Volkswagen Touareg is named after the Tuareg people in the Sahara, known for their resilience and endurance. The current (second generation) car, made in Bratislava, is due for replacement next year. It has been around since 2010 and shares the platform and much of the tech with the Porsche Cayenne.
The world has shifted away from passenger cars in favour macho-minded activity vehicles collectively called SUVs. This is perhaps why Touareg’s metalwork looks as solid as a Sherman tank. It can easily be pictured towing a horse float, boat, or god forbid, a caravan.
A 2015 upgrade saw Volkswagen graft on that year’s latest corporate face to brighten up the front of the Touareg. It has standard LED DTRLs, fancy Bi-Xenon auto headlights, and round the back, LED taillights. For highway driving there are foglamps front and back. These are the super annoying bright lights drivers turn on and forget to turn off. Front fog lights have static cornering which will illuminate sideways during turns.
Unlike most other Volkswagens, the rear tail gate uses a rubber button to open instead of grabbing the VW badge. The button and reversing camera sit under a ledge on the surface of the hatch which leaves them open to being covered in schmutz.
19” Moab alloy wheels in the “Monochrome” make the SUV look slightly more menacing than it otherwise would. There is still touch of assassin-in-a-dinner-suit elegance about the style which appeals to me as much now as it did when it was released.
Character lines have been kept to a minimum. It makes the design appear simple an uncluttered. There is a graceful sweeping waistline allowing for plenty of glass. It makes for decent all-round vision despite the considerable size.
The front bumper looks forceful, yet simple. Strong angular supports in the lower bumper have a “don’t mess with me” stance.
Like most SUVs, the Volkswagen Touareg is not an off-roader in the true sense of the word, though you could certainly tackle a little light work in the gravel if you wanted to.
Interiors are where drivers are going to spend most of their time with a car.
The cabin has a peaceful ambience created by restrained yet tasteful design. Subtle curves, quality finishes, and good ergonomics, make the driver’s seat a nice place to be, especially in the highway.
Volkswagen says the interior is luxurious, but although it feels and looks like good quality, luxury is not the word I would use.
Touareg’s seats have power adjustment with two tone Vienna leather upholstery. The “monochrome” edition has adaptive cruise but misses out of the thumping audio system of the top model.
There is plentiful storage with a bin above the audio system, 4 cup holders, and a bottle holder in each front door. The glove box is chilled and has a separate sunglasses holder. There is a drawer under each front seat for knickknacks, and cubbies in the rear.
Driver instruments have conventional dials with an MFD (multi-function display) LCD between them. Menus in the MFD access features such as the invaluable digital speedo, as well as trip and car settings. You can flip between menus using the steering wheel buttons.
There are further vehicle settings in the centre infotainment screen. Here, you’ll also find SatNav, audio, climate, and media interface controls. It is one of Volkswagen’s older systems and does not include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. You can stream music through Bluetooth and USB cable.
As always, there is handsfree through “hey Siri”. On-board voice control was uncooperative in our test car but was not missed. In all the years I’ve been testing cars, I’ve never used in-vehicle voice control for anything other than test purposes. CarPlay and Siri have the benefit of the interwebz. Vehicle voice control relies on data stored locally on-board, and as such is almost always useless.
A web-based hive mind always trumps a few gig in a car, unless of course there is no cell in range.
- Cruise control
- 8” touch screen
- Bi-xenon headlights, LED tail lights and DTRLs
- Coasting function
- Rear Luggage net, elastic straps, reversible mat for cargo bay
- Power seats and mirrors
- Auto headlights and wipers
- Hill start assist
- Electric parking brake with Brake Hold function
- Power tail gate
- Smart access/start (keyless entry and start)
- DVD drive
- Shopping bag hook
Drive and Engine
Steering is hydraulic and feels heavy at first. You quickly get used to it, and you find you can fling the 2146kg monster around like a toy. Remember, you can only have automated parking if you have electric power steering.
There are 3 engines in the range, a 150 and 180kw V6, and a 250kw V8 with an earth-moving 800Nm of torque.
Our 150kW engine never felt underpowered, and the leisurely 8.5 second 0-100 sprint eschews the fact that Touareg is huge. Once upon a time SUVs had a well deserved reputation for being gas guzzlers but that is no longer valid. In fact, some SUVs are more economical than family cars of a similar size.
Volkswagen clings valiantly to some hope of Touareg ever venturing off-road. They claim the approach/departure angles of 25° (27 ° in air suspension models) and ramp-over angle of 20° (22° in air suspension models) is just the ticket for scaling viewing mounds at polo matches in a single bound.
You can tow up to 3,500kg remembering you can’t then load another 2,000kg inside the plucky VeeDub.
Driving is a floaty experience even on the standard sprung suspension. The limo-like ride is more akin to an airport car service, and, that is just the way I like it. The bigger the wheels, the less compliant the ride. That’s something to remember when ticking options boxes like a man-possessed.
The really cool stuff like active lane assist, and side assist are only available in the upper models so you’ll need many more shekels if you can’t live without those features.
- Roll over sensor
- 9 airbags
- Side impact protection
- ABS, EBD, Brake assist
- Multi-function brake
- Electric brake with hill hold and brake hold
- First aid kit (accessory)
- 3 point belts for all passengers
- 3 child seat anchor points and 2 Isofix point on outer rear seats.
- ANCAP rating not tested since 2004
Emergency auto braking and steering assist isn’t available in the base models which is a shame. The last safety rating for Touareg was 2004 and does not apply to this car.
- Quality ride
- Ample space
- Smooth engine and auto
Not So Good Bits
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Slightly outdated interior despite excellent ambience
- Moody voice control
- Aging architecture and interior
Touareg is bloody good-looking. You sit high and feel like the king of the road. The cabin has a faint whiff of gentlemen’s club that hasn’t been renovated. The new, cutting-edge model, is due next year and was previewed at the motor show in China recently.
If I was reviewing Touareg in isolation, the story would be a different one, but because it is up against stiff competition, it feels lacking in mod cons. Any model at the end of its cycle is in the same boat. Buyers however, won’t care. They want the most bang for their hard-earned buck.
Although I love the look and feel, I’d be more inclined to buy a Kia Sorento which is cheaper and has more stuff. Sure, it doesn’t have the same feel as the Volkswagen, and that matters to some badge-motivated buyers.
The new model is related to the Porsche Cayenne/Panamera, Audi A7/Q7/Q8, Bentley Bentayga/Continental/Flying Spur, and the Lamborghini Urus. Such is the reach of a multi brand that platforms, engines, suspension and other mechanicals are shared around like phone numbers at a swinger’s party.
I’d either wait for the next model, or the inevitable runout of the current model.
Facts and Figures: 2018 Volkswagen Touareg Monochrome
Engine: 3.0L V6 turbo diesel, 150kw/450Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Warranty: 3 yrs
Safety: Not yet tested
Price: From $74,990