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Tow Test: VW Touareg

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Until now, Volkswagen’s Touareg had been at the bottom of my list when I compared it with the likes of top-end luxury 4×4 SUVs such as the Toyota Prado, Mercedes ML and Land Rover Discovery. For visual and practical reasons, I felt that it was just not in the same class as these market leaders, and I need usable interior space, especially in the rear loading bay. And the styling felt a little… dare I say, German middle-class?

Well, that’s all changed.

WHAT’S NEW

In its new shape, the Touareg is some 77mm longer and 44mm wider than the previous model, and with the restyled interior and air suspension, it is a very nice package!

It also gives the impression that it must surely be one of the most advanced vehicles in the race for the driverless car, with the newfound technical ability of Lane-keep Assist, Side Assist with night vision, and a Heads-Up display to assist in preventing accidents. A driver has simply never had it so easy!

Then, there are the useful towing features like trailer stability control and a self-levelling rear suspension, which for us caravanners is a wonderful confidence-booster when towing long distance.

It’s also gone German upper-class in styling: it turns heads!

On the outside, the new model has a more aggressive front chrome grill and various LED lights; the back also has a new LED lighting design.

The re-designed interior will blow your mind. With a big 15” touch screen on the dashboard (it’s called the Innovation cockpit and will cost you over R70 000 extra), you will have access to everything from navigation to lighting control, air-conditioner settings and vehicle information. You can even adjust your seats on the centre console.

There’s another 12” screen behind the steering wheel (called the “digital cockpit”) which displays all the vehicle information you could possible require.

Perhaps its only new limitation is that it may not be as good an off-roader as the previous model, since it now has 18”, 19”, or 21” low-profile tyres; but it nevertheless retains that 4×4 ability to tow on wet grass, in sandy campsites, and along good off-road tracks… the type of tracks conducive to a luxury vehicle’s passing without having to endure the embarrassment of scratching its paint or asking for a tow.

THE ENGINE

For caravanners, the 3-litre V6 diesel engine has serious oomph. Start it, drive it − and you just have to own it! There is almost enough get-up-and-go performance to provide whiplash, or so it seems.

The new Touareg produces 190 kW and a staggering 600 Nm of torque, and with an 8-speed automatic transmission, it is so smooth and vibration-free that you will be forgiven for having to check the rev counter to see if the engine is running.

As an engine, it is what all diesels should aspire to: quiet when at idle or full throttle, yet explosive in performance when the injectors and turbo come into play. On acceleration, there is a moment of brief hesitation while the turbo appears to take a deep breath, but when it exhales air into the cylinders, hold onto your head and be prepared for your wife to give you a thousand words about your driving style! The acceleration, even with a caravan in tow, is worth the dirty looks.

Caravanners, and those who tow a trailer, will really like the large digital display and the reverse camera. It could only be a co-ordination problem if you can’t place the deployable towball directly under the coupling head every time, and by yourself!

Reversing with a trailer has never been easier: press the trailer-assist function, and the Touareg uses sensors and cameras to reverse and park your caravan.

WHAT WE TOWED

For a towing companion, we managed to borrow a Quantum Comfort caravan. ‘Quantum Caravans’ is a relatively new manufacturer, and their caravans are in short supply.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Quantum were upgrading their range, so we won’t focus too much on the caravan… other than to say that we were pleasantly surprised by the finish, layout and tow-ability!

The Quantum Comfort is a four-berth caravan with a GVM of 1 660 kg, and an overall length of 6 550 mm. All in all, it’s a nice size of caravan to tow, with a single axle and a loading capacity of 300 kg.

It was interesting to see how Quantum has grown (in capability of design, and in shaping, equipping and producing a functional caravan) in their relatively short history as a caravan manufacturer.

I found the Quantum’s interiors to be dominated by darkened wooden floors, cupboards and pelmets, and was impressed with the visual finish and attention to detail.

These caravans are simple in styling, but offer an expected level of functionality. More on Quantum later!

ON THE ROAD

Within minutes of heading onto the highway with the Comfort in tow, it became obvious that we had power to spare. The Toureg is obviously capable of towing something longer and heavier, something up to the legal limit of the Touareg’s Tare of 2 040 kg.

Towing the Quantum Comfort, the Touareg accelerated from zero to 60 km/h in 5.58 seconds, to 80 km/h in 7.98 seconds, and to 100 km/h in 11.19 seconds, and that included allowing the turbo to pump up the 3-litre diesel engine.

The Cape has a magnificent mountain pass that runs between Franschhoek and Theewaterskloof Dam, and this was achieved effortlessly with this combination.

For overtaking, the vehicle will accelerate from 80 to 100 km/h in 3.51 seconds; and the top speed is way, way beyond legal.

I thought that the combination of engine, gearbox and smoothness of the air suspension was the most exciting feature of the new Toureg. Then, I added this to the knowledge that one is also getting Volkswagen reliability.

An interesting development that Volkswagen has added, is that when you drive up to about 35 km/h, the rear wheels will turn a little in the opposite direction to that of the front wheels, which gives you an easier and tighter turn on such a big vehicle.

Wonderfully smooth gear changes, excellent traction on the windy gravel road, surefooted stability in side winds, good braking – a really nice combination, and a nice caravan to tow!

FINAL THOUGHT

In summary: Yes, please; yes, please! Towing with this combination is effortless and easy; and with so much engine torque on hand, it is reassuring to know that your towing experience is going to be one of enjoyment.

SPECIFICATIONS

Volkswagen Touareg TDI V6

Engine: 2 967 cc

Gearbox: 8-speed auto

Power: 190 kW @ 3 250 rpm

Torque: 600 Nm @ 2 250 – 2 500 rpm

Tare: 2 040 kg

GCM: 2 810 kg

Max towing (unbraked): 750 kg

Max towing (braked): 3 500 kg

Ground clearance: 215 mm

Price *

Luxury              R999 800

Executive         R1 142 200

* There are various optional extras, including a Suspension Package with Air Suspension and Rear Wheel Steering, 4-Zone Climatronic and multi-zone controls, Ambient Light Package, the Innovation Cockpit, Advanced Safety Package, and more.

Installing all the optional extras will cost you over R300 000.


By Godfrey Castle

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