Winner: Volkswagen Touareg Launch Edition
In any of these contests there can only be one winner and nowhere is this more apt than in the case of this year’s winning Volkswagen Touareg. With only one Launch Edition model available at time of scoring (although a lower-spec model is now available), VW is essentially putting all its chips on the one roulette number.
This gamble has really paid off for VW and they have filled the new third-generation Touareg with a class-leading level of standard features, both in the cabin and under the bonnet. They have also upped the ante in the safety stakes with the inclusion of predictive pedestrian monitoring, adaptive lane guidance, park assist, traffic-jam assist and front and rear cross-traffic assist.
The interior cabin design is that of simple horizontal lines and it’s an easy and practical car to live with. There’s an electric tailgate, LED matrix headlights, 9.2-inch Discover Pro navigation system with gesture control, and four USB ports with wireless charging. At this price point, you expect the luxury treatment and it starts with 18-way electrically adjustable front seats wrapped in Savona leather, which are heated and ventilated. To top it off, they also have a massage function that uses 10 pneumatic air pillows that inflate up to six centimetres to provide eight different pre-set massage programs.
The rear passengers don’t miss out either as they can chill with four-zone climate control air blowing on them and the rear seat backrests are adjustable for more comfort. Rear passengers can have their legs stretched out as the Touareg’s space is equal to the third-placed Volvo XC90 and almost the largest in the category with a cavernous cargo area.
Where the Touareg increased its odds of winning is the way it performs on and off the road. Even though it’s hauling two tonnes of metal, the 190kW/600Nm V6 turbo diesel, eight-speed automatic gearbox and torque-sensing 4MOTION all-wheel-drive package delivered sedan-type acceleration and surprising nimbleness through corners for a vehicle this size. It gains these handling benefits from sharing the same underpinnings with the sporty Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, which are also in the VW family. The adaptive air suspension is a large part of the handling recipe, and although there are three suspension settings, in real-life cases it’s likely it will live in the ‘set and forget’ Comfort mode. The Touareg also has a useful 3500-kilogram towing capacity.
The 20-inch wheels keep a sticky grip on the road but its tyre costs contributed to why the Touareg is one of the dearest to run and repair of all the vehicles considered in the awards this year (the Volvo XC90 is similarly expensive). All the finalists are diesel and all are incredibly quiet on the road, very comfortable to travel in and quite capable off-road.
The Range Rover Evoque is the better value-for-money option but wasn’t able to quite beat the others in functionality and its 2.0-litre engine was no match for the 3.0-litre V6 grunt of the Touareg.
For the last couple of years, Volvo has provided genuine competition to the German and British offerings in the premium SUV market. While not much has changed, the main difference this time around is the all-new Touareg is the better overall package. Even if you aren’t a betting person, putting $100K of your hard-earned on the Touareg is a sure thing.