|The Volkswagen Touareg is one of three variants produced from the DNAs of three distinct German marques; Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche (component brands under VAG) at the Porsche design facility in Weissach, Germany.|
Audi launched the Q7 while Porsche brought forth the Cayenne. All three variants catered to their respective markets, with the Cayenne being the most premium among the trio. Although the trio shared the same PL71 Platform (chassis), they were in fact very different from the inside out, with the Cayenne getting high performance Porsche engines with sports car performance figures and stratospheric prices to boot, while the Q7 was offered as a 7-seater luxury SUV for the well-heeled. That leaves the Touareg as the most affordable of the trio, though you’d have to take this statement in the context of “affordability” in the eyes of the have’s, who wouldn’t flinch at the thought of spending upwards of 450K for a vehicle.
Having said that, if you can afford one, this 2nd generation Touareg offers quite a compelling proposition. Originally launched in 2010, it took quite a while for the oil burning version to reach our shores at the end of 2012, possibly due to VW having to conduct research on our ‘excellent’ diesel quality and making tweaks to their global turbodiesel mill to suit our country. And so, November 2012 saw the 3-liter turbodiesel TDI variant of the Touareg being officially launched into the market with headlining figures of 245PS and 550Nm from a mere 3-liters of cubic capacity, thanks to the magic of forced induction and the high energy yield of diesel fuel. An Aisin high torque 8-speed tiptronic slushbox feeds the diesel goodness to all four wheels (4Motion permanent all-wheel-drive) for constant stability in varied conditions. As an aside, Aisin AW is the largest transmission manufacturer in the world and lists Toyota Motor Corp as its largest shareholder, so in case you were wondering, no, the Touareg doesn’t use VW’s own DSG here. The narrow power band characteristics of a turbodiesel mill mates very well to a transmission with more gear ratios to fully take advantage of all that power, which in the case of the Touareg TDI makes for an engaging yet effortless drive…
Volkswagen Touareg TDI: If Looks Could Kill
If looks could kill, the 2nd generation Touareg TDI would be a silent killer, thanks to its stout appearance and understated demeanor. What I meant by that statement, is that the Touareg doesn’t look fierce like its fire-breathing Porsche cousin, and would certainly take many people by surprise when you punch that throttle to the ground. Viewed from the front, the all too familiar VW family facsia takes center stage, with a large intake grille on the front bumper flanked by two smaller grilles. No surprises in the frontal design, and if you stood further away you could mistake the Touareg for one of the other SUV models in the VWstables, especially for the uninitiated. Look a little closer however, and you will notice the commanding presence of the bonnet line and huge wheel arches designed to accommodate the massive 265/50 R19 wheels. You will also notice the beautifully crafted headlights that feature bending Bi-Xenon projectors and LED daytime running lights. The muscular outline of the car extends all the way to the rear with a short overhang, as is the trend these days with SUVs in the market. The 2893mm wheelbase ensures plenty of room to stretch your legs in the cabin regardless if you were up front or at the back.
Considering the butch appearance of the Touareg up front, the rear seems a little more sedate, looking more purposeful rather than being design driven which does nothing to hide its bulk. Nonetheless, it does well in hiding the raw nature of the beast within, with just a simple “V6 TDI” badge on its tailgate to warn others to stay away. Overall, the Touareg TDI is a beautifully crafted vehicle that looks confident in posture without giving away any hints to its performance capabilities. At certain angles, you catch a glimpse of its wild side but when you see one on the road either from the front or through your rear view mirror, you will merely see a tall and large 2.153-tonne people carrier with a VW badge.
Volkswagen Touareg TDI: Luxurious Cabin
The unmistakable build quality of Volkswagen is evident the moment you open the front door and peek in. It was surprisingly easy to get into the driver’s seat, considering that the Touareg TDI is a full-sized SUV. Part of the ease of entry can be attributed to the doors, which open up more than 80 degrees, even the rear doors. The dashboard is well laid out, and it took me a mere 15 minutes to get fully acquainted with the controls, which were within reach. A lot of electronic functions can be accessed via the Sat/Nav head unit which also doubles up as an Area View reverse and parking camera system with 4 cameras. The steering is meaty and reassuringly firm, yet it molds around the contours of my fingers comfortably. The steering wheel plays host to various controls including Bluetooth telephony, audio controls and multi-information display controls while a stalk behind the left spoke takes care of cruise control. Ergonomics has always been a key priority in any VW vehicle, and the trend continues with the Touareg TDI as well, which, considering its status as the flagship SUV, it gets the best equipment and fitments that VW has to offer.
One interesting premium feature within the RNS 850 Sat/Nav entertainment unit is the ability to allow the driver to take charge of the front passenger seat’s electric controls using the seat control stubs on the driver’s side. Simply go into the menu system and make your selection with a few touches of the touch screen and voila, you have assumed control and can now move the passenger seat forwards or back and recline it remotely with the same controls that govern your own seat (total of 14-way adjustments). I can think of ways to prank unsuspecting first timers in the front passenger seat! Jokes aside, it is actually a very practical feature, should you need to free up more legroom for a rear passenger without having to budge from the driver’s seat. Also, both front seats feature memory function, allowing up to three separate memory presets. Another interesting feature is the option to set a buzzer to warn you that you’ve breached a preset speed limit, with the maximum allowable speed being 240km/h. It doesn’t do anything to slow the car down but merely to annoy the hell out of the driver when he’s going too fast. I am proud to state that I did not activate the buzzer which was set at 240km/h.
The RNS 850 is wired up to an 8-speaker setup comprising of 4 mid-bass drivers and four high frequency drivers (a fancy way of saying “2-way speaker system fore and aft). The sound system can go loud if needed, but at sane levels manages to deliver a commanding performance be it for slow ballads with simple instruments or a full orchestra with complex arrangements. In terms of sound quality the RNS 850 is one of the best OE-equipped sound systems tested so far. The quiet and well insulated cabin probably played a major role in helping the speakers sound their best. Rear passengers in the Touareg TDI were happily singing along, sitting comfortably with their legs crossed and tapping their feet to the beat. Lots of legroom, comfy seats, nice sound system, panoramic sunroof; all these and more, makes the Touareg TDI a really great companion on any extended holiday on wheels. Another useful feature incorporated into the RNS 850 is Area View, a 4-camera ensemble that lets you view obstacles surrounding your vehicle, and is presented in an “aerial view” like a pseudo Google Earth interface. The resolution of the cameras could have been a tad better, but as it is you are able to get a rough idea of what’s in front, behind and at the sides of your ride.
Volkswagen Touareg TDI: Proof in the Pudding
With a healthy, sustained 245PS between 3,800 – 4,400rpm and a massive 550Nm between 1,750 – 2,750rpm, the 6-cylinder V-configured turbocharged 3-liter diesel mill turns an ordinary 2-tonne SUV into Loki in the hands of the Incredible Hulk in the closing scene where the former was flipped about like a ragdoll. All it needs is for your right foot to issue the command and let the engine take care of the rest for you. At 2,153kg unladen, the Touareg is indeed a heavyweight on wheels, but even with four full-sized adults on board, the engine seemed unfazed as it racks up the revolutions like a champ. 7.6 seconds is all it takes for the Touareg to clear the century dash, right up to its published top speed of 220km/h. The Aisin 8-speeder worked flawlessly and you’d have to look at the gear position indicator to find out which gear you’re in, for you would be hard pressed to feel it change up, especially after the first two gears.
For town driving, the engine hardly spun up beyond 2,000 turns per minute, keeping in tune with its sedately appointed exterior. At sane speeds, a hint of diesel rumble is evident, but is missing the familiar characteristic diesel chatter that is commonplace among oil burners. Volkswagen worked hard to cut down noise levels in their diesel engines and it does seem that the TDI engine in the Touareg was a lot quieter than the last turbodiesel car (Korean) that I test drove recently. Having said that, I found the engine to be a little rough for a V6, so even though it was quieter than other turbodiesels, it wasn’t as refined. This could also be due to the test car having already clocked in excess of 20,000km and was probably due for its next service. The Touareg TDI for the most part handled itself very well over most road imperfections, with a firm “Conti-feel” progressive damping that made me forget that I was driving a 2-tonne vehicle. Full-sized SUVs tend to have this wobbling effect over uneven roads. In such vehicles, every little imperfection finds its way into the cabin, forcing the suspension system to bounce around like a nervous rabbit. As for the Touareg, one might be forgiven for thinking that he/she was in a luxury sedan; such was the level of refinement in the suspension setup. Having said that, if you accelerate like a mad man you will feel the rear squat a little, with the operative words here being “a little”.
Volkswagen Touareg TDI: Is it Worth it?
At RM493,888 the Volkswagen Touareg TDI represents reasonably good value for the well-heeled individual looking for a multi-purpose sports utility vehicle that could outrun 90% of the cars on our roads while carrying a couple of bicycles and their owners around. Luxuriously appointed, you get the best that Volkswagen has to offer in terms of trim, performance and utility packaged in a rock solid product that makes a positive statement about the owner’s successful and active lifestyle. This 2nd generation Touareg has indeed taken a long time to reach us, but it is definitely worth the wait, for it does a lot of things better than its predecessor and then some. It may not have the pure performance levels of the Cayenne or the bling factor of the Q7, but on its own it does stand tall among SUVs of its class and is truly one of, if not the SUV to beat.
Volkswagen Touareg TDI images