Volkswagen SA sent over the Touareg for me to test over the August long weekend. I received it in level three of lockdown so made an effort to find activities I could do. Who wouldn’t want to drive around in it, have you seen it?
The Touareg is bigger than you would expect, well actually, most cars if my garage is anything to go by. It is the luxury SUV flagship from VW. It shares the same platform as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7.
VWSA’s SUV line up looks like this now from top of the line to bottom: Touareg, Tiguan All Space, Tiguan, T-Roc and T-Cross. If you’re in the market for one, good luck choosing; there are way too many options. Having driven the T-Cross at launch, this budget-friendly option is excellent value for money and no surprise it has been such a hit.
Okay, back to the Touareg.
While the model is not exactly brand new, it features the “Black Style” package. This includes black-out chrome elements, bumper in ‘R’ style, body coloured bumper and lower door parts, black air intake with fins, black roof rails, black decorative trim on the side windows, black exterior mirror housings, black radiator grille and black 21-inch Suzuka alloy wheels.
UNDER THE HOOD
I drove the Touareg V6 TDI Executive R-Line. It is powered by a 3.0 V6 turbodiesel engine with 190kW of power and 600Nm of torque, paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission. It’s a 4×4, powered by VW’s 4Motion tech and has 6 different driving modes, depending on the terrain you’re in. It comes standard with the suspension package, R-Line and WeConnect Go DataPlug. This is priced at R1 334 500.
You can read my thoughts on the DataPlug here:
KITTED WITH EXTRAS
The optional extras included: the Advanced Safety Package with lane and side assist, night vision and head-up display; Innovation Cockpit (digital 12-inch instrument cluster, 3 additional USB ports, premium navigation, inductive charging, black gloss centre console); Ambient Lights with interior lighting and illuminated R-Line door sill plates. And the new Black Style package with 21-inch Suzuka alloy wheels. Total in order listed: R65 950, R83 250, R8 900 and R43 400 (R201 500).
The press car sent to me with extras comes to a total of R1 536 000.
DRIVING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
It’s a luxurious, spacious vehicle with top of the line finishes. The large touchscreen with the digital cockpit inside gives it that wow factor when you get in. Comfort is never an afterthought, I love how roomy it is; two bottle holders for each person in the front. And yes, I used it on my roadtrips.
Driving the Touareg made me feel a bit fancy, and people on the highway moved out of my way when they saw me approaching. This vehicle appeals to those who want that treatment on the road. Also, other VW drivers in my area stared at the car every time I drove pass the park, clearly eyeing their next upgrade, LOL.
I enjoyed driving this car because for once, I didn’t feel like I was in a hurry to go anywhere. I loved the very relaxed vibe of it, if that makes sense. You can read loads of reviews online if you want to know more about its performance. It has a top speed of 231km/h and goes from 0-100 in 6.1 seconds. I’m telling you because it could be useful info; I didn’t find the need to test it.
There is plenty of leg room in the front and back cabin. The back seats have their own AC controls but I noticed they didn’t have their own USB ports. However, the car itself does have extras as a whole. The middle seat pulls down to become cup holders. Business class vibes going on back there.
The boot is also massive at 810L before folding the seats down, which takes it to 1800L. I bought a bunch of plants and transported it back home all neatly on a plastic sheet; there was more than enough space.
ALL THE TECH
What drew me to the Touareg was the technology features inside the car. It is ergonomic and intuitive and for some, it may be ahead of its time, like the hand gestures. This in particular takes some getting use to, which will definitely be the norm for the next-generation.
These are my tech highlights:
- The 15″ infotainment screen: The sleek cabin with its touchscreen across the dashboard, which takes up two thirds along with the digital instrument cluster on the front is something you cannot ignore. It just screams latest and greatest tech; VW calls it the Innovation Cockpit. I connected my smartphones to the infotainment system via a cable to access CarPlay, which was such a pleasure to use. I cannot live without Google Maps, and we attempted to use the car’s own navigation system to go to Hartbeespoort but struggled to put in the destination. It supports voice, touch and hand gestures (more on this later). Touch is my preferred method, the voice recognition system struggles with South African (my) accent.
- The 12″ digital instrument cluster: Joined to the above, I have gotten used to these digital customisable interfaces. I toggle between them based on where I am going. I use the maps in full screen for navigation so I don’t have to look to the side, or switch to my consumption monitoring when just going to the supermarkets, etc. As I spend more time with them, I find them intuitive, so it’s quite simple enough to change it about if I get bored. It also has a head-up display for that extra bit of info you’d need to access. I kept it on permanently.
- Night Vision: My eyes are bad even with glasses, lol, so this was a nifty feature. You can put it on during the day (pointing out that it can be activated in the day), but at night, the thermal imaging camera can detect people or animals from 10 to 130 meters away and will warn the driver and activate the brakes. If you’ve been driving all day, it’s a great safety feature to use if you’re fatigued.
- Gesture control: I like where this headed but I think it might be lost on this generation. After a few tries I seem to have got the hang of how close your hand needs to be to the infotainment screen. There is no mode to activate, just swipe away. If used properly (as in via music connected in a supported mode), it is useful to change tracks while you’re driving. It does not work in CarPlay mode. I tried voice control and it just didn’t understand me.
- Inductive charging: I’m more of a cable person myself, I always have one in every car I drive but the option to leave your phone flat and have it charge while you drive is useful. If you’re commuting and by the end of the day you need an extra boost, it’s there. Or if you’re just taking a roadtrip. If you carry two phones around like then it’s especially useful.
I actively sought out activities to do with the Touareg during level three of lockdown. I went to Hartbeespoort, drove to one of the lion parks in Gauteng, and went to the drive-in. This was arguably my most “active” weekend since lockdown began, all thanks to VW. I didn’t want to just use the car for grocery runs, though the boot space is massive, but the backseat legroom is perfect for my needs in a household of two.
Have the VW Touareg for the long weekend so went to the Pineslopes drive-in (free). Fun for kids; adults just socialise in masks. Ordered from Momo Roku, food is delivered on a tray.
Observation: nobody knows how to park + you’re not there for the movie 😆 pic.twitter.com/zNQBAzmzYb
— Nafisa Akabor (@nafisa1) August 8, 2020
The drive-in was fun and not fun. The car was great, had the best sound, seats could recline. Plus it has a panoramic roof that opens, so I could stand up and take pics safely if I wanted to. It’s comfortable and the ideal outing as a family. The not fun part it being in a shopping mall parking lot and too many distractions while trying to watch the movie. My highlight was our food being brought in a tray to the car. I did not mess the seats, was super careful, lol!
The Touareg once again was ideal for driving in these parks that are not tarred. I felt safe and it was comfortable. Definitely didn’t open any windows while in the park.
The Touareg also took me back to one of my favourite spots, an almost ritual with test cars I get. It was my first real outing I’d say since the harsh lockdown started in March. It was special. It felt weird. It felt like I had to re-adjust to this life. It was absolutely worth the 45 minute drive there.
The Touareg is aimed at those looking for a luxurious vehicle with no details spared. If you want those bits of convenience, safety or looks (I like the Black Style!), you have to pay for those packages as optional extras. I can see how it appeals to anyone who drives a VW and wants to upgrade as a family car in future. Oh, and let’s not forget it comes with the attention of other drivers who wish they could be driving it and would move out of your way.
However, for that price range, you should also compare it to other luxurious offerings from Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz or BMW. But as is the case with smartphones, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org