Up where it belongs
Virtuozity tries out the latest version of Volkswagen’s ever successful Touareg to see how it has risen to new levels of refinement
It seems incredible to think that Volkswagen entered the SUV market more than 18 years ago with the Touareg. The brand had long resisted jumping into the 4×4 segment, but finally relented in a bit of style. With saloon car traits and a handsome exterior, the awkwardly named SUV sold in decent numbers and soon became a huge success for the German brand despite their late arrival at the party.
But amazingly, despite being launched way back in 2002, there have only actually been three generations of Touareg. The first and second generations both ran for around eight years each, which is pretty long for a model in the modern car industry. Clearly, VW were more than happy with their initial work. But in the fast-moving world of the automakers, by 2018 the second generation was in need of a more modern replacement. Enter the third generation Touareg.
But before delving into the car itself, first a bit of linguistics. In case you’re wondering, the name comes from the nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara Desert and is pronounced twar-egg. And no, VW didn’t spell it wrong. It can actually be spelt either way, depending on if you use the French version or the literal one. Either way it could never be accused of rolling easily off the tongue.
But back to the car, the latest version is, as you’d expect, extremely well thought out and hits all the right design cues right on the button. Launched in 2018 VW included its current design style, which is now shared across all its model line-up. It works well on the Touareg and brings it right up there with its many rivals in the SUV market.
The front looks wider and more aggressive than previous models, as well as a lot more premium. Gone are the curves of before, replaced with strong, straight lines and some very innovative lighting. It’s the same story at the rear. Smooth, clean lines give it a really tight look, far removed from the rounded rump of the first generation nearly two decades ago.
It’s a really tight, neat design, and really raises the Touareg up a few steps on the SUV luxury ladder. That’s a bit of a surprise when you consider that both Audi and Porsche are owned by VW. There’s a real danger of the Touareg doing a bit of a Cinderella and taking pride of place at the ball.
But perhaps what is even more surprising is the interior. From the driver’s seat it’s possibly one of the most futuristic car interiors to be found at this moment in time. Called Innovision, it feels like an electric concept car, but this is something you can buy, drive and enjoy. Not to mention take to the mall, pick up the kids or head off to the beach for a picnic in.
What feels like a huge wrap-around TFT screen is actually only a 12.3-inch display. But the way it has been designed and arranged makes it feel more in common with a space shuttle control station, than the driving position of a modern SUV.
By joining it to the main gauges and using a seemingly endless swath of black, the whole thing seems as one. So, you get the impression that the display is actually about twice its actual size. All this is finished off with nightclub-style mood lighting, that gives it a lovely feel, especially at night.
One downside is that all this tech makes it actually quite complex to control. Altering the chassis set up is fairly easy. Making a phone call, not so much. To be fair you probably need a few weeks behind the wheel to really understand the functionality of the car, as there’s a lot to play with. This is a car you grow into rather than understand from the get-go.
The front seats are extremely comfortable and there’s a fair bit of room in the rear. There’s also a huge panoramic roof above the occupants, so the cockpit feels very spacious. The trim and leather all go beyond what you would perhaps expect from a VW. But it’s the dashboard that really steals the show.
To drive it feels very automated, so this won’t be one for driving purists, but it’s fast, smooth and elegantly capable of whatever you ask of it. The 3.0 litre V6 pushes it along with ease, and it insulates you from the road well. Some of the safety functions are a little too eager, but most can of course be switched off if you don’t want them helping you along.
In all, the Touareg is far more than you’d expect. It excels at what it does and surprises you with its capabilities. It’s also a technical tour de force, so if you love your gadgets, you’ll love this VW. It really is a genuine rival to all the other luxury SUVs on the market, and that is perhaps the biggest surprise of all.