TUDELA, Spain -- Volkswagen has given its latest Touareg a more car-like ride while reducing emphasis on its off-road capabilities to boost its appeal to the increasing numbers of mainstream customers buying SUVs.
The third-generation Touareg will be equipped with options previously only found in high-end premium models such as active roll prevention, a fully digital dashboard and a night-vision assistant.
VW is also reintroducing a gasoline engine option in Europe as customers abandon diesels amid talk of banning diesels from cities.
The Touareg should give owners the sensation of being behind the wheel of a "high-riding sedan," VW engineers said at a press event here to introduce the model.
The SUV moves to VW Group's MLB Evo platform, also used for its Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne premium siblings. "We are utilizing the full range of features that the architecture allows,” said Jochen Bruening, head of the Touareg model line.
VW added rear-axle steering to make the Touareg more responsive and agile, especially in tight spaces where low-speed maneuvering is required. This gives the full-size SUV the same turning radius as the much smaller Golf hatchbach. Optional air suspension bolsters ride comfort and adapts the vehicle’s ride height to highway or offroad conditions.
The Touareg is being positioned further upmarket as it takes on the role of VW brand's flagship after the slow-selling Phaeton sedan was axed two years ago.
The Touareg is the first VW model to offer a night-vision assistant that can project a thermal imaging view of the road onto the display.
It will also have AWS active anti-roll prevention first introduced in Audi’s SQ7 and developed with the German supplier Schaeffler. Normally when a vehicle turns a corner or swerves to avoid an object, the centrifugal force puts pressure on the outer wheels and the body begins to tilt away from the inside of the curve.
To prevent this, engineers installed a motor rather than a hydraulic pump between the two ends of the anti-roll bar that spans each axle. When the Touareg turns into a curve, the actuator quickly twists the two halves of the bar in opposite directions with the help of energy supplied by a dedicated 48-volt power supply. This puts added downforce on the two inner tyres while lifting the outer ones, stabilizing the vehicle and creating greater traction with the road.
The Touareg also comes with Innovision Cockpit, a premium extra that has a configurable 12-inch digital instrument cluster paired with a 15-inch middle console angled toward the driver. The intuitive system reacts to touch, speech and gesture commands, doing away with most buttons and dials in the vehicle. A source said discussions are being held whether to offer it in the Arteon midsize fastback, but for the moment the Touareg is the Volkswagen Group vehicle to receive such a premium virtual cockpit.
VW can get its hands on advanced technology at affordable prices because the Touareg shares its architecture with the Q7 and Cayenne. All three are built at VW's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Fewer off-road features
The first-generation Touareg arrived in 2002 at a time when most SUV buyers were looking for a vehicle with offroad capabilities. It had as standard a low-range gearbox for mastering treacherous terrain. The second generation offered it only as an option. For the latest version, engineers eliminated the feature. They argue software is now so advanced that it can achieve much of the same effect, while saving weight and complexity from the added hardware. Fewer than 5 percent of the customers ordered the off-road package in the outgoing model.
This doesn’t mean drivers don’t put the Touareg through its paces. Close to two-thirds are ordered in combination with a trailer coupling hook for pulling a boat or a horse box. The Touareg can tow a trailer weighing up to 3,500 kg, the maximum permissible weight for a passenger car, compared with 2,700 kg for the rival Volvo XC90.
To increase practicality, the Touareg has been lengthened by 77mm, mainly in the rear, to offer more than 110 liters in trunk space. This followed criticism that competitor models could pack more into the rear.
VW expects the Touareg to appeal to European drivers who prefer understatement over the conspicuous consumption that, for example, the Porsche Cayenne might signal.
But designers gave the SUV's grille more bling for the Chinese market to help it stand out from the crowd. Chinese customers buy roughly every second Touareg. Europeans can choose a subtler version.
"The front appears much more sophisticated and prestigious than before through the generous use of chrome,” said Frank Bruese, the model’s chief designer. “For those that don’t like chrome, though, we have another option where it’s all in black.”
VW expects Touareg sales of about 500,000 units over its life cycle, sources said, even though it is being pulled from North America and Japan where VW now sells the less well equipped and less expensive Atlas. Combined, these markets in the past accounted for roughly a fifth of total volumes.
V-6 gasoline engines
In Europe, the Touareg will offer V-6 gasoline engines with two power outputs starting in autumn, the first time buyers have had such as option since 2014 when gasoline engines were dropped because of low sales. However, VW still expects that most Touareg sales in Europe will be diesels. Two V-6 diesels will be available at launch. A 4.0-liter V-8 diesel is scheduled to come at a later date.
Toward the end of 2019, VW also expects to offer a plug-in hybrid version. Currently internal discussions are continuing over whether to marry the battery with an inline-four gasoline engine that would be sufficient for most European markets with the exception of Germany, or opt for the more expensive V-6.
The Touareg will be officially unveiled in Beijing on March 23. It will go on sale in Europe in June. China sales are expected to start in the fourth quarter.
VW has not disclosed pricing for the Touareg but it is likely to start at 50,000 euros in Germany, with top versions costing up to 80,000 euros.
Secondo Vw la Touareg III generazione ha fatto passi da gigante per quanto riguarda il confort. Si punterà ancora sui diesel ( sia V6 che V8) oltre ai benzina e all’ibrido che arriverà più tardi.