Volkswagen's new Touareg goes the extra mile, due next month and with prices from €66,170
First drive in Austria: Volkwagen Touareg
Volkswagen's new Touareg SUV, which arrives in Ireland next month with a starting price of €66,170 on the road, is a bit like the street newspaper seller of yore yelling, "extra, extra, read all about it".
This third-generation SUV has extra room, extra technology, infotainment, power, boot space and much more - the stuff they want you to read about. Calling it the "biggest leap forward" in the history of SUVs is going an extra mile, but they certainly have added another layer of sophistication without necessarily achieving anything truly radical in terms of driving.
But compared with key rivals, such as the Volvo XC90, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5, they claim the extra bits and pieces of spec they have as standard stack up in the Touareg's favour.
And yet, you can also pay a good deal extra just to have some of the headline equipment they are trumpeting within their own line-up. That's how things go sometimes.
As far as the car itself is concerned, the mainstays of the new five-seater line-up are two V6 three-litre diesels (232bhp and 287bhp, the latter being the engine on our test car). A planned plug-in hybrid (367hp) and a four-litre V8 diesel may not make it to Ireland.
Significantly, there is no commercial version planned - a pity. Due to that decision, sales are predicted to hit just 230 in 2019 (415 last year).
Initially, I expected the Design 232hp might be the top seller, but the entry-level has, on mature reflection, quite a decent spread of stuff. There are special launch editions too, but they can kick price into the €80,000s. The price of the Design model rises sharply too if you throw in a couple of the much-vaunted extras.
Key among those options is the cabin-dominating double screen Innovision system, which gives you sight and control of everything in one place. However, it is extra on several of the models. As an option, it costs €3,643. After driving with it, I'd think the car would amount to a lot less without it.
It is an integral part of the launch-edition Design 287 (€82,770 on-the-road), whose tech pack also includes panoramic sunroof, Dynaudio trailer hitch etc.
The tech pack looks value at €3,500. The individual bits cost €5,679 if added separately.
The snazzier R-Line launch edition has the tech pack too, but the car's price goes to €84,970. There is a PCP deal of 3.9pc on the new car.
You might be interested in what some options cost. Night vision is €2,362, matrix beam €1,992, panoramic sunroof €1,934, trailer hitch €1,751. In terms of styling packs, the Elegance/Atmosphere is €3,026, leather between €5 and €6k, all-wheel steering €3,696, air suspension (€2,529).
Apart from the pull-and-grunt technology of the standard-spec eight-speed auto gearbox, all-wheel drive with centre differential lock (five standard and four optional drive modes), the interior is where the action takes place, though I prefer the look of the new car to the old one, especially its back end.
The Innovision cockpit merges a 15in infotainment touchscreen (controls likes of smartphone integration, air con etc) with a 12in digital instrument cluster.
These are big, strong visual features (though I prefer the Volvo XC90's) and you can set up the Touareg's 15in screen any way you wish, with as many items in combination as you like. The only major button was one for volume. Other than that, it was a matter of touching for commands directly, or indirectly, via little buttons on the steering wheel.
At 4,878mm, the car is 77mm longer, 44mm wider (1,984mm) but 7mm shorter (1,702mm). Aluminium and steel use in the body reduce weight by 106kg. Boot space is up 113 litres from 697 to 810.
They claim active roll compensation adjusts the anti-roll bars when cornering. The car felt more dynamic on my second drive yesterday, though opportunities to really test its dynamism were limited. Top towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes.
They are making a big thing of the array of driver assistance technologies - AEB, traffic jam assist, night vision camera, front cross traffic, trailer assist etc.
The (optional extra) all-wheel steering system turns the rear wheels opposite to the front at up to 37kmh. Above that, they turn in the same direction. It's supposed to mean better handling.
So let's forget extras for a minute and look at what's standard. The excellent adaptive cruise control system, 19in alloys, LED headlamps, auto headlights/LED daytime running lights, roof rails, 9.2in nav system, Discover Pro Premium telephone system, wireless charging app, Connect with Apple Car Play and Android, eight speakers, three extra USB jacks, heated front seats, two-zone climate control, forward collision warning, park assist, space-saving spare wheel.
Design adds 20in alloys, Vienna leather seat trim covers, four-way lumbar support, stainless steel loading edge protection, Design rear exhaust tailpipe, tinted rear windows.
Launch Edition adds Innovision Cockpit, panoramic sunroof, Dynaudio sound system, electrically-folding trailer hitch.
Design R-Line Launch Edition adds special bumpers, speed side stripes, interior ambient lighting.
Handling and ride felt a lot better than before, but the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 - with which Volkswagen hopes the Touareg will be compared - remain sharper, more rewarding drives.
Yet we should not lose sight of the fact that the Touareg is made for those who want a big, comfortable, roomy SUV that fits the profile of being semi-posh without boasting about it.
With a great driving position, I found it an easy-going drive through mountains and valleys.
It is, for sure, embellished with its share of extras (versus key rivals on one hand and within its own spec structure on the other), but don't be misled by the headlines.
The real story lies in the obvious size, room, power and comfort.