The Volkswagen Touareg makes escaping civilisation a little more civilised. It’s a luxury SUV that doesn’t mind roughing it a bit.
Last updated in 2014, the Touareg is facing some tough competition in the luxury SUV segment these days. But the VW hasn’t become irrelevant; it has held up well and can still compete in terms of performance, comfort and convenience. It also offers more off-road ability than many vehicles in its class. The Touareg has four-wheel drive with a centre differential. The vehicle is equipped as standard with an ‘Off-road Driving Programme’ that adapts the ABS, EDS and ASR to off-road use, activates hill-descent assist and adapts the shift points of the automatic gearbox. The more adventure-oriented Escape model adds rear and centre differential locks, as well as a low-range gear.
As standard, the Touareg has an independent steel-spring suspension set-up. With its double wishbones, the suspension of the VW continues with a tried and tested layout that permits great spring travel and good axle articulation. Ground clearance with the standard suspension is 220mm. For those looking to increase the breadth of capability of the Touareg, an optional air suspension can be fitted (standard on the Escape and Executive models). The system includes self-levelling and ride-height adjustment, plus electronic damper control. On tarmac, the air suspension provides an extremely high level of comfort and thanks to speed-dependent reduction of the ride height-optimised handling characteristics. As an alternative to the automatic ‘Normal’ mode, the driver is able to select ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’. If Comfort is chosen, the best possible compensation for road surface unevenness is provided, while in Sport mode (with the ride height lowered by 25mm), the result is increased agility. On rough terrain, meanwhile, the air suspension allows for a maximum of 300mm of ground clearance.
If the Touareg has a weak spot in its off-road armour, it’s the rubber it rides on. Although the 255/55 R18 tyres provide an acceptable sidewall, a slightly bigger profile would be useful in an off-road environment. The big issue, though, is the lack of a full-size spare. If you get a flat, you have to resort to a space-saver. Luckily, you can get your hands on a full-size spare, though it’s a R7 450 optional extra. If you’re planning on doing a lot of gravel driving, it’s a worthwhile investment. Powered by VW’s V6 TDI BlueMotion engine, the Touareg is an excellent option when it comes to long-distance driving. Unlike many other luxury SUVs, it’s even a viable overlander. The BlueMotion engine sips around 7.3 litres of fuel per 100km. When you combine this with a tank of 100 litres, you’ve got an impressive range to work with.
The VW isn’t the newest, fanciest or most powerful luxury SUV you can buy, but it’s a great vehicle to travel in. As you’d expect from VW, it is a solid and understated 4×4 that gets the job done without fuss. As for dirt roads, the Touareg will probably keep going long after other luxury SUVs have limped back to the tarmac. Heading into the bundu doesn’t often feel this civilised.
Open-road rating 8 out of 10.
The good Sophisticated and luxurious with a surprising amount of 4×4 capability.
The bad Pricey. Full-size spare not standard.
Specifications – VW Touareg Escape V6 Tdi Bluemotion
Engine 3-Litre V6 Tdi Turbodiesel
Power 180kw @ 4 000r/Min
Torque 550nm @ 2 000r/Min
Transmission Eight-Speed Automatic
4wd System 4motion Permanent Awd
Fuel Tank 100 Litres
Fuel Consumption 7.3 Litres Per 100km (Claimed)
Tyre Size 255/55 R18
Spare Yes (Space-Saver)
Luggage Space Not Stated
Price R1 003 700 (Standard)