VW Touareg review (2018): Volkswagen’s SUV is a technological marvel

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The Volkswagen Touareg is just one of a phalanx of models available to well-heeled SUV buyers and, as such, there’s plenty of competition. The Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport all compete in the same space and have all had technology-infused updates in recent times.

Our favourite thus far has been the Volvo XC90, for its combination of serene calm, comfort, safety and the latest in infotainment tech – but the Touareg looks set to threaten its position with a new futuristic interior.

Its new 12in digital instrument cluster and 15in TFT touchscreen infotainment screens go together to create the slickest, most high-tech and high-class driver experience we’ve come across in a car of this type. In fact, VW has also gone and done a Volvo on us here, stripping out the buttons almost entirely, aside from where absolutely necessary.

That’s not all, of course. The new Touareg also has a new look and a lighter chassis to make it a touch nippier. With more boot space than last year’s model, you’ll also be able to fit even more of your belongings in the boot.

In the UK, the new Touareg will go on sale on 7 June 2018, with prices expected to start from £49,000, and UK deliveries to customers are expected by the end of June. It’s available in three different trims – SEL, R-Line and the new R-Line Tech – more on which below.

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VW Touareg review (2018): Interior tech

It seems a digital arms race has taken off in this sector in recent times, and the weapon of choice appears to be the touchscreen. In the Touareg, VW is calling its (optional) dual-screen setup the “Innovision Cockpit”. This consists of a 12in screen behind the steering wheel and a 15in display in the middle of the dashboard, angled towards the driver, both joined together so they wrap around the driver to create a high-tech cocoon.

This not only looks superb but works incredibly well, too, with customisability high on the list of desirable features. Between your rev counter and speed dials, you can simply view the time remaining to your destination or the amount of fuel you’ve got left for your drive – or you can go full satnav, hiding the dials away and replacing them with a fully fledged moving map.

Alongside this is the Touareg’s heads-up display (HUD), which displays turn-by-turn based satnav instructions, speed limits, your current speed and the cruise-control info. You barely need to look at the vast 15in screen to your right if you don’t want to – but there would be so much you’d be missing out on if you didn’t.

As with the infotainment screens in other VWs, the Touareg’s 15in display is flawless. It’s responsive, its graphics are sharp and modern-looking, and it’s all logically laid out so that finding your way around its myriad of options is gloriously easy.

If you can’t be bothered actually touching the screen, VW allows you to control some part of it simply by waving your hand at it. Waving left and right in front of the screen switches screens – from maps to media, for instance – and you can even use gestures to pause and skip your music.

It’s good to see some permanent shortcut buttons here, so you can quickly get to regularly used features. A strip running along the bottom of the central screen, for instance, allows you to quickly adjust the air-con and heated seats, while another strip of touch buttons arranged vertically down the left-hand side lets you toggle the heated screens and enable or disable the car’s auto-parking mode.

The infotainment system has CarPlay and Android Auto built in, both of which work well. However, the Touareg doesn’t fully utilise the 15in screen when they’re enabled. Instead, it crops the display to around 8in, with ugly black borders surrounding the projected smartphone display.

Not that you’ll necessarily need to fall back on your phone, because the car has its very own mobile data connection. This is used to power the system’s online address and POI search and supply live traffic information.

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VW Touareg review (2018): Sound quality

Every Touareg I drove was equipped with the optional Dynaudio audio package, which VW says will be around £2,000. It sounds great: warm and fun to listen to, with no significant flaws. When I put it through its paces, I was pleasantly surprised to find the speakers could cope with a gruelling frequency sweep that pushed them to their limits.

Cabin quality is impeccable, with no panel rattle or buzz when you play loud, bass-heavy music. Although the bass is a little too much at default settings, you can tweak this through the system’s four-band equaliser. And no matter where I sat in the car, I found the sound to be immersive, with plenty of detail and accuracy.

The system also has an intriguing mode called “sound focus”, which gives you the option to target the sound at a predetermined area in the car: front left, front right, rear, or front and rear. This is no glorified fader and balance control, however: instead of simply adjusting the volume of the car’s various speakers, the Touareg’s system controls the timing of the sound delivered to each speaker. It delays the audio signal by a fraction of a second for speakers closest to you, so that sound waves from the furthest speakers reach your ears at precisely the same time.

Whether this actually works or not is difficult to tell objectively, but the system as a whole does sound great, with a solidity, power and coherence that is impressive given the £2,000 asking price.

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VW Touareg review (2018): Safety features and driver assistance

The 2018 Touareg is technologically advanced in many ways, including its huge dashboard and digital instrument displays, but I was actually more impressed with the car’s huge array of driver-assistance and safety tech.

To say these features were exhaustive would be understating the case. I’ll start with Predictive Cruise, which is essentially adaptive cruise with knobs on. This automatically regulates your speed according to the car in front of you, the speed set by the driver and a camera that detects speed limits via road signs, but it can also anticipate upcoming speed limits based on your GPS position.