Monday 17 December 2018

VW battleship out to sink its rivals, but at what cost?

The Volkswagen Touareg
The Volkswagen Touareg

Campbell Spray

The Volkswagen Touareg, which was first produced in 2002, is not for me and frankly I have been put off by its size in the past and the spelling of its name. It's even more of a beast of a vehicle in its new form, right, and swamped my garage, with my partner reckoning her Hyundai i10 would fit in its boot. However, there is no doubt it is a massively well-constructed piece of SUV art with a great, confident presence that stands out in the car park, wonderful technical innovations, incredible comfort and some brilliant design that almost leaves you gasping with appreciation.

This Volkswagen battleship sits at the very summit of the company's ambitions and it's not cheap with prices starting at more than €66,000, including p&p, and hitting another €11k for the Design model. The test model, with an excellent three-litre diesel (I had to swallow hard to type those words), automatic box and everything under the sun was an eye-watering €87k.

This third-generation Touareg now shares a base with the Audi Q7 and the Lamborghini Urus, not to mention the Bentley Bentayga, and some say it is a better bet. With a lot of aluminium, the car has increased in size, but dropped in weight, with even more boot space which took, with ease, a massive cage for housing my daughter's new dog. I haven't seen a VW with such a big upgrade in interior quality for years and the dual screen "Innovision Cockpit" with 12" and 15" displays is brilliant, as is the heads-up info. There's permanent 4WD and the handling has been perfected, although your brain might suddenly remember that there is a two-tonne elephant cornering fast.

Colleagues tell me that the off-road ability has been compromised slightly, but on a small test, I found it more than adequate. One of those colleagues called it the "thinking person's large SUV"; others claimed it is less ostentatious than rivals - which include the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE - more capable of holding its own on the road and now has "utter refinement".

There's a full range of engines coming, including petrol and hybrid but for the moment the diesel is pretty economical for a galloping goliath. There's no seven-seat version, which may deter some people, but at least everybody gets a lot of space.

The Touareg is massive in China and could be a real world beater, except I know if I was in that market it would be a tough call. Volkswagen has the real advantage in the Golf-type market but against its massive premium competitors would you - or more brand-conscious people in the household - make the same choice? It's an awful lot of money. I wasn't sorry to see the Touareg go, but I couldn't help respect it for a really fine engineering feat.

Sunday Independent

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