REVIEW DATE: 23 Jan 2008
Volkswagen's heaviest hitter is now even better looking. Andy Enright reports
I think I can count the number of successful midlife facelifts on one hand. Most of the time, the interference of a stylist looking to graft a few trendy design cues onto an established shape usually just sullies what has gone before. Thankfully Volkswagen has been added to the very short list with the current generation Touareg model.
Although the old model by no means had a face like a plasterer's radio, the current car is a good deal better looking, adopting the latest Volkswagen family face with the bold grille and also adding some rather sleek headlamp units that are fluted along the bottom edge. This means new front wings and bumper assemblies to make everything fit, so this hasn't been a low budget exercise. Revised door mirrors also feature as do new lower profile rear light clusters, with a beefier spoiler and exhaust pipes also evident if you know what you're looking for.
The Touareg has surprised even Volkswagen with the acceptance it has received from British buyers, outstripping even the company's most ambitious estimates. To date over 11,000 have been sold on these shores and the sales figures are still nosing upwards. Originally going on sale in May 2003, the Touareg is a car that is capable of springing surprises on rivals too.
Back-to-back testing of 4x4s isn't something we get to do as often as we'd like, so when the opportunity to line up fifteen of the best arrived, we jumped at it. After we'd picked ourselves up from the slippery mud, we had a winner, some highly commended vehicles and a whole bunch of also-rans. The biggest shock of the lot? Volkswagen's Touareg.
I thought this was going to struggle when subjected to the rough treatment but up against luxury class rivals like the Range Rover, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Volvo XC90, the Touareg was comfortably the best of the lot. The good news gets better. As well as revising the styling, Volkswagen has also updated many of the Touareg's electronic control systems, making it a safer and more secure vehicle than ever before.
"The latest Touareg is even sharper looking than before"
The latest Touareg features a raft of revised technology, including ABSPlus and additional ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) features. ABSPlus has been developed and patented by Volkswagen and is a world first. The system shortens the braking distance by up to 20 per cent on the sort of unsecured driving surfaces you'll want to turn your Touareg loose on. Additional features have been added to the ESP, including Active Rollover Protection (ARP), rain brake support, fading brake support and understeer control logic, which improves the turning behaviour in the event of understeer.
The eye-catching entry-level Touareg is the 2.5TDI while SE models such as the midrange 3.0-litre V6 TDI justify their premium with features such as Cricket leather upholstery with heated front seats, DVD satellite navigation with a six-inch LCD screen and a six-disc autochanger. If you really want to hit the high notes, you'll need an Altitude model.
Launched to commemorate the World Record set by a Touareg in Chile, where a team drove one to the highest point on Earth that a vehicle can reach - some 6,080 metres or 19,948 feet - this permanent addition to the Touareg line up has had virtually the entire options list flung at it. This means features like a Volkswagen Individual body styling pack, privacy glass and 19-inch Siena alloy wheels. Available with the entire range of engines,
That only leaves the ultimate Touareg, the R50. Based around an uprated version of the formidable 5.0-litre V10 TDI engine, it features 21" alloy wheels along with the Touareg 'R' design package with its spoilers, skirts and chrome detailing.
If size counts for a lot, it's doubtful you'll be disappointed. At 170cm high, the Volkswagen Touareg is not lacking in road presence. The V10 TDI models sit a couple of centimetres higher still on their air suspension, the other models relying on more conventional steel springs. Unless, that is, you want to hit the options list. The interior styling is pleasantly restrained, the materials quality is class-leading and the look and feel is much like the opulent Phaeton saloon.
On the road, the Touareg can't quite back up Volkswagen Chairman Pischetsrieder's claim that it's better than an X5. It comes close and is a little tauter than a Range Rover while being a touch keener than a Mercedes M-class. The Volkswagen has slightly more lateral roll in corners and there's that bit of the side to side 'wobbly head syndrome' that BMW has worked so hard to exorcise. The V10 TDI is monstrously muscular, despatching the sprint to 60mph in 7.6 seconds yet will return an average of 23mpg - a decent return for a car that tips the scales at around 2,500kg. In standard from it generates 308bhp but the version installed in the R50's nose has 345bhp. The V6 models are respectably quick, although none can match the diesel's punch or parsimony. Six-speed Tiptronic boxes are standard on all bar the 2.5-litre TDI models.
It's off-road that the Touareg plays its trump card, especially when equipped with air suspension. Permanent four wheel drive and a low ratio gearbox are taken for granted, but factor in selectable front and rear differential locks, hill start with descent assist and very short overhangs and the Touareg becomes an awesomely capable tool. With low range engaged, the Touareg can drag itself up a 45-degree slope with 35 degrees of sideways lean. The V10's torque is always a bonus, but the light weight of the V6 petrol engines makes them particularly nimble on downhill stretches.
The Touareg was very good before and it's better now. It's better than I thought it could be and it's probably better than you may expect. In the face of newer and glitzier rivals, it needed a shot in the arm and the revised styling just underscores the host of detail changes that Volkswagen has made to this model in recent months. It makes a great car even better.
The results below show the top TOUAREG deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 245 SE 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £36,876||Save £6,269|
|Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI SE 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £35,420||Save £6,105|
|Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 245 Altitude 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £36,000||Save £9,305|
|Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI 245 Escape 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £39,397||Save £4,333|
|Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TSI Hybrid 5dr Tip Auto estate|
|Price £53,213||Save £6,042|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT TOUAREG DEALS|
|For TOUAREG RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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