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New Volkswagen Touareg review - Tribal dance

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The cabin has been refreshed and restyled, but it’s still unmistakably a VW. That means a high level of quality of materials (leather, metal, plastic et al) and excellent fit and finish throughout, except for one small bit – in the car I was driving, the hinges of the cover on one of the press-to-open storage compartments seemed a bit flimsy. There’s a great panoramic sunroof on offer, and no lack of boot/hatch space either. Overall, the interior is tasteful, quiet, comfortable and, indeed, luxurious – but not of the level of, say, a Range Rover Sport.

This car’s been on a diet and come away just over 200 kg lighter, which is a heck of a lot. The immediate benefits should be quicker acceleration and better fuel economy, but that will only become apparent after a full road test. Seat-of-the-pants? The weight loss doesn’t immediately come through when you’re driving the car, because it’s still a big, heavy vehicle – but it’s no laggard, that’s for sure.

 

A big reason for that is the 3-litre, V6 turbo-diesel whirring away under the hood. Providing 241 bhp@3800-4400 rpm and 56 kgm@1750-2250 rpm, the powerplant does a great job of propelling the Touareg; the 8-speed tiptronic ‘box (no paddles, though) is smooth and responsive, and the engine-gearbox combo ensures that you’re never short of grunt when you need it

The adjustable air suspension actually works rather well. On smooth, highway tarmac, with the suspension set to Sport, the ride quality was still quite good, and in Comfort, it was positively plush, with rather large potholes being soaked up comfortably. I didn’t get the chance to attack any corners, but the Touareg felt like it would steer in a neutral fashion if I had done so – and the steering wheel itself is meaty and nice to grip. Something this big needs serious stopping ability, and the brakes do their job very well.

 

The real surprise up the Touareg’s considerable sleeve is its ability off-road. With a raft of safety features and electronic doodads ( ABS, ESP, ASR, EDL, hill start assist, hill descent assist and so on), plus the ability to raise the ground clearance to a massive 305 mm, this thing is a proper goat – on the off-road course that VW had set up, it sailed through some hair-raising obstacles without a murmur. Virtually nobody who buys one here will go anywhere near such conditions in their lifetime, but it’s nice to know that the car’s capable of it!

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but expect something in the region of Rs 50 lakh-plus. For the full story on the new Touareg, wait for the March 2012 issue of BSM. Until then, suffice it to say that it’s a fresh take on the car that has made it better in almost every way.