Road Tests

Drive Review: New Volkswagen Touareg (2019) is full luxo

For all of Volkswagen’s conquering it does so effortlessly in South Africa with Polo and Golf, there’s an invisible psychological barrier which dissuades buyers from trading in and moving up VW’s ladder. C-Class over Jetta. X5 over Touareg. Customer migration in a segment where profits are high means Touareg’s importance to succeed can’t be overstated.

It’s reached such a vexing stage that new Jetta will only be built in left-hand drive thereby removing it from the South African market. Passat won’t hang on much longer leaving Arteon to defend VW’s gambit in the premium sedan market. Buyers prefer the cheapest thing from an expensive range to the expensive thing from a cheap range.

If you predict a revolution of sorts is about to transpire over the next few paragraphs with the latest Touareg, it’s because VW’s repetitive recycling of parts or general scripted uniformity applied between various trim lines has leapfrogged a few evolutions to in some instances, put it ahead. Now the tech grabs headlines – rather than borrow it becomes the apogee of all things digital bestowing it with the hallmarks of a flagship.

What’s impressive, to me, is how VW has distinguished the cabin of the Touareg from its other models. It’s not something you’ll instantly recognise as belonging to Volkswagen’s common school of design, or indeed anything overtly relatable back to the group, even though underneath it’s repurposed MLB architecture found in Cayenne, Bentayga and Urus. That’s about the best mix of luxury and sporty you’ll find anywhere.

The new interior’s mission, once you option the full theatre makeover courtesy of the Innovision cockpit, is to accommodate the two screens, stitched together with a great deal of finesse that they look, and operate, as one. Snuggled under the dash the colours never rinsed with light or shadow and they predict your next input with a concise list of logical menus.

Alas, without Innovision, the cockpit design reduces to a single Active Info display behind the wheel but we only experienced those fitted with Innovision so we assume it’s either go with this or a cockpit similar to the ageing Audi Q7.

VW’s clearly beefed up the hardware to run these screens with enough gloss spliced with thoughtful graphics to demonstrate the more complex selections.  Normally VW is discreet about the way it demos tech but this is all very punchy. It spells out where the market’s headed, as you may have realised – the sort of media you wish you could unplug from the dash and carry it under your arm to your next business presentation.

The screens’ width is matched by the depth of the toys count. Apart from a lane keeping assist which had difficulty picking up the lines, thereby negating the car’s autonomy, driving the high-spec Executive model in a rationalised trim range of just two variants, is all about keeping the number of options, like night vision and 4-wheel steer, to a minimum.

Not only will it doddle the town stuff like a Tiguan, but also follow an Amarok until you notice the absence of a rear-locking diff. And despite packing it to the gunwales with features, the larger Touareg MKIII is 106kg lighter for a hint of athleticism despite numb steering.

We lament that the R Line kit (20-inch wheels with little sporty daubs) can no longer be optioned on base Luxury model, so if you want a Touareg to look like the one in all the marketing campaigns, you now need to spend another R100 000 for the Executive –worth it because of R-Line, air suspension and Matrix IQ lights.

VW’s got fleeting amnesia about diesel gate seeing as the only engine derivative is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with higher outputs than the similar Amarok V6. If you like waves of torques (600Nm) and low real world consumption (10.0l/100km) and don’t mind poisoning a few bystanders, you’ll quickly love the way it dissolves through each gear in muffled tones.

But not conforming to latest Euro regs means it’s hardly at the cutting-edge. Volkswagen’s engineers get all fussy over our quality of diesel and pull out their detuning spanners – it’s 20kW down on international spec but yet 7kW higher than Audi’s local Q7. The upside is the freedom of border crossing into areas stocked with 50ppm without voiding the fine print of warranty terms.

The truncated engine range – antiquated by global standards – and Innovision being a R90 000 option are our tiniest gripes we have against a thoroughly modern package. The 2019 VW Touareg represents everything ground-breaking about a flagship with high echelons of awe packaged with VW’s steady philosophy.  An SUV that might reverse the trend, enticing customers from other premium brands back to Volkswagen.  ANDREW LEOPOLD

SPECIFICATION

  • R1 088 200
  • 2967cc, 6cyl turbo diesel, AWD, 190kW, 600Nm
  • 7.1l/100km, 188g/km CO2
  • 0-100km/h in 6.3secs, 235km/h
  • 2040kg
  • Verdict: Other engine options wouldn’t hurt the simplified line-up but VW has a few lessons to teach to its posher siblings
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