Volkswagen Touareg review: Flagship SUV impresses

Volkswagen has tried to move its new Touareg large SUV upmarket, with the big high-rider sharing its underpinnings with some very expensive machines including the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga. But does the flagship people’s car manage the upper-class transition? We find out, here are five things you need to know about the 2020 Volkswagen Touareg.

Go beyond the badge and price tag

On paper the Touareg isn’t an enticing prospect: a mainstream badge with a luxury price tag. Our test car cost $115,790 plus on-road costs, which would push it past $120,000. You can get a mid-range Audi Q7 or BMW X5 for about the same money. But it would be wrong to dismiss the Touareg on that basis alone, as our test car was fully loaded. You can get one for about $87,000 on the road but ours had close to $30,000 worth of options. A similarly equipped Audi or BMW would cost a lot more.

Consider your options

There are three main option packs available and each costs a neat $8000. The “sound and comfort” package includes surround view cameras, electrically adjustable heated leather seats, four-zone aircon, an excellent 14-speaker audio system, self-parking and a larger 90-litre tank. Another $8000 gets you an R-Line package with more expensive wheels and a bunch of interior and exterior styling changes. The “Innovision” package appears the best value. It has a high-resolution configurable digital display in front of the driver as well as a centre touchscreen that’s the size of a 1980s television. The screen can read gestures and has a proximity sensor so you don’t have to put grubby prints on it, but it’s all a bit over the top, especially when the steering wheel buttons and voice control can do the job. A big head-up display projected on the windscreen shows your speed and gives navigation directions. A sunroof will set you back another $3000.

The driver-assist tech is top-notch

Every car has driver assistance technology these days, but not all systems are created equal. Most lane-keeping systems are hit and miss, either intervening too late or not at all at crucial moments. Volkswagen’s tech is among the best. It manages to take bends reasonably smoothly and if it detects no steering movements it will warn the driver before initiating a slow emergency stop. Others warn the driver a couple of times, then simply switch off. The blind-spot tech is also well sorted. It will initially flash a light in the side mirrors, then pull you back into the lane if it thinks you’re attempting a dangerous merge. Other highlights include front and rear cross-traffic alert for nudging out of driveways and parking spots, as well as automated emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring and detection.

It’s big and comfy

The Touareg is made for long-distance touring. With the optional long-range tank fitted, it will comfortably do more than 1000km without a refill, while the adaptive cruise control and driver fatigue monitor take the stress out of a long drive. If you get a sore back after hours at the wheel, the heated and ventilated front seats in the premium edition have eight different massage programs. Kids are well looked after too: the rear seats have plenty of leg and head room and can recline if needed. There’s plenty of room for luggage, although the lack of third-row seating, even as an option, will limit the appeal to some families.

It drives well

The premium version of the Touareg has air suspension, which irons out bumps and lumps better than the standard springs and provides better body control on pockmarked surfaces. Steering is well weighted and accurate and the big SUV corners well. Some level of pitching and leaning is inevitable on tighter turns, given its weight and length, but overall it disguises its size well. The 3.0-litre turbo diesel — with 190kW and 600Nm — is quiet and refined while delivering impressive punch, both off the mark and when overtaking. Towing would be a doddle, and the official rating is 3500kg. Official fuel use is just 7.4L/100km and we saw high-sixes on the freeway.

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