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Remembering the Volkswagen Touareg double-cab: Where it all began

2018-07-25 06:20

Lance Branquinho


As VW’s third-generation Touareg becomes available in South Africa this week, it’s worth remembering how significantly the large SUV has altered the German brand’s product portfolio.

Since its introduction Touareg has been the most expensive VW on sale in South Africa, for the last decade and a half.

Where it all started

It has empowered VW to reach for unimaginable price points, and enabled them to retain customers who ordinary would have graduated to one of the rival German luxury brands as their disposable incomes increased.

READ: VW releases new premium Touareg SUV in SA: We have details, pricing and images

With the new Touareg featuring more restrained styling and drive systems prioritising luxury all-terrain touring, instead of intense off-road adventuring, it’s easy to forget where the large VW SUV sourced its inspiration. 

A bakkie to beat BMW and ‘Benz?

Aware of the success both BMW and Mercedes-Benz were enjoying with their first-generation X5 and ML-Series SUVs in the late 1990s, VW’s board instructed design engineers to generate a concept vehicle which could harvest the potential of this new, German premium SUV segment. The result was rather unusual.

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At the 2000 Detroit auto show, VW revealed what was to become the Touareg, but it wasn’t an SUV at all. Instead, when the tarpaulin was removed, VW revealed a particularly over-engineered and radical double-cab bakkie.

                                                                        Image: Supplied

VW’s codename for the concept bakkie was Advanced Activity Concept (AAC) and it featured engineering details back in 2000, which would be class-leading if they were introduced in 2018.

The specification was inspired, including a 5-litre V10 turbodiesel engine boosting 230kW and 750Nm, which would be carried over into the first production Touareg, and 390mm of selectable ground clearance.

                                                                        Image: Supplied

The genius behind this ACC bakkie was its structure: a unibody instead of a traditional ladder-frame. That made an air-suspension system possible (hence the enormous 110mm difference between the highest and lowest ride settings) and provided insight into some very stealth VW product planning.

Unwilling to show its true intention in desiring to create a large luxury SUV of its own, VW’s ACCC double-cab was effectively a Touareg with a loadbed. The clever bit was enabling the design team to test public opinion of Touareg’s styling, without showing the complete product silhouette. 

What could have been?

VW had no intentions of building a production version of the ACC bakkie concept and two years after its reveal, the first-generation Touareg SUV was being assembled for delivery.

In the early 2000s there was negligible German interest in the notion of a high-performance double-cab bakkie. 
Today, the scenario couldn’t be more different. VW markets the V6 Amarok at a price point which was once Touareg V6 segmentation and Mercedes-Benz’s X350d has revolutionised perceptions of what a bakkie can in terms of pricing.

                                                                          Image: Supplied

It’s deeply ironic that in a global market which has become besotted with all things bakkie, a business case for an actual Touareg double-cab could possibly be made in 2018 – which was an impossible presentation to compile for the VW board in the early 2000s.

With the Amarok now entrenched as VW’s double-cab platform of choice, that possibility is remote, but one can always live in hope and a spark of optimism.

Read more on:    vw  |  lance branquinho  |  south africa  |  new models

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