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The new Volkswagen Touareg is a technologically advanced SUV that demonstrates excellent composure and accomplishment.

17 May 2018

The brand new third generation Volkswagen Touareg is the brand's new flagship model, packing the latest suite of comfort, safety and driving technologies. I head up to Salzburg, Austria, to drive the Touareg and see if it can truly impress.

That's one big ass car

Yup, visually the Touareg is big and imposing, especially with the wide, chromed solid front grille. As far as absolute size is concerned, the new Touareg is 4,878mm long (77mm more than its predecessor), 1,984mm wide (+44mm) and 1,702mm tall (-7mm). It's a big Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), this one.

The Touareg is visually striking, accentuated by the aggressive and wide front grille

So it's more spacious inside?

Well, not exactly. A lot of that extra length has gone to the boot, which has grown from 697 to 810 litres. As far as space inside the cabin is concerned, the wheelbase has grown by just 1mm so it's not bigger in any noticeable way.

The rear seats offer ample legroom and space, but the impression of luxury and comfort does drop off compared to the front. It's so tech heavy and futuristic in front that the rear seats just feel rather normal.

The Touareg's boot space has been expanded to 810 litres

Tech heavy? What about its technology?

You can clearly tell that Volkswagen (VW) has devoted a lot of development (and money) on the technology inside. The cabin is dominated by the new 'Innovision Cockpit', which features a massive 15.0-inch TFT touchscreen (the same size as my Macbook Pro) with VW's latest 'Discover Premium' infotainment system.

The system eschews traditional buttons for a fully configurable tile-based interface that places all the key information at your fingertips, while still offering you immediate and easy access to important functions like the air-con. It really is one of the better-designed and better-executed interfaces at the moment, even if it's a tad laggy.

The interior is dominated by the new 15-inch infotainment display

There's also the new 12-inch digital cockpit. It's not dissimilar from the ones you get in the current generation VWs, except for one key - when you click the view button to minimise the dials, the dials actually go away, leaving in place two small boxes that indicate your current speed and gear.

This doesn't have massive implications as far as usability is concerned, but it is certainly more visually pleasing, giving you maximum view of the navigation screen behind, for example.

Also, the new (optional) 730W, 14-speaker Dynaudio sound system, specially developed for the Touareg, is bloody outstanding. The sound is clear, open and dynamic, and you can hear all of the individual voices and instruments. And even at maximum ear-bleed volume, there's no distortion in the sound at all (a mark of a high-quality sound system).

The new 'Discover Premium' system allows you to fully customise it, putting your preferred functions just one touch away

Most remarkable is the way the soundstaging has been done - tuned to ensure that each passenger has the best and most authentic aural experience possible. From Mozart to Iron Maiden, the Dynaudio system recreates the sound perfectly.

You drove a diesel?

Yes, the Touareg is first launched with one diesel engine, with three other engine variants to come (two diesels, one petrol). The car I'm driving is motivated by a 3.0-litre V6 TDi diesel engine, with 282bhp and 600Nm of torque. There's some initial turbo lag, but once you get over that, the two-tonne car just shoots forward and is capable of smashing the century sprint in just 6.1 seconds.

On straight roads, the ride quality in the Touareg is outstanding. The air suspension soaks up bumps very well, even on some of the more poorly-maintained Austrian roads.

Throw it into a few corners and the active roll stabilisation system really shines - body roll is managed very well for a car this size. Thanks to the all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, the Touareg is grippy yet agile in corners, and it drives a lot smaller than it looks.

Now, you can use close to the entirety of the 12-inch digital cockpit to display key information such as the navigation map

In fact, in 'Normal' drive mode, the car manages to tackle the combination of windy mountain roads and straight-on highways with ample competence.

Also competent are the assistance systems that are now easily accessed by one button on the steering wheel. With all the systems on (predictive cruise control, lane keep, etc), I managed to drive over 35km of highways and b-roads without touching the pedals once. Yes, the car slows down for roundabouts, manages the throttle through corners and even cuts the speed limit in towns.

The 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine churns out a healthy 282bhp and 600Nm of torque

It can't be all good news, right?

Well, noise is an issue. Tyre noise is quite apparent, and above 100km/h the wind noise is very noticeable, although that could easily be resolved by turning the Dynaudio sound system up to 11.

The other issue with the Touareg is that while it's incredibly competent and capable, it doesn't feel particularly exciting to drive. There's not much feel from the steering wheel, and it's all very predictable and safe.

The Touareg tackles all sorts of different road conditions with absolute composure

So, just how impressive is it?

The Touareg is a very accomplished, technologically advanced and incredibly capable SUV. It's not particularly exciting as far as driving is concerned, but that's no real knock on it. After all, VW isn't claiming to have made a sports SUV with the new Touareg.

No, VW set out to make the most luxurious, capable and technologically advanced SUV it can, and I think it's fair to say that the brand has succeeded. There's an overall composure and assuredness to the Touareg that is downright impressive.

Where the new Touareg really excels is its ability to make futuristic technology accessible, convenient and personable

Is it the last word in technology? Perhaps. I mean, there are even more cool tech features, like Trailer Assist and Night Vision, but those won't be available for Singapore.

Technology can be overwhelming. What Volkswagen has achieved with the new Touareg is to make all of that futuristic, high-tech wizardry accessible, convenient and personal.

And that's quite a feat indeed. 

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