The new Touareg static launch event in Hamburg back in March left a very positive impression with us of a great design and superb build quality. But while the car looked great in the studio it looks even better on the road, with some great metallic colours like a turquoise blue, and a deep wine red metallic that really set off its dynamic lines.
Those bulged wheel arches do a lot for the cars wide and purposeful stance, and it was interesting to learn from Frank Brüse, one of the exterior designers, that this could not have happened before. Frank worked with Tobias Suehlmann who was the team leader for exterior designer at VW at the time, but says that the man who actually penned the design was Arnaldo Cruzeiro Silva.
“With the first two generations of Touareg we had to share the doors with the Porsche Cayenne and this restrained how the body contours could be modelled,” Frank explained. “The rounded contours were not typical VW, but because the Cayenne was ahead of us on timing and they could sell their car for 20,000 euros (or SGD$31,914 accurate as of 7th May 2018) more than us so they had a bigger say!”
“However, for the third generation Touareg the VW Board told us that while we once again would share the basic structure this time we could change the door panels and give our car its own distinctive look,” said Frank. “That is why the third generation Cayenne and Touareg have absolutely no exterior parts in common apart from the front windscreen, which is a very expensive component to create as it has to meet crash safety regulations, have no bad reflections, and work with the optional HUD (Head Up Display).
Almost 50% of Touareg sales are to China, and the longer nose of the new car gives it more presence in this market where the bigger front grille is the better. “Some Chinese customers think the new bigger grille is still too small, while some European buyers think it is too big,” Frank said, recalling the date from customer clinics.
ON THE ROAD
Based out of Salzburg, Austria the driving route gave us a lot of options in terms of country and mountain roads as well as a blast down the nearby German autobahn towards Munich to test the top end of the performance envelope.
All the test cars were powered by the 286hp 3.0 TDI V6 motor, which VW say will be the staple motor in European markets. With 600Nm of torque dispensed through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox the Touareg rockets to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds, and on to 238km/h (147mph). This is going some for a 1,995kg diesel powered SUV, and its impressive 0.32 drag coefficient helps both performance and fuel economy.
In its latest incarnation this VW Group engine has been getting better and better, and is one of the smoothest and quietest of its kind on sale today.
It has plenty of low down grunt to move the Touareg along in a spirited manner, although you need to select Sport mode to get the best out of the engine and gearbox.
Although the new Touareg shares its inner structure with the latest Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7, the three cars feel worlds apart in the way they drive, a clear reflection of the very different philosophies held by their parent companies.
In line with its market position the Q7 has a touch more ride refinement than the VW, and even less road noise. It goes without saying that the Cayenne is the sportiest and most aggressive to drive on a twisty road, but more surprisingly, the larger Audi feels even more agile than the Touareg when both are equipped with the optional rear wheel steering.
There is a reason for this and it boils down to the fact that VW’s head of chassis development, Karsten Schebstadt, who previously worked on the 997 GT3 and GT3 RS when he was at Porsche, believes that rear wheel steering can feel too edgy for the typical Touareg customer if it turns in the opposite direction from the fronts above 37km/h.
So that is the highest speed the system works on the Touareg, which means it will help you manoeuvre in the car park and around small roundabouts in town, but will not on larger roundabouts once you have exceeded this speed. Audi and especially Porsche customers are another thing altogether, and their systems turn the wheels in the opposite direction up to 50km/h.
In conjunction with the fixed ratio power steering, this ‘softer’ version of rear-wheel-steering makes for a level of progressive driving dynamics in line with how VW perceives the expectations of its Touareg customers.
In the car park the edge the RWS gives cannot be overstated. So equipped the Touareg performs a U-turn in around 11.2m, which compares favourably to the 11.0m of a Golf!
While the basic suspension uses steel springs and twin-tube dampers, the optional two-chamber air suspension has a big range of ride height levels. Starting at the top, the Off-road level raises the car 25mm while the Special off-road setting takes it up 70mm.
Once you exceed 120km/h, the computer reduces the ride height by 15mm to 25mm to improve handling and reduce aerodynamic drag. The lowest level is used to assist Loading and drops the suspension by 40mm.
Most Touareg owners will be more concerned with comfort than out-and-out performance. In Comfort setting the optional air suspension and 20-inch wheels deliver a smooth and quiet ride. But I prefer to give up a bit of secondary ride compliance to win the superior body control of Sport mode, especially when a road has long wave undulations or asymmetrical bumps that can rock a tall, softly sprung vehicle from side-to-side.
Throttle response is good but not totally lag free at times. Upon questioning an engineer I was told that this is a function of the new EGR emissions system. In the main there are enough gear ratios to keep the engine on the boil, especially if you are using the paddle shifters in manual mode, so in most situations the effect is only noticeable if you are looking for it.