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Bigger and greener Touareg driven

2010-10-11 11:08

BIGGER AND BETTER: Despite its more reserved styling, the new Touareg is bigger and more spacious than its predecessor.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer VW
Engine 3.6 V6, 3.0 TDI, 4.2 V8 TDI
Power 206kW @ 6 200-, 176kW @ 4 000-, 250kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 360Nm @ 3 200-, 550Nm @ 2 200-, 800Nm @ 1 750r/min
Transmission Eight-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 7.8-, 7.8-, 5.8 sec
Top Speed 228-, 218-, 242km/h
Fuel Tank 100l
Fuel Consumption 12.4l-. 7.4-, 9.1l/100km
Boot Size 550l
Tyres 235/65 R17, 265/50 R19
Front Suspension Double-wishbone
Rear Suspension Double-wishbone
Service Intervals 15 000km
Warranty 3 year/120 000km

Lance Branquinho

You have to feel for the VW Touareg.

Despite sharing a common platform, being better styled and possessing real racing pedigree it has always been seen as a rather expensive VW instead of the bargain Porsche it is (to a degree).

The first-generation Touareg was launced into the Slouth African market back in 2004 and ushered in an era turbodiesel engines capable of delivering huge amounts of torque.

I remember perusing the specification sheet of the original V10 engine six years ago: 750Nm was a cartoonish level of rotational force for a vehicle with two axles instead of six.

With strong growth in the premium SUV market since 2004 (the offering has doubled from 16 to 32 models), VW now offers its second-generation Touareg to customers who prefer their big SUV to be comfortable and capable.

The new range is quite simple: three models: 3.6 V6, V6 TDI and V8 TDI.

Bigger and better

First off, the new Touareg is bigger yet lighter. Although 41mm more substantial bumper-to-bumper and 12mm wider, VW’s structural engineers have managed to make it 208kg lighter – which is remarkable. The key is the use of special blanks which are preformed to the required thickness variation found in metal when manipulated into the various required chassis shapes.

Thanks to these variable thickness sheets, no additional mass is added by the "bunching" of metal build-up in corners of curves - as is the case when fixed thickness blanks are manipulated.
Clothing the second-generation Touareg’s trimmed chassis is a new surface design specifically penned to hide the new car’s greater dimensions. With more geometric line-work, the previous Touareg’s bulbous look is improved upon appreciably. An inappropriate inference is that the new Touareg continues to be the better looking of VW’s two low-range enabled SUVs, besting its Cayenne sibling aesthetically.

Get in the new Touareg’ and you’ll notice a less cluttered and subtle, yet stylish, interior design. The four-spoked wheel has been replaced by a three-bladed item with a joystick shifter instead of the old T-bar and a self-actuating flip-switch parking brake is a huge improvement over the first-generation Touareg’s foot-operated system.

Ergonomics are seamlessly intuitive (the ignition barrel starts clockwise or anti-clockwise) and rear legroom benefits appreciably from the 38mm increase in axle spacing - 68mm more legroom. Rated at 550 litres, the Touareg’s boot capacity should be sufficient for most long-weekend requirements.

PREMIUM FEEL: Plenty of options boxes to tick, but stellar perceived quality.

Among the optional nice-to-haves are a 60Gig satnav/infotainment system (R28 290), rear side bags (R4 240) augmenting the standard tally of six and the quad-camera combined area-view (R10 000) system.

Park distance control (R7 850) and an automated tailgate (R5 500) are only standard on the headlining V8 TDI. You pay R2 000 for iPod connectivity across the range though...

Two cylinders deleted

Technically, the new car continues to ride on independent suspension at all four wheels – today considered the gold standard for premium 4x4s, yet a state of affairs inconceivable 15 years ago.

Standard ground clearance (on steel springs) is 220mm while the optional air-suspension (R31 500) raises the most vulnerable undercarriage contact point to a middlemannetjie-mocking 300mm when required.

Powering the new range is a choice of three engines – two V6s and a V8.

The sole petrol option is VW’s 3.6 direct-injection V6, powering up to 206kW and 360Nm. Those numbers may appear a touch underwhelming for a vehicle of the Touareg’s size, yet the 208kg weight reduction does herald a mass of only 2 035kg.

Compression-ignition makes-up two-thirds of the new Touareg engine range with a three-litrel V6 TDi and 4.2 V8 TDi. The major details worth noting here are the debut of BlueMotion efficiency technology and the lack of V10 as a headline offering.

First, the three-litre V6 is buoyed by BlueMotion technology, adding stop-start functionality and on-demand ancillaries. Producing 176kW and 550Nm, courtesy of a 1800bar common-rail injection system, VW claims startling 7.4 litres/100km average consumption for the 2099kg BlueMotion Touareg.

Headlining the Touareg range is a new V8 TDI. Although two cylinders (and 800cc) down on the previous V10 TDI, the new engine runs a 2000bar common-rail injection system and bests its predecessor by 20kW and 50Nm to register peak outputs of 250kW and 800Nm. These engine graph statistics make the new Touareg V8 TDI the most powerful low-range enable diesel 4x4 in the local market – although it will only go on sale in late November.

All three Touaregs drive a centre differential through an eight-speed auto. VW’s hand – as with many other manufacturers of heavy vehicles – was forced with the additional of two extra ratios to act as consumption reducing overdrive gears.

On- and off-road with ease

The Touareg, much like its Porsche Cayenne platform sibling, has always contained potent off-road capability for those owners keen to explore it. For the second-generation, VW has focused most of its engineering resourced on refining the Touareg’s on-road dynamics.

Featuring double-wishbone suspension at all four corners (besting even a few premium performance cars in terms of configuration), the Touareg’s new class-leading torsional rigidity of 24 800Nm/0 (that’s a lot) and revised elastokinectis (vibration and oscillation dampening via the suspension) mean it should handle like an oversized Tiguan.

In standard configuration the new Touareg runs permanent all-wheel drive managed by VW’s familiar 4Motion system. Although it foregoes low range, the 4Motion Touareg does run a true Torsen centre differential coupling (instead of a multi-clutch) and has a dial which can be turned to recalibrate all brake, traction and chassis stability interventions systems to a terrain sensitive (lower intervention) threshold.

VW’S GREEN: Blue Motion technology debuts locally with new Touareg.

For potential Touareg owners keen on emulating Giniel de Villiers’s Dakar exploits, VW offers the 4XMOTION (R20 000) package, thuogh only with the 3.6 TDI Blue Motion engine.

What does the X-factor add?

Well, you get a transfer case with proper 2.91:1 reduction gearing, a lockable centre differential and increased front (10mm) and rear (15mm) ground clearance.

An optional rear (mechanical) differential lock is available as part of the 4XMOTION package too.

Touareg’s two all-wheel drive packages offer some interesting options as the standard 4MOTION system, supported by optional air-suspension, would prove entirely sufficient to most potential owners’ requirements, which is probably the reason VW chose not to offer 4XMotion on the V6 petrol or V8 TDI.

On the go

Its contemporary VW styling and sophisticated drivetrains aside, does the new Touareg stay true to its Dakar winning heritage or has it become an oversized Tiguan? On our evaluation route we picked through the range in ascending power order, navigating some of the Overberg’s choice mountain passes and dirt roads.

First up was the V6 TDI Blue Motion. Having the stop-start technology abruptly kill the engine function at the first traffic light was initially disconcerting, yet the system works seamlessly and should yield significant benefits for those owners who navigate severe traffic daily. Being cognisant of the mechanical effort required to start a diesel engine, I wonder how durable the technology will prove in the long term – although most European markets have piloted it for a while without issues.

Beyond the stop-start function, the 550Nm worth of shove and seamless eight-speed transmission combine to offer brisk overtaking. Touareg’s adjustable shocks and steering weight control (rolling three functions: comfort, normal and sport) ensure you can coast with comfortable aplomb on dirt roads or tuck the large SUV into tight mountain pass corners with surprising keenness. Overall, it does feel appreciably more agile than the first-generation car.

Petrol buyers should find the V6 FSI model a swift drive, sporting purer acoustics than its diesel siblings. At no point did it feel asthmatic, despite it having a statistical torque output deficiency compared to its turbodiesel siblings. With VW’s new eight-speed auto transmission, there is always a gear able to find the 360Nm torque peak and match it to road velocity.

Those Touareg fans miffed by the absence of V10 power will summarily be converted to the V8 TDI’s powers of persuasion by its 800Nm torque peak. VW claims the headline oil-burner is capable of a hot hatch humbling 0-100km/h in 5.8 sec and, truth be told, it was challenging to find a stretch of road generous enough to exploit the virtually inexhaustible elastic-band turbodiesel power surge in anything above fourth gear.

POWER HOUSE: New Touareg V6 is as quick as the old V10.

The common man's Cayenne?

All three models combined exemplary road manners with excellently dampened cabin environments – suppressing road, wind and mechanical noise (not to mention vibration) effortlessly.

Off-road Touareg showcased the adaptability of its new suite of off-road configured driver aids. A raft of acronyms (EDL, HDC, HHC) combine to ensure broken terrain does not intimidate novice off-road drivers when behind the wheel of the new Touareg.

Stability control and anti-lock braking work especially well when negotiating dirt roads at speed – an area where traditional ABS systems have at times been found lacking in the (recent) past.

Off-road ability? Well, it depends on the package.

With the air-suspension, 4XMotion and a read-differential lock the Touareg sports 300mm of ground clearance, 100% gradient climbing ability and virtually unstoppable terrain crossing ability – mostly depending on your tolerance to camel-thorn tree (or rock) inflicted scratches. Both the turbodiesel Touaregs have such impressive low-speed rotational force delivery that only hardcore overlanders or rock-climbing fetishists would require the 4XMotion’s reduction ratio transfer case, which is solely available on the V6 TDI.

In sandy conditions, the V8 TDI’s 800Nm slew of torque should convert to monumental dune climbing ability – even without the benefit of low range.

Admittedly the new Touareg is not a cheap proposition when dressed-up with all the nice-to-have options. The engineering integrity is beyond reproach though and it sports an outstandingly balanced range of drivetrains.

Most owners will probably opt for the standard 4Motion package with air-suspension, perfectly servicing off-road requirements in 95% of traction challenging scenarios.

With sleeker styling, a larger (and better detailed) cabin, improved agility and all the first-generation car’s off-road pedigree the new Touareg is every bit worth its Dakar adventure billing.
It may still strike some as a very expensive VW. Think of it as the Porsche Cayenne with off-road ability owners will actually use and its image appeal swells appreciably.


V6 FSI R562 000
V6 TDI R622 000 (Blue Motion)
V8 TDI R776 000 (available end of November)

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