Stepping into the latest Volkswagen Touareg can generate a real wow factor. The interior and infotainment system has stepped up a level that creates an amazing first impression.
We’ve been testing the 190TDI Premium with the Innovision Package, and navigated the entire Discover Premium infotainment system to discuss whether it’s worth the $8000 price tag.
The Innovision Package bundles a 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a 12.3-inch Active Info Display instrument binnacle, a head-up display, and multi-colour ambient lighting.
Without this package you have a large dashboard with a 9.2-inch infotainment system – which would only feel like a letdown if you were aware of the 15-inch option. But the Innovision Package isn’t just about the display.
The pixel-perfect main display provides access to navigation, radio, smartphone integration, and all the controls for your seats and air-conditioning. Proximity sensors notice when your hand is moving close to the screen and presents additional controls and options, automatically hides them again when you’re finished.
The display highlights your climate controls in its bottom row with large tiles above to show information about driving, your media, and more.
The display is so large it almost feels like Volkswagen doesn’t quite know what to do with it. One large tile will show a picture of your car (not colour correct) and a large analogue clock.
This presents little insight to the people in the car, and consumes almost half the display. Fortunately, you can change that. All features are largely controlled by the display, but the steering wheel controls are easily accessible, as is a volume wheel near the cup holders in the centre console.
Starting with the climate controls, where there are four zones in the 190TDI Premium. They automatically switch to Eco if no one is buckled into those spaces.
The front seats have three-stage heat and cooling controls which are easily controlled. You can also choose to use heating and cooling at the same time on particular parts of your seat.
Taking it one step further, you’ll also discover multiple massage functions, which is incredible and something we used the entire time behind the wheel.
You might assume the controls for the steering wheel heating might be there, but they’re buried in the air-conditioning menu. It could be a problem, or the makings of a great prank if the next driver can’t find how to turn it off.
Bring your iPhone or Android charging cable and connect it to the front or centre console USB port, and you can enable Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
We’re glad this option is available, but were left a little surprised at how Volkswagen has scaled the appearance of these smartphone mirroring systems. CarPlay and Android Auto look lost in the 15-inch display, taking up closer to 7.0 inches at best.
It means navigation through Google Maps looks poor in comparison to using the local maps on the infotainment system. Fortunately, the local mapping and navigation is rather good.
For those who prefer to listen to the radio you’re left with FM/AM tuning, as DAB was unavailable.
We checked, looked at the manual, and looked online, and came out surprised to find such an impressive infotainment system would lack a feature standard on much cheaper cars.
If you insist on radio sounding clear and enjoyable, the Radio App for iOS and Android is your best bet, but it will consume your smartphone data.
Back to those tiles we mentioned earlier. If your phone is connected via Bluetooth you’re able to add favourite contacts for easy access. If you’re using CarPlay or Android Auto those tiles show default text suggesting you view the smartphone mirroring system to do those things.
This means Volkswagen hasn’t worked closely with smartphone makers to provide tight integration with its infotainment system, creating a siloed integration of these features. The same goes for the driver display.
Shifting the Touareg into reverse gives you a good insight into what you can do with a 15-inch display.
The rear camera is excellent and gives great clarity to the driver, while a 360-degree camera and the optional Area View from the Sound and Comfort pack allows you to view what’s around your car as though you were standing outside.
It’s almost like looking down on the car from a drone on the infotainment display, capable of flying around your car to spot any obstacles that could be near you. It’s an impressive feature and looks fabulous on the large screen.
For added customisation, you can use the infotainment display to alter the mood lighting in the car and colour theme of the menus. It’s easily accessed using the settings and provides minutes of fun, before being set once (and likely for the last time).
The driver display is another beautifully-presented screen with high detail. The tachometer on the left and speedometer on the right can be set up to mimic a traditional set of dials, or reduced to a minimalistic view.
This allows the central section to stretch. In the middle you can view navigation, music information, driving data, or view driving assists in action.
The left and right speed/rev counter sections can be customised to show other information such as fuel consumption or multimedia information.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re using CarPlay or Android Auto you’ll see a generic “Apple CarPlay” message instead of detailed track information. If you plan to use smartphone mirroring, choose other functions for the display.
Choose other functions in this drivers display. Most of the controls are managed using the steering wheel, and are extremely easy to use without taking your eyes off the road.
The head-up display provides a clear projection with the speed, navigation directions, and radar cruise controls. Some people find head-up displays distracting but Volkswagen allows you to customise the display to show less or more information depending on your preferences.
Connectivity in the Volkswagen Touareg 190TDI Premium is impressive.
The two USB ports at the front, plus a 12V connection will keep driver and passenger happy. Volkswagen also adds a wireless charging pad which can be a saviour when you don’t have a spare charging cable.
Unfortunately the vehicle doesn’t allow wireless Apple CarPlay. In the back, passengers have access to two USB ports, and there’s a 12V connection in the luggage compartment.
We haven’t been this “wowed” by a display in a vehicle since the Tesla Model S. No passenger during our loan failed to mention how striking it is.
Once you move past the display there are some areas Volkswagen could have slightly refined. Tighter integration between the infotainment operating system and the smartphone is paramount today, and the Innovision system falls short of the mark here, leaving drivers in one world or another.
The functions provided in the operating system will have you hooked once you get used to them. Much like when you buy a new smartphone, you take a moment to locate the standard functions and it feels second nature within a week.
The $8000 price tag might sound expensive but being stuck in the past could mean the difference in a sale down the track as buyers come to expect a higher standard. Volkswagen is off to a great start with the Discover Premium infotainment system, and we can’t wait to see it evolve.