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First drive: Touareg aims at high-brow Germans
New styling, more safety and extra options headline another update for VW's Touareg
16 Jul 2007
A REVISED Touareg will try again to convince Australians that Volkswagen can compete with more prestigious German brands.
The first-generation Touareg did not live up to the expectations of Volkswagen Australia after an initial burst of sales in its first year on sale.
Company managing director Jutta Dierks said not enough Australians were prepared to buy a premium SUV with a Volkswagen badge at that time, but believes that increased strength and value of the brand means the Touareg can be more successful this time around.
“With our development with the brand…with Golf GTI so successful, with Eos (convertible/coupe) in the market, people would really like to say 'I drive a Volkswagen and I am proud of it', or at least I hope it will be that way,” Ms Dierks said.
“Then it is no longer a shame to drive a Touareg.”
Volkswagen Australia sold 12,356 cars in 2003 when the big four-wheel drive was launched.
Last year, the company sold 21,571 cars and sales for 2007 so far are up by more than 40 per cent.
The Touareg update does not represent an overhaul - it is more of a mild facelift.
VW counts 2300 newly developed parts for the Touareg, but they are mostly styling related.
And while there are some safety upgrades, the major mechanical components including the engines, gearboxes and 4WD system remain the same.
Buyers will most likely notice the new Touareg’s front-end as representing the biggest change.
The first generation looked very much like a typical 4WD, with conservative lines, regular rectangular headlights, while only a little chrome was used to line the grille.
The updated model now looks much more like a luxury vehicle with chrome used for a much larger part of the nose including the grille, but also the middle part of the bumper and the air-intake surround below it.
VW designers have given the old headlights the flick, replacing them with new, more organically shaped lenses which aim to emphasise two headlamps.
The bonnet is also new, as are the front guards, while the wing mirrors have also been redesigned to cut drag.
No sheetmetal has been changed for the rear of the car, with designers instead reshaping the tail-lights, exhaust pipes and adding a roof-mounted spoiler.
There are also new wheel designs and three new paint colours.
More attention has been applied to lifting comfort and refinement levels inside the Touareg, which gains new seats from the Phaeton limo that tops the VW range in Europe.
The interior layout is largely the same except for a new instrument cluster, although there is new seat and door trim and fresh woodgrain and black insert options for the dashboard, door linings and centre console.
More important than all the styling changes are two safety upgrades that have been applied to the new Touareg.
One is the active rollover protection system, which is now a standard-fit item in most high-end 4WDs.
This system senses when the vehicle is about to rollover and deploys its head airbags and fires its seat-belt pre-tensioners to hold the occupants in place.
VW has also worked on improving the Touareg’s braking capability on loose surfaces.
Its new ABS Plus system, which is standard across the range, shows that VW has discovered what country drivers have always known – that anti-skid brakes aren’t as good as standard brakes on gravel.
This is because a locked wheel builds up a wedge of dirt which helps slow the vehicle.
The VW system is able to detect the drag coefficient of the surface the vehicle is traveling on. If it is a grippy surface, the braking system operates as usual. If it is a slippery surface such as gravel, the ABS Plus system allows the wheels to lock.
VW says all of this means that the new Touareg takes 20 per cent less distance to pull up than the last model.
The revised Touareg arrives nine months after VW Australia shook up the model mix and realigned prices.
It dropped the slow-selling V8 petrol model and replaced it with a V6 turbo-diesel, while the 3.2-litre V6 petrol was dropped for a 3.6-litre direct-injection V6 petrol unit.
The company also cut prices across the range, including slicing a massive $16,500 off the price of the range-topping V10 diesel model.
The model line-up and the prices remain the same for the updated model.
It starts off with the 2.5-litre diesel R5 at $64,990.
Both V6 models, including the 3.0-litre diesel and the 3.6-litre petrol cost $74,990.
Topping the range is the 5.0-litre V10 diesel at $121,990.
The entry-level five-cylinder turbo diesel-engine in the R5, introduced in late 2004, produces 128kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It’s a frugal engine, but even the base Touareg is a heavy car at 2197kg and achieves a combined fuel consumption figure of 10.6 litres per 100km (using the ADR81/01 standard). The V6 turbo-diesel, also used in the Audi A6 and Q7, steps up to 165kW and 500Nm and the 2251kg vehicle achieves a combined fuel economy figure of 10.9L/100km.
Its petrol V6 sibling beats it on the power front with 206kW, but has less torque - 360Nm. The fuel economy of the 2168kg petrol Touareg is unpleasant – 13.8L/100km.
The monster V10 turbo-diesel packs a reasonable 230kW and a whopping 750Nm of torque. Even so, its fuel economy figures are not terrible, with the 2532kg big-daddy Touareg using 12.8L/100km.
All engines are teamed with standard six-speed automatic transmissions linked to a competent constant 4WD system.
Unlike most other premium SUVs, the Touareg’s drive system has a transfer case for low-range for tough low-speed work.
Most models run a standard coil-spring rear double wishbone rear suspension, but the V10 diesel comes standard with air suspension which offers a plush ride and also means the vehicle’s ride height can be raised substantially when it is taken off road.
All Touareg models can tow up to 3500kg, as long as the trailer or caravan being towed has brakes.
The Touareg has achieved a five-star rating from Euro NCAP and is fitted with front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and anti-skid brakes as standard.
Standard equipment for the base Touareg range includes dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, a multi-function trip computer, automatic headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-disc CD sound and parking sensors.
The base R5 comes with cloth seats and the V6 models have leather trim, while the V10 is fitted with softer Napa leather. Alloy wheels are standard: 17-inch for the R5 and V6 models, while the V10 diesel runs 19-inch alloys.
Equipment levels rise through the range and the V10 diesel comes standard with features including four-zone climate control, premium sound system, tyre pressure monitor and bi-Xenon headlights.
Surprisingly, not even the V10 comes standard with a reversing camera, which is bundled with satellite-navigation as a $5480 option on all models.
Despite its off-road capability, the Touareg only carries a space-saver wheel as standard.
A boot-mounted full-size spare can be ordered for $1990.
The options list contains some surprises including the $6490 price of upgrading the R5 by replacing its cloth seats with the leather-lined 12-way electric seats used in the V6 models. Ouch.
Adding air-suspension costs $5490, a sunroof $2190 and an electric tailgate, which closes at the touch of a button, is $1390.
VW is also offering some trim options from its Individual line for the V10 and V6 models, including woodgrain and black lacquer inserts ($590) and new two-tone Napa leather trim ($4990 for the V6s, $3990 for the V10). A booming 600-Watt Dynaudio sound system is a $2490 option across the range.
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