The secret hidden beneath this VW SUV
There's a lot more to Volkswagen than just Volkswagens. The Volkswagen Group also includes Audi, Skoda, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti and Ducati.
VW amortises its costs across its car brands. If you look hard enough, you may possibly find a few little bits and pieces from the Golf in a Bugatti Chiron. A Golf costs about $26,000. The Chiron? About $6 million.
Volkswagen's five-seater Touareg SUV shares much more than wires and widgets with the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. All use the same platform, or core structure, and while each wears a bespoke suit, with specific (plus shared) drivetrains and chassis tuning, there's also plenty of familial engineering DNA, electronics and hardware underneath.
Touareg prices start at $80,790 plus on-road costs. The top spec Bentayga is $481,400. Somebody's obviously a winner here, and I don't think it's the Bentley driver.
The base model Touareg 190 (as in kilowatts of power) TDI is also a good deal compared with its closest relative, Audi's Q7 50TDI, which starts at $112,900. Both roll off the same production line in Slovakia, as does the Cayenne.
The Audi's larger body accommodates two extra rear seats, but underneath they're basically the same SUV. Both use VW's 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drivetrain.
The Audi is chipped for 210kW - an imperceptible 20kW more than the VW - and both produce the same 600Nm of torque.
Our test Touareg, the 190TDI Premium, is priced at $86,790. It's all the luxury SUV you will ever need: leather upholstery, front seats with a massage function, matrix LED headlights, adjustable air suspension, power tailgate, semi-automatic parking, VW's comprehensive Discover Pro infotainment, multiple connectivity points and wireless phone charging are standard.
We've ticked three $8000 packaged option boxes - Sound and Comfort, R-Line and Innovision - plus a full length sunroof for $3000 and metallic paint at $2000.
All up, then, we've loaded $29,000 worth of options into our Touareg, for a total spend of $115,790. So it's no longer a bargain, but even so, if you take the Touareg all the way to Vegas with options it still comes in at $2110 less than BMW's base X5 30d, and $8610 less than the Mercedes GLE400d.
No complaints about the driver's seat, a firm, supportive armchair, heated and cooled with eight selectable massage programs. The Innovision package adds tech and luxe to the pretty utilitarian standard dash. Twelve-inch digital instruments and the TV-sized infotainment touchscreen are beautiful to look at and easy to navigate.
Comfort and Normal suspension settings deliver a compliant, controlled ride, even on rough surfaces, despite low profile tyres and 20 inch alloys. Sport mode is tolerable, too.
A flat, firm rear bench features adjustable legroom and backrest angle, plus ventilation and two USB connectors. Boot space is vast, with nearly two metres of floor length available in extended configuration.
The VW is well-equipped as standard; surround cameras and a head-up display are options.
VW's 3.0-litre V6 is a muscular, responsive engine with deep reserves of bottom end and mid-range grunt, good fuel efficiency and effortless everyday driveability, in partnership with the smooth, efficient eight-speed auto.
VW claims a rapid 6.5 seconds from 0-100km/h, the same as BMW's X5 30d. Seat of the pants says that's pretty close.
It returns 9-12L/100km in town and 6-7L/100km on the highway, where its range exceeds 1000km. It will pull its maximum 3500kg fully loaded, though VW does mandate light towball downloads: 130kg with five people aboard, and 280kg with two.
Extensive use of aluminium helps keep Touareg's mass to a nick over two tonnes, and it's as structurally rigid as they come. Add tightly-controlled adaptive suspension (that's also adjustable for ride height), 20-inch wheels with wide, low profile road tyres and accurate steering (supplemented in the test car with rear wheel steering for added manoeuvrability and responsiveness) and you have a wagon that takes corners with far greater agility and poise than SUVs of this size usually do. In large part you can put that down to the fact that Porsche won't stick its badge on something that doesn't handle.
The VW has greater off road ability that its Audi and Porsche siblings, and the X5/GLE, with up to 258mm of ground clearance when the air suspension is fully extended. It uses the same selectable, terrain-specific traction control smarts as the Amarok V6, with permanent all wheel drive (in high range only) operating in a continuously variable front/rear split.
Old men drive Toyota Prados and Landcruisers, and I'm not brave enough to buy a Land Rover.
I'm not buying a fancy badge. I'll take this instead of the Audi Q7 and pocket $26,110 change.
There's nothing you need on the expensive options list. The stock standard Premium 190TDi is the real luxury German SUV deal and great value compared with its Audi, BMW and Mercedes rivals.
BMW X5 30d, from $117,900
Runs a 195kW 3.0-litre straight six turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic. More stylish inside, but not as comfortable, zero off road chops and overly complex infotainment.
Land Rover Discovery SD6, from $85,499
Base 3.0-litre V6 Disco offers 225kW and 700Nm, plus a full suite of off road hardware including a low range transfer case. Skinny standard equipment list at the price, though.
VW TOUAREG 190TDI PREMIUM VITALS
Price: $86,790, as tested $115,790
Warranty/servicing: 5 year w'ty; $2500 for 5 years/75,000km
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel; 190kW/600Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, front and rear cross traffic assist, blind spot monitoring, matrix LED headlights
Spare: Space saver
Originally published as The secret hidden beneath this VW SUV