Volkswagen’s Touareg SUV has always been something of a nondescript entity, a vehicle with the right substance underneath, but all cloaked under a veil of vanilla-like styling. It, however, never quite achieved the appeal of its Porsche Cayenne cousin, which continues to share the Touareg’s underpinnings.

Enter the third generation model, which shares most of its underpinnings (MLBevo platform) with the newly launched Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, Audi Q7 and the Bentley Bentayga to name a few.

Using more lightweight aluminium in its construction has seen the new Touareg shed 106kg of weight, endowing it with a new-found lightness and dynamism, but more about that a bit later. What remains a standout feature of the new model, in my view, is its new-found design mojo. Granted, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is anything but nonchalant and got its fair share of attention during our test tenure.

Thanks to its large chrome grille and squared off headlights, there’s an element of assertiveness to the new Touareg. Vehicles ahead of you voluntarily give way to let you through, such is the vehicle’s menacing visage. On test here is the flagship Executive model, which comes standard with the sportier R-Line package that adds some spicy bits to the recipe such as 20-inch alloy wheels, a more pronounced front valance and rear boot spoiler.

The cabin, meanwhile, is a blend of tech and minimalism thanks in part to the extra large infotainment screen that encompasses most cabin functions. This optional Innovision Cockpit has the screen angled towards the driver and flanked by the instrument cluster to create a seamless integration of the two.

The Innovision Cockpit is a stylish but expensive R74,900 option that comprises a 30.4cm digital instrument cluster which flows into a 38cm central infotainment hub. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Innovision Cockpit is a stylish but expensive R74,900 option that comprises a 30.4cm digital instrument cluster which flows into a 38cm central infotainment hub. Picture: SUPPLIED

Overall space for passenger quarters is generous while the boot space at 810l can swallow a fair amount of luggage even in standard configuration, while folding the rear seats forward expands it to 1,800l.

Powering the Touareg is the company’s tried and tested 3.0l V6 turbo diesel that now pushes out 190kW and 600Nm through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The powerplant is silky smooth in its operation and, allied with the equally smooth gearbox, creates a seamless wave of power and torque delivery right through the gears. There are various driving modes available ranging from Eco to Sport to Off-road and Snow at a turn of a rotary dial or via the infotainment screen. There is also a lifting mechanism for the air suspension to add further ground clearance or lower the ride height.

The air suspension works an absolute treat in this application. I have driven many an SUV with such suspension, but none has managed to blend waftage with dynamism on either side of the scale this eloquently. Body control is superb with the vehicle remaining fairly flat under braking, accelerating and cornering.

In fact it is the handling that impressed me the most. Hurl the vehicle into a series of sweeping corners and it fervently sticks to a chosen line and this is thanks to the lighter platform and the air suspension working in tandem to make the Touareg a surprisingly agile large SUV.

It also proved relatively frugal, returning a best fuel consumption figure of 8.4l/100km, which for a vehicle of this size and engine capacity is quite exemplary, if not close to the optimistic 7.1l/100km manufacturer claimed figure.

The new Touareg has improved in just about every respect from its predecessor.

For me, the only fly in the ointment with the package, and this is somewhat trivial, is the steering wheel — an exact item lifted from the Polo range — that looks a little out of place in what is otherwise a very upmarket sanctuary. That aside and at the price, the new Touareg is nothing short of a class act.


Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Executive R-Line

WE LIKE: Price, styling, refinement, dynamism, economy

WE DISLIKE: The Polo steering wheel

VERDICT: A class act SUV

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Six cylinder, turbo diesel

Capacity: 2,967cc

Power: 190kW at 3,250r/min

Torque: 600Nm at 2,250r/min

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE (claimed)

0-100km/h: Not supplied

Top Speed: 235km/h

Fuel Consumption: 7.1l/100km

Emission: 188g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice command, driver assist technology, eight airbags, Isofix child seat anchorage points, electric boot, dual USB ports, 230V power socket, central locking, LED headlights and tail lights, LED daytime running lights, front and rear park distance control, reverse camera, 20-inch alloys

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Three-year/120,000km

Maintenance Plan: Five-year/100,000km

Price: R1,140,200

Lease*: R24,321 per month

* At 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

MOTOR NEWS star rating

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Overall

The COMPETITION

Audi Q7 3.0TDI Quattro — R1,094,000 BMW X5 xDrive 30d — R1,118,554 Jaguar F-Pace 30d AWD S — R1,106,634 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d — R1,138,297