VW’s chief of design, Klaus Bischoff, reckons the Touareg’s design makes it “unmistakably clear” that this is the brand’s flagship and that’s certainly true in terms of the car’s footprint. More athletically proportioned than before, it’s 77mm longer, 44mm wider and 7mm lower than its predecessor.
The bodywork, which is 48% aluminium and sits on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB-Evo platform shared with the Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, is also 106kg lighter than before and helps the kerb weight to sneak in under two tonnes (depending on engine and trim). In dynamic terms, it’s an encouraging start.
The four-wheel-drive Touareg makes its debut with a brace of 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines of 227bhp and 282bhp. It’s the more powerful one we’re testing here, although both will be joined in due course by a 335bhp V6 petrol, a mighty twin-turbo V8 and the inevitable plug-in hybrid.
Power is channelled through an eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic that can cope with 738lb ft, although it need only marshal an admittedly generous 443lb ft in this case.
In place of a traditional transfer box is a centre differential lock capable of delivering up to 70% of torque to the front axle and as much as 80% to the rear. The split depends not only on conditions under tyre but also which of the car’s driving modes – ranging from Eco through Comfort to Snow, Sand and Off-road Expert – you’ve selected via the rotary control on the transmission tunnel.
An Off-road pack, available as an option, equips the car with a 90-litre fuel tank (75 is standard), various protective measures for the underbody and an additional towing eye. Many of these cars are ordered with a tow ball (now electrically retracting) and the maximum towing weight remains at 3500kg (braked, up to a 12% incline).
As standard, the car is suspended using steel springs. Our test car is equipped with the optional (£2370) two-chamber pneumatic alternatives (the Bentley Bentayga, Cayenne and Lamborghini Urus use a three-chamber system) although not 48V electromechanical anti-roll bars (as used on its sibling cars), which are part of a £4890 chassis pack that also includes the air suspension. Above 75mph, the air springs lower the body by 15-25mm but they can raise it as much as 70mm in Special Terrain Level mode, increasing the front and rear ramp angles to 31deg.