Volkswagen has taken the covers off the all-new, third-generation Touareg SUV. Positioned as Volkswagen’s global flagship after the felling of the Phaeton luxury saloon, the new Touareg will introduce a swathe of new tech to the Volkswagen brand, and should appeal to buyers looking for a slightly subtler premium SUV.
The first-generation Touareg was commissioned by then VW boss Ferdinand Piëch alongside the original Phaeton to raise Volkswagen’s global profile and push the brand upmarket. The Phaeton, although objectively impressive, failed to resonate with buyers more used to dropping upwards of £60,000 on something with a Mercedes badge. The Touareg was more of a success, and this new one follows a similar recipe of offering industry-leading tech in a subtle new suit.
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The new Touareg has been designed on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB-evo platform, which also underpins the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and Bentley Bentayga, and even the upcoming Lamborghini Urus. Classically, the Touareg had been developed alongside the Cayenne, to the point of sharing its door pressings in prior generations, no less, but VAG’s modularisation of the MLB-evo platform has allowed VW to head further in its own direction in terms of styling, as well as shave off a useful 106kg from the old car’s kerb weight.
As a result, the exterior design takes many design cues from other VW products such as the Arteon, sharing that car’s basic surfacing structure and detailing. The most dramatic aesthetic element is the layered grille and headlight treatment, similar in principle to the Arteon, but executed with a heavier hand and more liberal use of brightwork. A sportier R-Line model will also be available, replacing chrome for black-coloured bars on the grille and window surrounds. Wheel sizes will sit between 18 and 21 inches.
Inside is where the most dramatic elements lie though, as the interior has been totally redesigned from the platform up to support an all-new 15-inch centrally mounted infotainment screen, paired with a 12-inch driver information screen behind the steering wheel. The pair of high-resolution screens sit behind two sheets of glass and control most of the car’s functions. Tilted towards the driver, the main infotainment screen is the first application of Volkswagen homogenising all of its functions into a single interface.
Sat beneath the screen is a wide centre console housing the gear selector and (rejoice) a physical volume knob, as well as a pair of driver-mode controllers that have appeared in both previous generation Touaregs. The effect is simple, paired back and a pleasing contrast to other systems within the VW group. After its integration here, we expect future VW products to offer the same infotainment tech, as the Touareg has classically acted as a technical showcase for future Volkswagen models. Specific UK specifications have not yet been released, although in other global markets the digital interface will not be standard-fit.
At launch in the UK, the Touareg will be available with a 282bhp 3-litre V6 diesel engine, with a lesser powered 228bhp V6 diesel, V6 turbo petrol and a flagship 417bhp V8 diesel arriving later in 2018. A plug-in hybrid combining a petrol-powered V6 and battery pack will also be available in China, although the European availability of the plug-in model has yet to be confirmed. All powertrains will be hooked up to a four-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic gearbox, adding new-for-Volkswagen tech like four-wheel steering too. As in both previous Touaregs, expect a certain amount of off-roading gubbins, too, including height-adjustable air suspension and various off-road modes in a similar vein to Land Rover’s terrain response systems available in an optional off-road pack.
Although the new Touareg is unlikely to raise an eyebrow in its pursuit of a thrilling driving experience, it does preview the next generation of Volkswagen’s user interface, and show off Volkswagen’s technical prowess above it’s usual playground of family hatchbacks as a modern Volkswagen flagship. We are expecting a starting price of around £50,000 when it goes on sale in the summer, with final specifications arriving closer to then.