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New Touareg treads lightly

PUBLISHED: 11:38 16 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013

New Touareg treads lightly

New Touareg treads lightly

Volkswagen's second generation Touareg offers the pleasure of a luxury SUV while minimising its envoronmental impact

Volkswagen's second generation Touareg offers the pleasure of a luxury SUV while minimising its envoronmental impact

The new Touareg luxury 4x4 is worthy of its place atop the Volkswagen line-up in its latest guise. Big 4x4s have to tread a finer line than ever these days. The size and ostentation which drove their rise in popularity still appeal to buyers but the same qualities have seen them singled out for criticism on social and environmental grounds. As luxury SUVs go, Volkswagens Touareg has always been one of the more discreet options and todays second generation model sets out to tread even more softly without forsaking the guilty pleasures that attract customers to these goliaths of the passenger car world.
The original Touareg was part of a twin-pronged Volkswagen assault on the luxury car market. Back in 2003, VW had no real record of selling cars costing north of 40,000. Then it launched the Touareg luxury 4x4 and the Phaeton luxury saloon within a few months of each other. The fortunes of the two cars were quite different. The Phaeton was handicapped by its similarity to the Audi A8, the notorious conservatism of luxury saloon buyers and diabolical residual values. It didnt really catch on. The Touareg, in contrast, sold steadily.
Despite its mechanical similarity to the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagens luxury off-roader benefited from the lower key image that comes with a VW badge. With overbearing rivals like the Cayenne and the Range Rover drawing fire (often unfairly) for their perceived profligacy, the Touareg was more likely to slip under the radar a quality that many buyers appreciated as much as the comparatively reasonable pricing. Todays Touareg is essentially more of the same, albeit roomier and more efficient.
The engine line-up assigned to the Touareg kicks off with Volkswagens 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel. Its a 237bhp engine that will have ample muscle about it for most tastes thanks to nearly 550Nm of torque. If, however, buyers feel that they need to get closer to take-off velocity when powering up that motorway on-ramp, theres always the 4.2-litre V8 TDI. This engine is a bit of a brute with 335bhp and a smidgeon shy of 800Nm. Its more torque than in that world champion of waft, the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Despite these impressive oil-burners, the real talking point in the Touareg line-up will be the hybrid model. Its the first production Volkswagen to employ an electrically-assisted powertrain and it features a 3.3-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine mated to an electric motor. This is whats called a full hybrid, referring to the fact that the electric motor can operate independently of the petrol engine. It allows the Touareg to operate solely on electric power at speeds of up to 30mph. With both power sources working in tandem, the 375bhp Touareg Hybrid will get to 62mph in 6.5s and hit a 149mph top speed.
This Touareg is bigger than the original, a car which lagged a little behind other luxury 4x4s on size. An extra 40mm has been incorporated into the wheelbase bumping the vehicles overall length up to 4,758mm. The car is no wider, which will help when parking it, and 20mm lower but more salient is the fact that this larger Touareg is actually 200kg lighter than the previous model.
Its the usual classy Volkswagen cabin inside and the Touareg should stand comparison to the best that the luxury 4x4 sector can offer in terms of its fit and finish. Unlike some of its contemporaries which have a seven-seat option, its only offered in five-seat guise but those seats do slide and recline to make occupants more comfortable. The boot is a capacious 580 litres, extending to 1,642 litres with the rear seats folded down.
The Touareg range is divided up into SE, Altitude and Escape trim levels but the Hybrid model stands apart from this, acting as a trim level in its own right. All models get an eight-speed automatic gearbox while most come with satellite navigation and leather trim. Theres also a High-Beam Assist function that dips the headlights when it detects on-coming traffic and Side Assist that warns of vehicles in your blind spot. Air-conditioned, massaging seats are also an option, as is full air suspension.
Of all the Touareg trim levels, its the Escape thats perhaps most intriguing. The original Touareg was a remarkably capable off-road vehicle with its advanced traction control system and a full complement of features other designed to stop it getting stuck in the great outdoors. On the current car, its only the Escape that comes with the full package of mud-plugging equipment which Volkswagen has dubbed 4XMOTION. It runs to reduction gearing, two lockable differentials and five special settings for the all-wheel-drive system which can be engaged according to the terrain.
Volkswagen has shaved weight from the Touareg by using lighter aluminium in its chassis and more aluminium in its bodywork. This, along with the implementation of stop/start technology on most models, should have a beneficial effect on efficiency. The entry-level 3.0-litre diesel engine records 38mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions at 195g/km. The Hybrid model chips in with 34.4mpg and 193g/km emissions while even the heavy hitting, V8 oil-burner gets 31mpg.
Volkswagens Touareg has always been one of the less brash choices in the 4x4 marketplace and the latest model makes it even harder for allegations of automotive excess to stick. It offers the bold looks, elevated seating position and practical interior while shedding weight and employing advanced engine technology to minimise its environmental impact.
The luxury 4x4s public image may have taken a dent but few other cars can do what it can and plenty of others have a far bigger impact on the environment. With stop/start technology, a high-tech hybrid powertrain and lightweight aluminium construction, the Touareg is cleaner than ever yet it retains the power, protection and practicality that have underpinned its popularity until now.

CAR: Volkswagen Touareg range
PRICES: 38,255-56,530 - on the road
CO2 EMISSIONS: 193-239g/km
PERFORMANCE: [V8 TDI] 0-60mph 7.5s / Max Speed 150mph [est]
FUEL CONSUMPTION: [V8 TDI] (combined) 31mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front/side/curtain airbags / ABS / ESP / Brake Assist/ hill descent assist / hill start assist [est]
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE? Length/Width/Heightmm 4758/1928/1724

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