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Volkswagen Touareg pulls like a train

12.03.2015

WHEN you’re thinking about a premium SUV, names like BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML and the Porsche Cayenne probably come to mind, right? Well, Volkswagen - yes, the same company that makes the Vivo and Jetta - also has a premium SUV. It doesn’t carry the same price tag as the Porsche but it can go places that the ML can’t and it has more torque than the X5 yet, it is equally as exclusive and luxurious as all of those. I’m talking about the bold, new Volkswagen Touareg. I spent a week with the new Touareg to see if it’s any good.

This new Touareg is definitely bold, massive and full of luxury goodies. Sure, the R990 000 price tag is not what I’d call cheap, however, when you’re shopping for a car like this, the price is worth it. 

Inside, you’ll find a pretty recognisable design that VW offers. However, in the Touareg, things feel a bit more luxurious as this is one of VW’s flagship models. There is wood trim (which I still like) and a big LCD touch screen in the middle of the dashboard. Here you can control just about everything from the radio, to the SatNav and even the climate control settings for the seats. Another nice feature is the fact that the buttons and dials are slightly bigger and seem to have more grip than on other SUVs. Why? Well, I had a feeling it was for ease of use when wearing gloves. I tested my theory and I found that even when wearing pigskin gloves I was still able to operate the controls.

Space inside is ample and the optional panoramic sunroof gives a nice ambience inside the cabin. If your hands are full and you need to open the rear boot lid, just shake your foot below the bumper and the boot will open. Ok, sometimes it doesn’t and you end up kicking the rear exhaust box, which gives onlookers the impression that you’re angry about something.

Another feature that was fitted to our test car was the 360-degree camera view. This uses four cameras, which are placed around the car to give you a birds-eye view of the Touareg. This not only helps with parking but also with tight off-road situations, and yes, I did just refer to off-roading but I’ll get to that later.

This specific Touareg was the top of the line 4.2-litre V8 diesel model. My-oh-my, this engine is fantastic! It’s been around in a number of Audis for a few years already but this was my first encounter with it. This oil burner produces 250kW of power and 800Nm of torque. VW claims this two-ton mammoth will get from 0-100kp/h in less than six seconds. Plant your foot off the line and there’s no doubting that figure; it just pulls and pulls. Yet, even with all the pulling and foot-planting, I still averaged around 10.2 litres/100km, which is impressive for this big car. VW has given this fat SUV very responsive brakes, which help to keep all that power under control. The steering feel is also rather sporty, in my opinion.

Now onto the off-roading bit… I feel that an SUV should work on the road and off the road. I have one big issue with most SUVs of today and that is, most of them are big, fuel guzzling road cars. The only off-roading they do is when they climb pavements at the mall. The Touareg - on the other hand - is fitted with air suspension, which increases the ride height by many millimetres. Add a completely flat underbelly and VW’s acclaimed 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and we have ourselves a very capable off-roader. There’s even a dial to engage the off-road mode. This gets the eight-speed gearbox and 4Motion system ready for action. Ok, so it’s not a hardcore 4x4 but the Touareg has always been good in the dirt. I climbed a rocky hill that normally requires low-range in other 4x4s with great ease and comfort. I drove through a river and managed driving to the other side, effortlessly.

All-in-all, this new Touareg does deliver a premium feel and a comfortable drive, both on and off-road and this engine redefines the norm. However, will the badge deter customers? I don’t think it should. Remember, under the skin this is an Audi Q7 and a Porsche Cayenne. I will admit though, despite its impressive off-road characteristics, I was always worried that I would scratch a rim or bump into something. I’d say, the R990 000 price tag is still a hefty price to pay.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
12.03.2015
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