The Touareg was Volkswagen’s first SUV, introduced in 2002 and a joint development with Audi (for the Q7) and Porsche (for the Cayenne). The model would start a line of smaller SUVs which have become major contributors to the brand’s global volume.

Two generations of the Touareg have passed and the third one made its debut in China. It’s the first time Volkswagen has unveiled a brand new model in China, indicating just how important that market is. In fact, China is so important to Volkswagen (and other carmakers) that it is willing to make models specifically for that market.

With the new SUV, the brand embarks on its largest model and technology campaign to promote the new flagship as a contender in the premium SUV segment.

Equipped with the connectivity of a new era and a pioneering fusion of assistance, comfort, lighting and infotainment systems, the Touareg also shows what can be expected in other models in coming years. It is described as ‘the most technically advanced Volkswagen of its era’.

The highlight of the new Touareg is the fully digitalised Innovision Cockpit which appears for the first time in the model. Here the digital instruments (Digital Cockpit with 12-inch display) and the top Discover Premium infotainment system (with 15-inch display) merge to form a digital operating, information, communication and entertainment panel that hardly needs any conventional buttons or switches. Always on, offering intuitive control and maximum personalisation, the Innovision Cockpit in the Touareg provides the blueprint for tomorrow’s digital interior today.

Drivers will use the Innovision Cockpit to adapt the assistance, handling and comfort systems specifically to their personal tastes and driving style. In other words, the driver (and also the passengers) no longer have to adapt to the car but it can be adapted to them. Volkswagen likens this to be like a new smartphone where the owner customises interfaces and applications after getting it; thereafter, it is a very personalised device.

With the Innovision cockpit, tuning to personal needs is made possible by a new high level of connected systems and programmes – controlled via digital interfaces and the multifunction steering wheel.

The Touareg is launching with the largest range of assistance, handling and comfort systems ever to be integrated into a Volkswagen. They include technologies such as the Night Vision assistance system (detects people and animals in darkness via a thermal imaging camera), Roadwork Lane Assist (semi-automated steering and lane keeping, accelerating and braking up to 60 km/h), Front Cross Traffic Assist (reacts to cross traffic in front of the Touareg), active all-wheel steering (makes the Touareg handle like a compact car), new roll stabilisation with electromechanically controlled anti-roll bars, ‘IQ.Light – LED matrix headlights’ (interactive, camera-based dipped and main beam headlight control) and a ‘Windscreen Head-up Display’ projected directly onto the windscreen.

The driver experiences these systems in a unified manner in the Touareg. They are simply there – interconnected via a new central control unit – working imperceptibly in the background and making travel safer, more convenient and more intuitive than ever.

Compared to its predecessor, the third generation Touareg is moderately wider and longer and sits on the MLB (evo) platform. The new dimensions have positive effects on both the vehicle’s proportions and its amount of interior space. The added exterior length leads to a 16.2% increase in luggage capacity. There is an electrically extending and retracting luggage compartment cover to hide the items and of course, an electrically-powered door. Despite its increased length and width, the car body is 106 kgs lighter, thanks to its mixed material construction of aluminium (48%) and high-tech steels (52%).

In Europe, Volkswagen will initially offer two V6 turbodiesel engines with outputs of 231 ps and 286 ps. Other powerplants available will include a V6 petrol engine (340 ps) and a V8 turbodiesel (421 ps). A new plug-in hybrid drive (367 ps of system power) is also being prepared for China but the availability of this powertrain in other markets has not been decided yet.

When the Touareg was first launched, private importers brought some units to Malaysia as there was no official  brand representation then. Volkswagen Malaysia also sold the model for a while but stopped after 2015. It’s not known if this third generation will come as Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia would probably prefer to focus on the smaller Tiguan which can be priced competitively as it is assembled locally. It’s unlikely that the Touareg can ever be assembled here since the potential numbers would never make a good business case.

First generation of the Touareg was sold in Malaysia by private importers.

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[Chips Yap]

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