2014 Volkswagen Touareg: The Luxury of Convenience

VW returns with their beloved SUV -the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg V6 SE- but keeps understated charm and retains much of its functionality while dropping over 200kg on the scales



Published: Thu 16 Jan 2014, 5:02 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:07 PM

The VW Touareg, their first ever SUV, ambushed the scenes of the growing SUV market in 2004 alongside its half-sister, the Porsche Cayenne. In North America, the Touareg only consists of 2 per cent of the sales, unlike the Cayenne, which is Porsche’s best-seller till date. However, in the GCC, the VW holds its own and can easily be seen as a success story for both customers and company.

The second generation Touareg was launched in 2011, but it wasn’t until recent times that we got to sample one. In our time burning oil, playing in the dirt and touring on the tarmac, we clocked over 1,000 kilometres. We look back at the drive.

Design & aesthetics

The exterior design of the second generation Touareg is a definite case of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. Many of the changes are noticeable, but by no means overwhelming, which is a good thing. The safe-design silhouette is assured to strike a chord with the driving community and that is probably why we see so many on the roads today.

The new vehicle is seemingly sleeker and slimmer but weighs a good 208 kg lesser than the first generation, which is basically the weight of two really big adults. Much of that dietary goodness comes from the extensive use of aluminum in the chassis department.

To us, the Touareg looks a bit like a Passat on stilts, as seen from the styling. The U-shaped day-time running lamps underscores Touareg’s definite character, upfront. The two headlamps are separated by a chromed 2-slat grille and below it are three large intakes that directs air to the brakes and engine bay.

The profile is a little less slab-sided than its predecessor, and VW have carved out some of the now slight-concave door panels. The tail lamp clusters are sharper and smaller; the in-cluster design has gone from being a couple of circles to L-shaped centred by a dot. It is bit of a visual treat and seems to have been taken a page from the VW Golf!

The base model comes with 17-inch alloy wheels. The SE model we drove shod 5-Y-spoke 18-inchers, the Sport model gets even sportier with 5-spoke 19-inch aluminium wheels named ‘Everest’ and the top-spec gets elegant 20-inch 5-spilt-spoke alloys called ‘Pikes Peak’ — the venue for the infamous annual hill climb competition. It seems VW thinks that conquering the Everest is easier than climbing Pikes Peak, by the way they have named the alloys.

Unlike the Cayenne, it is not here to boasts about its badge. It embodies a clean design overall that almost anyone would have a penchant for. It suits male drivers without them being accused of liking the colour pink, or parading in San Francisco; and it is a fair choice for women too. Everywhere we went, people seem to be enticed by the car without going gaga over it — it is like that one guy you know who isn’t best friends with anyone but is liked by all.

In the Touareg, there isn’t any of that lock/unlock business anymore; with the aid of keyless access technology, you can enter or exit just by clicking a button on a door. We did like the key fob; the mix of plastic and metal finish gives it a very upscale feel; call it ‘automotive jewellery’ if you may.

Hop aboard the Touareg, and VW’s liking for simple geometrical shapes like circles and rectangles with rounded edges becomes evident. The two-tone dashboard with a chocolate brown and beige combination really adds a dimension to the otherwise sober interior. The material used on the dash is soft-touch. You have the choice between metallic trim inlays “Silver Metallic” or “Brushed Aluminium” and wood inlays “Burr Walnut” or “Vavona”. It doesn’t matter what you choose, the fit and finish of the trims makes it a win-win situation.

The dials within the instrument panel have aluminium surrounds and there is a partner screen between the tacho and the speedo, besides the master 8-inch screen on the centre console.

Both driver and passenger get 12-way electric adjustable front seats, and my 6-foot frame got really comfortable on those front seats. The Touareg has a nicely crafted 3-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel with piano black trims around the multi-function buttons and some aluminium trim on the spoke. It is appreciated for its simplicity of design and works well for the many hours of driving you put in every week.

Thankfully, the rear seats slide as well as recline, relieving more space at the back. Unfortunately, unlike some other SUVs, this one doesn’t come with a third row, not even as an option. But we could imagine it to being a bit of a penalty box, if there ever was one.

Touareg’s panoramic sliding sunroof is amongst the largest in the business with two sections, extending from the front to the second row. The section upfront is the only open-able one. And perhaps, if you were stuck on the roads while the clock struck 12 this New Year’s eve, it would have given you a spectacular glimpse of the world’s largest fireworks down at the Palm or that of the celebrations at the Burj Khalifa.

Powertrain & performance

Here in the Middle East, the Touareg gets a run-of-the-mill 3.6-litre FSI V6. Spin up the rpm to 6,200 and the engine will lay down 276 horses at 6,200 rpm, while the torque quotient of 360 Nm is readily available as low as 3,200 rpm — which improves everyday driveability. At 76.7 bhp per litre, it challenges the specific output of even the scary-fast 5.0-litre V8 Mustang. For those with a power craving, VW offers a 4.2-litre V8 FSI engine that makes as much as 355 bhp. Hooked up to the crankshaft is a Tiptronic transmission with as many as 8 speeds. No, it isn’t equipped with VW’s lightning quick DSG transmission, but it is pretty slick as is. The 7thand 8thgears are fuel saving overdrive gears. The eighth allows it to run at about 2,000 rpm while driving at 120 km/h on SZR.

It is capable of shooting past the 3-digit mark in 7.8 seconds from standstill — bettering its predecessors’ performance by 0.8 seconds — and if you keep that right foot planted, it will touch a 228 km/h top speed. That, my friends, is plenty of poke for the everyday driver!

The Touareg does not compromise handling either. It has the agility of a large sedan, something you don’t expect from a SUV that weighs over 2,100 kg. It doesn’t teeter between turns and stays planted on the tarmac. You can drive comfortably in speed, yet it is easily manoeuvrable in traffic and tight spots.

The VW’s natural habitat is within the bounds of civilisation, but this relative to the Beetle can climb more than a rock or two and bash dunes, if necessary. Giving it that much needed traction at all ends is VW’s 4MOTION permanent four-wheel drive system. You have above average off-road associated figures like 30 degree approach and departure angles; and a breakover angle of up to 27 degrees. Although we hadn’t the opportunity of challenging extreme slope angles of some dunes, VW claims that it has a maximum lateral tilt angle of 35 degrees and can challenge inclines of up to a dizzying 45 degrees. Better believe its off-road credentials, for the race-modified Touaregs have claimed several podium spots in the treacherous Paris-Dakar rally at the hands of Jutta Kleinschmidt and many others.

Automatic ride height control enables the vehicle to rise up above by 300 mm, giving better ground clearance. And if the rain comes down heavy in Sharjah or there is a large-scale leakage of drainage pipes in areas like Discovery Gardens, the Touareg’s fording depth of up to 580 mm will help you coast past those areas without bogging down.

The visibility from the driver’s seat is appreciable; it is not often you have a square cornered rear-view mirror and a square rear window. Like in any other SUV, the blind spots are not completely negated but it still gives more scenery.

At low acceleration loads and while cruising, it switches automatically to front-wheel drive, saving fuel in the process. On a good day, the EPA tells us that it will sip 9.9 litres of petrol and emit 236 grams of C02 per kilometre. And with that 100-litre tank capacity, you can expect a very decent range as well.

Features & functionality

The Touareg doesn’t look like much muscle, but this low-key V-dub can haul as much as 3,500 kg or quad-bike, dirt bike or boat.

As standard, the Touareg comes with as many as 7 airbags that keeps you out of harm’s way in the event of a collision. You have fog lamps, cruise control, parking sensors and electronic parking brake as standard equipment, but for an upgraded audio system, navigation and a rear view camera you have to opt for the higher trims. The Dynamic Light Assist masks the headlight beam from hitting oncoming cars while maintaining the long range. It works in silence, so it is hard to appreciate the feature, but it is good to know it is there.

The onboard infotainment system comes with a colour 8″ TFT display and many of the features can be accessed via touchscreen functionality. It is accompanied by a 60-GB hard drive, of which 8 GB is for media data. You can get two SD card slots for memory cards up to 32 GB each and a Traffic Message Channel (TMC). That means ‘Bye-bye traffic jams’, as the system automatically detects hold-ups and offers an alt-ernative route. There is an AC outlet to plug in your devices, which is accessible for the rear passengers. The navigation system is generally easy to use and it has 3D and 2D views to choose between.

The Climatronic air-conditioner works for two zones. It is able to keep two distinctive temperatures on both the left and right side. In our week of driving, we never had a problem with under-cooling, something that owners of older VWs had to deal with.

The Touareg has a 600-plus holding capacity and with the 60:40 split seats folded down, you add ample space for the larger objects, furniture and even your dog perhaps. And with its power lift gate, loading and unloading should be less of a workout.

Verdict

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg isn’t just a car, it’s “Das Auto” — with an understated sense of style with an ace-in-the-hold for quality and functionality. If you are one that spends a lot of time on the tarmac, this is one complaint free travel companion. Smart choices like the Touareg come rare.


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