The Volkswagen Touareg has always offered a largely unique alternative to more ‘premium’ luxury European SUVs, undercutting them on price but using much of their engineering.
The current iteration competes on price with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Prado and even the Ford Everest, yet shares core components and DNA with the more expensive Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne – other VW Group brands, after all.
Here we drive the entry level version which you can drive away for under $100,000, yet still blend in at the private school drop-off or the bourgeois boat ramp.
While there’s still some water left to go under the bridge, we should note than a facelifted Touareg model is due in Australia during the first quarter of 2024 – with price rises likely.
The Volkswagen Touareg 170TDI on test costs $89,240 before on-road costs, making it the most affordable version in the range.
A few price-point (ish) competitors include:
- Ford Everest Platinum: $77,530
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited: $83,950
- Mazda CX-90 GT: $84,800
- Toyota Prado Kakadu: $88,998
All of these prices are before on-road costs which vary by state such as stamp duty and registration, as well as dealer delivery charges. At the time of writing, Volkswagen Australia was advertising pricing of $95,990 drive-away.
The Touareg unlocks as you approach so long as the key fob is in your pocket, while the ‘ErgoComfort’ heated and powered front seats are superbly comfortable and trimmed in high quality leather – perfect for big trips.
The steering wheel is trimmed in quality leather and adjusts for rake and reach, meaning people of most sizes will get comfortable.
Material quality inside is largely top-shelf, with rock solid fit-and-finish, padded touchpoints with contrast stitching, metallic trim pieces, and some quality switchgear.
It’s a decidedly luxurious ambience inside.
Our version came with the expensive $8700(!) Innovision Package, which brings features such as an all-digital instrument cluster with map view – the base model uses a smaller trip computer with analogue gauges – augmented by a projecting head-up display.
The same package ditches the standard 9.2-inch touchscreen in favour of a whopping 15.0-inch unit –with sufficient home screen real estate to display full-size 3D maps with separate widgets, a vertical shortcut menu, and a permanent horizontal bar with climate controls.
It’s vast, has high resolution, loads quickly, and handles pinching/swiping/gesture inputs well, and doesn’t require to to dig endlessly through too many screens – potentially the slightly fiddly climate control sub-menu aside, here in place of the buttons in the un-optioned car.
Negatives? The lack of a surround-view camera in this spec is poor, with the rear-view display an inadequate substitute.
The haptic touchpads on the steering wheel are fiddlier to use than normal buttons even after acclimation – as much as VW tells us we’re being petty, we aren’t.
Also, the copious use of glossy black trim pieces that attracts sun glare, dust and scratches won’t age well.
The adult-sized back seats are super comfortable like the fronts, and offer similarly deep-pile carpet underfoot.
Amenities include sun blinds, a cupholder-armrest, overhead handles, LED reading lights, air vents, and USB ports.
There’s no seven-seat option however, even though some similarly-sized competitors (the Touareg is 4.9m long) do come with occasional-use, kid-friendly sixth and seventh seats that fold into the floor.
The Touareg’s back seats fold down 40:20:40 for maximum versatility, via levers in the boot, while there’s a storable cargo blind and a 12V socket there as well .
Dimensionally, the Touareg’s luggage area measures 1051mm long by 1173mm wide by 768mm tall, and can handle 810L of cargo.
With the back seats folded, the boot grows to 1800L and is 1910mm long at floor level. There’s just a temporary spare wheel below the floor.
All Touaregs sold at the moment (until the plug-in hybrid arrives next year) use a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, which is sold locally in two states of tune.
The Touareg 170TDI driven here has 170kW of power and 500Nm of torque, is mated to a 4Motion full-time all-wheel drive system, and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Volkswagen claims combined-cycle fuel efficiency of just 6.8 litres per 100km, while the standing 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a swift 7.5 seconds.
With a 90-litre fuel tank on board, a driving range well beyond 1000km is very achievable. Meanwhile its AdBlue tank stores 24 litres.
For those after more grunt, the pricier Touareg 210TDI models use a version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel with – you guessed it – 210kW and 600Nm, slashing the 0-100km/h time to 6.1s.
- Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
- Power: 170kW @ 4000rpm
- Torque: 500Nm @ 1750-3000rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Driven wheels: Full-time AWD
- Towing capacity: 3500kg (290kg downball weight)
- Fuel consumption combined: 6.8L/100km
- Fuel tank capacity: 90 litres
- 0-100km/h claim: 7.5 seconds
Even the ‘base’ Touareg is comfortable, quiet and powerful on highways, making it a fantastic long-distance tourer and towing vehicle.
The 3.0-litre diesel has a muted note at idle, though the rattle when running is never entirely absent, and oodles of torque for strong rolling response when punching up hills or overtaking.
For heavy SUVs like this one (2087kg unladen), a muscular and tractable diesel engine is still an ideal choice, bowser prices notwithstanding.
While the fuel use claim of 6.8L/100km would be hard to achieve, I managed a still-respectable 7.9L/100km over a 350km mixed driving loop at an average speed of 41km/h. At that rate I’d have travelled more than 1100km on a single tank.
I also managed a 7.7-second 0-100km/h dash on my first attempt, making the factory claim quite manageable.
A real selling point for the Touareg is its equal-segment-leading 3.5-tonne braked-trailer towing capacity, with the diesel donk perfect for lugging a big caravan, boat or horse float.
The eight-speed automatic with shift-by-wire is largely non-intrusive, and smooth with its shifts. It syncs with the various driving modes (Normal, Sport, Eco, Off-road and Individual) that also change throttle and stability control settings to suit specific terrains.
Underneath the Touareg 170TDI is simpler than the more expensive versions, with steel springs and passive damping. Yet, it soaks up potholes and corrugated roads effortlessly, while the tyres filter out road noise: 64dB recorded at 100km/h on coarse-chip tarmac is quiet going.
The steering is nicely weighted and the body control against lateral cornering forces is excellent – the Touareg eats up twisty mountain roads pretty well.
The Touareg 170TDI’s standard permanent all-wheel drive constantly adjusts power distribution to the front and rear axles, and has terrain modes built in for surfaces such as snow.
Unlike many Euro SUV show-ponies, the Touareg actually can handle off-road driving. I’ve negotiated muddy trails and desert sands in these over the past few years. Ground clearance is 216mm.
We should mention here that ponying up for the pricier Touareg 210TDI models doesn’t just get you more power and more features.
They’re available with air suspension and adaptive damping, rear-wheel steering, and even clever electromechanical roll stabilisers.
In terms of driving aids, the Touareg 170TDI is able to steer itself between road lines for brief periods before telling you to take over, and when paired with the lane-change assist and adaptive cruise control functions enables brief hands-off highway driving capability.
Touareg 170TDI highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- 255/55 R19 Bridgestone highway tyres
- Space-saving spare tyre
- LED headlights with dusk sensors
- LED tail lights and daytime running lights
- Proximity key access
- Chrome roof rails
- Powered tailgate
- Rain-sensing windscreen wipers
- ‘ErgoComfort’ front seats – heated, powered
- Vienna leather seat trim
- Dual-zone climate control
- 9.2-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wireless phone charger
- USB, USB-C and Bluetooth
- Eight-speaker audio system
- Brushed aluminium inserts
Innovision Package: $8700
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 15.0-inch touchscreen infotainment
- Projecting head-up display
- 30-colour interior ambient lighting
- Stainless steel scuff plates – illuminated
- Glossy black centre console trim
Sound & Comfort Package: $7600
- Surround-view parking cameras
- Power-folding side mirrors
- 18-way powered, memory front seats
- Heated outer-rear seats
- 4-zone climate control
- Dynaudio 14-speaker 730W sound system
- Space-saving inflatable spare wheel
- Electric air compressor
- Manoeuvre Baking and Park Assist Plus
- Pure White: Free
- Grenadilla Black Metallic: $2200
- Oyster Silver Metallic: $2200
- Silicon Grey Metallic: $2200
- Malbec Red Premium Metallic: $2500
- Meloe-Blue Premium Metallic: $2500
The Touareg carries a five-star ANCAP rating with 2018 datestamp.
It achieved scores of 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 72 per cent for vulnerable road-user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist functions.
Standard safety features include:
- Driver, front passenger airbags
- Driver, front passenger side airbags
- Rear occupant side airbags
- Front, rear curtain airbags
- 3 x top tethers and 2 x ISOFIX points
- Multi-collision braking
- Adaptive cruise control
- AEB incl. Pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring, lane changing assistant
- Driver fatigue detection system
- Emergency Assist
- Front, rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane Assist incl. adaptive lane guidance
- Parking distance sensors, front and rear
- Proactive occupant protection system
- Rear-view camera with multi-angle views
- Travel Assist highway automated driving
Volkswagen Australia provides a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty, and one year of complimentary roadside assistance.
Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, with a five-year ‘Care Plan’ costing $3200 overall, representing a saving of $743 over paying as you go across the same timeframe.
At the time of writing Volkswagen Australia is actually providing this Care Plan for free on the $95,990 drive-away Touareg 170TDI, for those who buy before June 30.
If you’re looking for a premium-feeling, highly comfortable large SUV that can both take you off the beaten path and tow from time-to-time, the Volkswagen Touareg really makes sense.
It has a better engine and higher-quality interior than a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a more upmarket feel and better on-road dynamics than a Ford Everest or Toyota Prado, and is cheaper than the various luxury Euro alternatives.
There are a few issues, sure. That sub-$100k price point evaporates when you want the better infotainment system, there are only five seats not seven, and its utility is undermined by the lack of a proper spare wheel. And don’t get me started on the steering wheel buttons….
Still, for my money an entry Touareg 170TDI is among the best Volkswagen products out there, one that unobtrusively delivers a luxurious SUV experience without the branding.
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