Motoring / Motoring News
The year that was two-thousand-and-three saw a number of interesting developments occur– the final flight of the Concorde and addition to the dictionary of the term ‘unfriend’.
At the same time, a new television show, then in its second season, had sent a 12 year old boy from the Eastern Cape into a complete frenzy as it not only was about cars, but presented by a brash and funny Englishman. That show was of course Top Gear and the man in question, Jeremy Clarkson.
During the third episode, Clarkson, while taking a stab at the then new Porsche Cayenne, stated that a decision was made not to drive the “911 on stilts because that’s what they were expecting us to do”. Instead, the next few minutes became legendary for Clarkson bashing the Cayenne’s twin, the new Volkswagen Touareg, mercilessly despite lauding it for its massive 5.0 TDI V10 engine and off-road ability.
The second model behind the Phaeton to spearhead Wolfsburg’s ambition to be taken seriously as a premium marque, the Touareg appeared massive, bloated and came with a name, which refers to the nomadic people of the Sahara, very few could pronounce properly.
Over the next two generations, it became less bulky, dropped the low range gearbox to the options list and became lighter to the point where the current generation tips the scales at 106 kg less than its predecessor. At the same time though, its larger than life persona faded to the point where it now rates as something of a forgotten hero, an underdog in a crowed segment vying for attention.
Incredibly still only two years old, its recent arrival after the introduction of the Black Style package last year came as something of an unexpected surprise to that now 29 year old ‘boy’, whose yelp upon receiving the keys amazingly didn’t deter the daily grind of the Big Smoke.
On first glance, it is fair to say that the Touareg’s radical downsizing has resulted in it being more of a maxi Tiguan than the brute it once was. That being said, it is far from nondescript and still looks aggressive but also upmarket. Of course, a lot has to do with that Black Style pack that adds the murdered-out 21-inch Suzuka alloys, black chrome detailing, the imposing black grille and air vents, black mirror caps, window surrounds, roof rails and diffuser. Combined with the Silicon Grey Metallic paint option, the Touareg looks every bit as classy as it does menacing.
Step inside and everything changes. With the pack being reserved for the flagship Executive R-Line, the lack of any bespoke trim pieces faded into the background as a result of the simply brilliant, futuristic Innovision Cockpit.
While constructed out of soft-touch plastics with lashings of chrome and leather, it is all about the tech which consists of not only the twelve-inch Active Info Display instrument cluster, but that huge 15-inch Discover Pro infotainment system. The dominating aspect of the cabin, the display is twinned with the instrument cluster under a single pane of glass and adds a completely different dimension and feel to the interior, backed-up by the aircraft-like gear lever and the 1 270 mm x 825 mm panoramic roof.
The chink in the display’s armour though is that it can become a bit fiddly, especially when trying to master the climate control, but for the most part, it is easy to use with a further boon being the 12-speaker Dynaudio sound system. In fact, such is the tech fest that mentioning each would take up the rest of this article. Noteworthy though is the Night Vision Camera, Surround View Camera system, the Matrix LED headlights, rear-wheel steering and ventilated as well as cooled front seats.
In terms of practicality, the Touareg is a masterclass with acres of head and legroom, a boot that measures 810-litres or 1 800-litres with the tug of a lever that drops the rear seats, an electric tailgate, cargo cover and towbar, plus the ability to lower the rear suspension by pressing the buttons located on the walls of the boot.
As much as the tech impresses, the Touareg’s pièce de résistance is its drivetrain. Combining the 3.0 TDI V6 engine with an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, the 190kW/600Nm on tap is immediate and smooth with the added bonus with of a throaty six-cylinder rumble. The ‘box meanwhile goes about its business unobtrusively and while gear shift paddles are affixed to the steering wheel, it does its job best when left in D.
Despite tipping the scales at 1 940 kg, the Touareg simply doesn’t feel its weight quite like its sibling, the Audi Q8 which rides on the same MLB Evo platform does, and while our tester came with the optional Off-Road Package, it is unlikely to see much bundu-bashing at any stage. Buyers keen though have a choice of four settings; Load, Road, Off-Road and Off-Road+ that results in a ground clearance of over 250 mm.
During its time, the Touareg was left in Comfort mode but when switched to Sport, a different side emerged as the four-corner air suspension dropped the overall ride height, the throttle response improved and the steering became heavier to offer better feedback. For the majority of buyers though, the former will be the desired stetting as the levels of refinement, floaty ride lack of any engine or wind noise at highway speeds will take preference.
In reality, faulting the Volkswagen Touareg was an exercise in itself as it simply did everything right. With a price of R1 334 500 sans options, including the Black Style Pack, the Executive R-Line makes a very strong case in that it doesn’t deserve to be looked over given the level of tech, spec and the drivetrain it offers.
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