Volkswagen limits new Touareg SUV’s chances of success in Ireland

First drive: VW Touareg brings a proper premium fit and finish to the market, showcasing Volkswagen in a very positive light

Make: Volkswagen

Model: Touareg

Year: 2018

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: May 14, 2018

Tue, May 15, 2018, 13:53

   

Volkswagen is on the third generation of its flagship SUV, the Touareg, and the mystery continues into why the German car giant seems determined to constrain its potential success.

Here is a high-end SUV from a well-respected brand boasting the sort of build quality rivals would kill for, yet it doesn’t feature one of the key attributes that would make the model a household name amongst Irish motorists: seven seats. It’s also coming to market without an all-important commercial version.

By lacking either of these two variants, along with a price tag that can quickly turn into six figures at the merest glance at the options list, this quality SUV is destined to be a niche player on the Irish market.

It’s a shame, for the Touareg brings a proper premium fit and finish to the market, showcasing Volkswagen in a very positive light at a time when it is still rebuilding its reputation after the emissions scandal. It also demonstrates VW’s latest infotainment and safety systems as well. It’s also better to drive than its sibling, the Audi Q7.

In terms of styling, there’s not that much to say: it’s really a refresh on the outgoing generation with extra chrome touches. It’s a good looking car, but so were the previous versions. It lacks a little character on the road, compared to brasher rivals like the Volvo XC90 or the Range Rover set.

Real revamp

Inside is where the real revamp has been completed, with a cabin that showcases some real premium touches. The most eyecatching feature is the 15in control screen in the centre console, that nestles next to the 12in digital display for the driver. Operated much like a tablet computer, they combine with steering wheel controls to let you work off various menus at the same time. It’s slick, impressive and, unfortunately, €3,643 extra.

It’s just one of the tech features on the car that boasts 21 driver-assistance systems. To mention just a few, there’s the adaptive cruise control that can take over acceleration and stopping in traffic up to speeds of 60km/h.

Then there’s a proactive occupant-protection system, with features that include rear sensors monitoring 100m behind the car so that if a rear-end collision is inevitable the system applies the brakes, pre-tightens the seat belts and prepares for impact.

All this tech is impressive, but the Touareg proves its worth on the road. The 3-litre 287bhp is powerful, if not responsive in a sporty sense even if it did boast 600Nm of torque, but the ride quality is impressively refined.

Admittedly, the test car was fitted with both air suspension and an all-wheel steering system. These will set you back €3,696 and €2,529 respectively. But with the added extras the car wafts along on the road.

We got the opportunity to pit this big SUV against some seriously twisty Austrian mountain roads and the Touareg was a bit of a star. Thanks to active anti-roll bars fitted front and rear, it handled like a small hatchback on these back roads, never wallowing into or out of corners.

The last time we drove something from the SUV set that handled this well it was the Range Rover Sport. Coincidentally, the Sport also comes with active anti-roll bars.

Night Vision

Another new feature for VW is the car’s Night Vision system that uses a thermal imaging camera to detect pedestrians, cyclists and animals, and warns the driver in the event of an impending collision.

It’s an impressive feature, albeit largely the same tech that appeared in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class several years ago. It’s practicality is debatable – farmers might find it handy when trying to locate stray livestock in the dark but at €2,362 it’s unlikely to be a regular addition to Irish Touaregs.

Instead, you might order ventilated air-conditioned frontseats with award-winning massage functions. At €1,632, it offers the same wow factor while saving you several hundred euros as well. Unless, of course, you regularly lose animals or friends in the dark.

For those hoping to have a posh work vehicle, VW’s repeated assertion that there will be no commercial version due to changes in the legislation is going to cost the brand dearly in Irish sales.

Last year, there were 450 commercial Touaregs registered, compared to just a handful of passenger versions. This year about 630 commercial Touaregs have taken to the road. Without this variant, VW Ireland estimate full-year sales of the new Touareg will fall to 230.

Prices start at €66,170 for the 232bhp 3-litre V6 diesel, but that quickly rises to €77,170 for the mid-level Design version, while the 287bhp version of that V6 diesel engine starts at €79,770.

And that’s the rub. At those prices it needs to be more family-friendly or offering something more prestigious than a VW badge.

Previous attempts to crack this price bracket with models like the Phaeton have never worked. The “people’s car” can’t comfortably carry such a big price tag. And missing the third row of seats is a serious family faux pas. It’s a shame: this could have been a serious contender.

 

Lowdown: VW Touareg SUV

Engines: 3-litre V6 diesel putting out either 232bhp or 287bhp matched to an eight-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission

Emissions (motor tax): 182bhp (€750)

L/100km (mpg): 6.9 (40.9)

0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds

Prices: €66,170 for the 232bhp 3-litre V6 but that quickly rises to €77,170 for the mid-level Design version, while the 287bhp version of the V6 engine starts at €79,770

Our rating: 3/5

Verdict: Refined premium SUV but price and lack of family practicality – or commercial variant – will keep this as a very niche choice