The Ayala-owned distributor of Volkswagen in the Philippines, Automobile Central Enterprise Inc. (ACEI), has had to weather a storm of criticism from customers and even fans of the brand in the last couple of years. The biggest reason is the switch from recognizable models such as Polo, Golf, Jetta, and Passat to the SAIC-VW equivalents such as Santana, Lavida, and Lamando.
Volkswagen Philippines is having a transformative year though. They started with the introduction of the T-Cross; while still a SAIC-VW model, it's very much popular in other markets as well. They followed it up with the launch of the T6.1 Multivan Kombi yesterday, heralding the return of the van after a long absence.
Today, however, we can tell you about another model that Volkswagen Philippines is planning for our market: the Volkswagen Tharu.
According to our contacts, Volkswagen is preparing to launch the Tharu this year. Yes, Volkswagen makes this model in China, though it is also known as Taos in other markets.
This is actually part of Volkswagen's drive to offer more SUVs in the Philippines. Two years ago, Volkswagen Philippines chief Felipe Estrella stated that they were looking at launching a few more crossover models from the PRC. The T-Cross was the first, and the Tharu will be the second.
As you can see, the design of the Tharu is very Volkswagen; very Teutonic, and all business. The lines are clean and very well defined, and the proportions do remind us of a scaled-down Volkswagen Touareg. To give an idea about the size, the Tharu is 4.45 meters long, so it's in between the Geely Coolray (4.33 meters) and the larger Ford Territory (4.58 meters).
In terms of market position, the Tharu will slot right above the newly-launched T-Cross but will not exactly fill the space once occupied by the now discontinued Tiguan. It's worthy to note that while the Tharu is larger than the T-Cross, it's still significantly smaller than the long-wheelbase Tiguan that VW got from SAIC.
We haven't received any word from our sources in Volkswagen regarding the specifications of the Tharu, but the Chinese models do have a lot of features packed into them. Full LED headlamps, digital instrument display, dual-zone A/C with rear A/C vents, rear USB ports, push-button ignition, a 9.2” multimedia system (with Apple Carplay, based on the images), adaptive cruise control, and many more.
Some versions even have a 1.17 square meter panoramic glass roof and even a speaker system by Beats. There are also R-Line versions which look very interesting indeed with many sportier details. Hopefully, VW Philippines ticks as many of those options for our market when they spec the vehicle.
What we do know, however, is the engine. In China, the high spec Tharu (presumably the R-Line) is offered as the 330 TSI which comes with a 2.0-liter turbo petrol that has 190 PS, a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG) and even 4-Motion all-wheel drive. The lower-spec models have the 1.2-liter TSI with 118 PS mated to a 7-speed DSG or a 6-speed manual.
Those versions will not be the ones we will get, as the Philippine market Tharu variants will be powered by the 1.4-liter turbo which is known as the 280 TSI. It should have 150 PS and 250 Nm of torque, and will likely have the 7-speed DSG as the only gearbox option. Volkswagen will probably not offer the 6-speed manual version.
There is a conundrum that Volkswagen Philippines may need to sort out, and that's the naming. Our contacts tell us that the company is still deliberating whether to use Tharu or Taos as the name for the Philippine market. Our vote is on Taos and not Tharu because, well, Filipino customers may not like driving around in a vehicle called “Tharu”.
Still, these are exciting times for Volkswagen Philippines as their model lineup will get revamped over the next few years. And we'll tell you more about what's coming in the next week or so.