top-end modern headlights really are a safety aid at night.
So, what do we think?
The Touareg is expensive for a VW, but looks like value for a posh SUV. The interior and tech are impressive, and it’s a capable and rapid piece of kit. But the dynamics, with the basic coil-sprung chassis, lack the final polish. There’s potential here, but we’d want to try more versions on Oz roads before being sure.