First Drive: Volkswagen Touareg

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The new tech-laden Touareg aims to continue its fleet appeal. By Jonathan Musk.

SECTOR Large SUV   PRICE €60.675   FUEL 6.9l/100km   CO2 182g/km

The new third-generation Touareg aims to raise the bar for large SUVs with its blend of technology, performance and build quality. Joining Volkswagen’s SUV line-up as flag bearer, Volkswagen expects a fleet-strong sales mix in Europe, as for its predecessor, although the new car is aimed at the Chinese market in particular. And, despite current market trends, diesel is expected to outsell petrol 4:1.

Resting on a new platform and with China-friendly styling – particularly at the front-end – plus permanent all-wheel drive, the new Touareg has its sights set on the Volvo XC90, BMW X5, Jaguar F-Pace and Volkswagen Group rivals.

For Europe, the only engine currently available is the impressive Euro 6d-TEMP compliant 286hp 3.0-litre diesel, with a fleet-friendly 231hp unit to follow. A further 340hp V6 petrol and range-topping 421hp V8 diesel will be added to the European line-up thereafter. Finally, a 367hp plug-in hybrid will also be available in China next year.

Despite being a mobile super-computer, Touareg managed to lose a remarkable 106kg overall weight, yet add 113 litres more luggage space when compared to its predecessor.

The European market gets Atmosphere, Elegance and R-Line customisable trim options. Unfortunately, the new Touareg lacks the usual practicality associated with an SUV, with unusually small cabin stowage. Rear occupants are well catered for aside from a slightly uncomfortable bench seat and boot capacity is generous, although there’s no seven-seat option.

A new Innovision Cockpit combines a 12-inch driver’s display and a curved 15-inch central touchscreen to replace every physical button bar volume. UK standard equipment lists are yet to be formalised, but Matrix LED headlamps, infrared ‘Night Vision’, trailer-assist, air suspension and four-wheel steering are all impressive options.

Safety features range from Front Cross Traffic Assist, to Proactive Passenger Protection. There’s also Traffic Jam Assist and adaptive cruise control with sat nav-based speed alteration that allows the car to reduce speed automatically.

While none of the tech is hugely innovative, like Heinz baked beans, Volkswagen has executed them uncommonly well.

On the road, and despite its obvious bulk, it’s a better drive than most of its immediate competition. The 3.0-litre TDI V6 provides impressive economy and silence off-boil, or is accompanied by a pleasingly petrol-esque exhaust note on hard acceleration with only the occasional low-rev diesel grumble. 0-100kph takes a brisk 6.1 seconds and, matched with the latest DSG transmission, it’s difficult to fault aside from an occasional hesitancy if driving more enthusiastically.

The new Touareg is light years ahead of its predecessor and a class-leading contender, but XC90 owners won’t be jumping ship just yet. Assured quality is the new Touareg’s real strength while much of its most impressive technology remains optional. But, if you don’t need seven seats this should certainly be amongst your top three. First ­customer deliveries are expected by end of June.

What we think

Great though it is, the new Touareg isn’t likely to ruffle the feathers of strong competition in this sector but as an impressive all-rounder, it is well worth a look.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.