What is it?
It was back in 2002 that Volkswagen introduced the original Touareg, its first SUV. Sixteen years later, the company has sold close to a million Touaregs across two generations, a success story that has encouraged it to continue launching new SUVs of varying sizes; having not offered a single one two decades ago, the brand's SUV line-up is four-strong today.
The all-new, third-generation Touareg sits at the head of that quartet; at the top, in fact, of the entire VW range. As if to acknowledge that top-dog status, VW has delivered not only a new Touareg that’s laden with technology, but also one that ranks among the best-executed models it currently sells.
Like most of the group’s large 4x4s, the Touareg is based on the MLB platform, the same basic architecture that underpins the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. However, VW is quick to point out that the Touareg isn’t merely a Q7 or Cayenne by another name. Its wheelbase is 70mm shorter than the Q7’s, for one thing, and its chassis tuning is entirely bespoke. Compared with the previous Touareg, VW says this latest version is lighter – although there are no exact numbers just yet – despite being 77mm longer and 44mm wider.
One outcome of the world’s rapacious hunger for SUVs is that car makers have put huge amounts of effort into improving the breed. The very earliest 4x4s were big and heavy, with very high centres of gravity. The latest examples are no exception, but rather than surrender to those fundamental traits with a defeated shrug – traits that would conventionally make a car feel more like a lumbering bus – manufacturers have developed reams of very clever chassis technologies. The new Touareg is dripping with them.
At least, it is if you pay to specify it that way. A base Touareg rides on steel coil springs and passive anti-roll bars, but you can add two-chamber air suspension and rear-wheel steering; specify both and you can add active anti-roll bars, too. Between them, these widgets attempt to stop the heavy, high-riding car from driving like a heavy, high-riding car.