It must be said that my tolerance for SUV drivers, in particular, is rather low. Granted, it’s not only SUV drivers who suffer delusions of grandeur directly proportionate to the sizes of their vehicles, but the perceived notion that one can ‘mount anything with my 4×4’ (even when it’s not a 4×4) is worrying.
And it was with this thought at the back of my mind, I must admit I issued a slight groan when I saw the VW Touareg been allocated to me.
‘What’s new,’ I muttered to my editor, ‘I’ve already driven it.’
And the well-intentioned offers to help me park it once it arrived – I’m five foot one inch, you see – also set me slightly on edge, although it quickly rubbed out because, essentially, the V6 TDI Touareg is not that kinda car.
It’s huge, for one, but it is imbued with the really enviable quality of wrapping around you and whisking you to your destinations in plush comfort.
Looks savage, but really a sweety
Of course, ‘what’s new’ on this car is its eye-catching R-Line package introduced to the Touareg range late in 2012 to ostensibly beef up sagging sales. It certainly looks impressive, more so when seen alongside a standard model. Those oversized bumpers, rear diffuser insert, oval tailpipes and chrome detailing certainly give the humble Touareg a presence and attitude.
The R-Line package details extend to the cabin where those leather sport seats, heated leather-tipped shift paddles (sadly wasted in the summer test period) and stainless steel pedals and entry sills whisper sumptuousness.
It’s this elegance that created a real juxtaposition in the Touareg experience. After floating about on my business I would often be genuinely surprised to look back and realise I’d just clambered out of an SUV that would probably have looked more at home in a music video featuring lithe, swimsuit-clad models than my life featuring a suburban Woolies. But the Touareg is so refined, as one colleague pointed out, it’s almost Audi-like.
This being a 3.0-litre V6 TDI, you would expect a fair amount of diesel noise to make it into the cabin. Not so for this Touareg that seems to have benefitted greatly from a range of insulation and NVH-reducing elements.
This V6 also carries Bluemotion badging which includes auto start-stop and regenerative braking to up its efficiency quota. Experiencing the very quiet cabin when the start-stop system was engaged was rather pleasing although one team member found the diesel growl when the engine burbled back to life too unsettling. Most team members didn’t mind the restart, which also reminded that this Touareg is not strictly about being easy on your body and good for the environment. Should you need to get somewhere in a hurry, this car won’t disappoint.
The 3.0-litre comes with 180kW/550Nm on tap, dispatching the 0 – 100kph sprint in 7.8 seconds and allowing the Touareg to hit a top end of 218kph. Through it all, Volkswagen claims this diesel V6 will sip 7.2 litres/100km of fuel (a tank takes a useful 100 litres of low sulphur juice) and emit 189g/km of CO2.
The Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI BlueMotion Technology was fitted with a range of extras, not least the R-Line package that accounted for R36 200 of the options worth R148 350. The power opening and closing tailgate, iPod connector and keyless entry were useful, and the satnav display crowned the centre console beautifully, but while the Touareg might have appeared cosy from inside, on an SUV this size, park distance control was a godsend.
So while the list price of R677 500 sees it comparing favourably with its Audi Q7 cousin (R692 000 for the near-identical 3.0 TDI Quattro) and BMW’s X5 xDrive30d (R705 431) – a comparative Merc ML costs more – with all those extras bumping the V6 Touareg’s price to beyond R800 000, we’d rather go easy on the features and buy other cousin Porsche’s diesel Cayenne (R763 000).