Volkswagen is now taking orders for the new Touareg, with prices for the flagship SUV starting at £51,595 and first deliveries due in the summer.
While that price leaves it £3425 cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz GLE, it makes the new car £6165 more expensive than its predecessor — a reflection on VW's efforts to push its top model further upmarket.
The brand justifies the price hike by stating that the new Touareg represents the “biggest leap forward” in the history of the SUV.
The third-generation model, which was unveiled in Beijing during the spring, has been redesigned with new technology, road-focused styling and a revamped interior that is dominated by VW’s new Innovision Cockpit.
This Touareg is the first to have such a clear focus on the Chinese market because, aside from being the largest new car market in the world, it's seen rapid growth in SUV demand in recent times. SUVs accounted for 8% of the Chinese market in 2007, but by 2017 this had skyrocketed to 45%.
Aggressively priced supermini steps up interior game, but lacks performance...
VW boss Herbert Diess said: “The new Touareg sets a new benchmark at the top of the automotive world and shows what VW can do in terms of design and technology. It is a reflection of our brand.”
Three trim levels are offered at launch and the UK starting price applies to the entry-level SEL. Prices for the plusher R-line variant, which comes with sportier bodywork details, start from £55,095, while R-line Tech sits atop of the launch range with more standard kit (more on that below) and a starting price of £58,195.
At launch, just one engine is offered: a 3.0 TDI V6 producing 282bhp. It produces 443lb ft of torque from 2250rpm, enabling the SUV to sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1sec, while top speed is 146mph. The Touareg range will gain a second 3.0 V6 diesel engine with 228bhp and 369lb ft in the autumn, as well as a 3.0 V6 petrol with 335bhp and 332lb ft.
The Chinese line-up includes a 362bhp plug-in hybrid that will arrive in late 2019. That variant is likely to go on sale in Europe, although no date has been set. A 415bhp, 664lb ft 4.0 V8 diesel will be offered in some markets, likely including the UK, although no date has been set for its arrival either.
All of the engine options are powered through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with standard all-wheel drive featuring a centre differential lock, with five standard and four optional drive modes.
To aid the driving dynamic, the Touareg features electromechanical active roll compensation, which adjusts the anti-roll bars to smooth the ride when cornering. It also has air suspension to boost ride and all-wheel steering to aid handling.
Oliver Müller, the Touareg’s vehicle development boss, told Autocar: “We wanted to combine a sporty drive with comfort. The focus in on on-road handling, but it was important to make sure it was still good off road. It’s part of the DNA of the car. The look is more on-road now, but it’s still an off-roader at heart.”
The exterior design of the new Touareg moves further away from the off-road styling of the original, with a bold front grille designed particularly to appeal to the Chinese market. While built on the same VW Group MLB platform as the new Porsche Cayenne, the only exterior part the two now share is the front windscreen. Exterior designer Frank Bruse told Autocar: “The key difference is that we were allowed to do our own door panels; before, we had to share with the Cayenne. That gave us more freedom.”
At 4878mm, the Touareg is 77mm longer than before. It is also 44mm wider (1984mm) but 7mm shorter (1702mm). With the rear seats up, the boot has a capacity of 810 litres, 113 litres more than the previous model. The aluminium and steel body helps to make the car 106kg lighter than before.
The dashboard is built around VW’s new Innovision Cockpit, which merges a 15.0in infotainment touchscreen with a 12.0in digital instrument cluster. The customisable infotainment screen also controls features such as smartphone integration, air conditioning and seat massage functions, while analogue controls remain for the volume and other frequently used switches.
A range of driver assistance features come as standard, including traffic jam assist, lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, a night vision camera and a driver fatigue warning.
Standard equipment includes all-round LED lighting, multicoloured interior LED lighting and a 1270mm-long sliding panoramic roof.
The Touareg is designed with a range of customisation options based on three optional trim levels: the wood-dominated Atmosphere; Elegance, based on metal colours; and the stand-alone, sporty R-line. All three will feature spoilers and side sills, with R-line also gaining wheel arch extensions.
The Touareg will be able to tow trailers of up to 3.5 tonnes.