New Touareg, VWs SUV flagship, is completely restyled, lower than before

New Touareg, VW's SUV flagship, is completely restyled, lower than before

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Volkswagen's new Touareg SUV is so clever it can see in the dark. Night Vision is part of a new suite of technologies on the new generation model which also includes a world debut by the Innovation Cockpit which will gradually be rolled out through the automaker's other model ranges.

The Touareg - seen initially at the Beijing auto show last month - now enters its third generation following launch in 2002 and over 1m have been sold worldwide. Germany, China (hence Beijing) and the US are its biggest markets. It is based on the VW Group's modular longitudinal matrix (MLM) allowing access to all the group's latest technology including driver assistance, safety systems and connectivity.

This, as already mentioned, includes the Innovation Cockpit, available as an option. A 12-inch digital instrument display merges with the 15-inch TFT touchscreen of the Discover Premium infotainment to form a new digital operating, information, communication and entertainment unit in much the same way Daimler's Mercedes mixes and matches screens from A- to S-class.

A new generation of assistance, driving dynamics and comfort systems includes Night Vision, using a thermal imaging camera to spot people and animals in the dark. There is also Traffic Jam and Roadwork Lane Assist - partly automated steering and lane departure warning up to 60km/h (37mph), acceleration and braking - Front Cross Traffic Assist, which responds to vehicles passing across in front of the vehicle, active all-wheel steering and a new roll stabilisation system with electromechanically controlled anti-roll bars.

The new generation Touareg is 77mm longer and 44mm wider than its predecessor although 7mm lower creating significantly more dynamic proportions. Engines initially are VW's three-litre V6 diesel with a choice of 231PS or 286PS. A 340PS V6 petrol will be available in Europe from the autumn while a plug-in hybrid drive with total system power of 367PS is planned initially for China. 

A 421PS 4-litre V8 turbo diesel is also in the pipeline while a launch date for the plug-in hybrid in Europe has yet to be set.

The five-door model has a 1,051mm load length and maximum load capacity of 810 litres with the seats up or 1,800 litres pews folded. With peak torque of 600Nm in the three-litre V6, the Tourareg's towing credentials are impressive, capable of hauling trailer weights of up to 3.5 tonnes. It also features VW's handy Trailer Assist to help with low speed manoeuvring.

The new Touareg is the latest product in VW's largest model offensive in brand history. Its global SUV range also consists of the new T-Roc, the Tiguan, new Tiguan Allspace, the new Atlas in the US and Teramont in China. Below the T-Roc, VW is further expanding its range with the coming T-Cross as well as a zero emission model based on the I.D.CROZZ concept, expected to be launched in 2020.

The Tourareg is again built at VW's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Volkswagen's Innovation Cockpit makes its world debut in this third generation Tourareg and is the result of four years of in-house research.

It takes cues from tablet technology and has brought together engineers from Europe, China and the US to develop one of the most advanced infotainment systems in the industry. It can be controlled by pushing icons, swiping the screen or actual buttons on the steering wheel.

Intuitively and frequently used switches such as volume control, have been intentionally implemented as analogue controls. To the side of the driver, the display of VW's Discover Premium system visually merges with the Digital Cockpit, the Tourareg's 12-inch, high resolution instrument cluster. The two displays form a digital landscape in what VW calls a "one screen design".

Features include the "deluxe telephony" function, an inductive charging system for smart phones, App Connect, which integrates MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

VW User Experience Designer Indra-Lena Kogler said the centrepiece of the Innovation Cockpit was the company's Discover Premium infotainment system which serves simultaneously as a radio-navigation system, telephone, information centre and user interface for configuring various vehicle functions.

It is equipped with a proximity sensor system and is operated from the touch screen by gesture or voice control. Features include a freely usable 10GB memory, two SD card slots, an aux-in socket, four USB ports and a Bluetooth phone interface.

Kogler said: "In navigation mode, extended 3D city models can be called up and displayed, simplifying orientation in unfamiliar surroundings. There are also conventional and satellite maps. With Nav-Gen4 routing, an alternative route can be computed online on a server taking predictive models into account including route profiles, topography and traffic situations."

VW has for some time used a self-learning navigation system which recognises frequently travelled routes and this is now used in the Tourareg to simplify destination input.

Since the system has an eSim - initially in 13 European countries - the Tourareg is always "live" even without a smartphone connected and the range of online services continues to grow and already includes reading news aloud and latest weather data.

Kogler said: "The home screen is multifunctional and can be personalised with user definable favourite buttons, selectable clock designs and a 3D model representation of the vehicle and seats."

Menu navigation is set up to be intuitive. For instance the user can press the home icon - a virtual button on the lower display border that is familiar from smart phones.

Kogler added: "Personal settings get saved in the vehicle system and can be automatically reactivated by use of a personal vehicle key. The Tourareg can save up to seven profiles for different drivers.''

It's a lot to take in, especially on the a fairly short launch test drive, but once you know which functions are important to you they are easily accessible by touching or swiping the screen. Navigation maps can be viewed in front of the steering column or in the centre of the dashboard while immediate instructions are also shown on the head up display. It is possible to choose what information the HUD displays - such as vehicle speed, speed limits and lane departure warning while display height is adjustable.

Kogler said: "The four years of development brought together our experts in design, IT, electronics and so on and we had to pool ideas to work out what was best and what would work in Europe, the US and China. We started with a number of different concepts before narrowing the system down to one. Obviously everyone has different requirements and favourites which is why we tried to make configuration for individuals as simple and as intuitive as possible."

The latest generation Volkswagen's Tourareg flagship SUV goes on sale early in June with an expected starting price of around EUR49,000 although, when fully loaded with a impressive suite of driver assistance, safety and connectivity technologies, it will likely be considerably more.

Touareg has been sold in the UK since 2003, selling around 45,600 units to date, and 3,689 in 2017.

The SUV C segment accounted for 2.4% of the UK's new car market last year and the expectation for the new Touareg is 60% fleet sales, against 85% for the current model. Buyers in the fleet sector are likely to be SME user choosers. Predicted petrol/diesel split is around 80% diesel and the model will be offered with three trims in the UK: SEL, R-Line and new R-Line Tech.

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