Say luxury vehicle and most Filipinos will likely think of an SUV. A sedan would be preferable, but the option almost always goes out the window when considering the driving conditions in the country. After all, with bumpy streets, the occaissional threat of floods and the comfort and utility they provide, it's hard to imagine urban or rural life without such a capable, multirole vehicle.
Thankfully, those with discerning taste and a large budget may find the best of both worlds in the Volkswagen Touareg Sport Edition.
The Touareg has its fair share of pedigree, built upon a platform shared with the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. With such sophisticated and sport-oriented cousins, it's not surprising to find that the Touareg benefits from this in many ways.
In spite of the luxurious aspirations, the Touareg sports the most discreet design of the trio. A broad grille is flanked by combination headlights on either side. The main headlights are outlined by LED daytime running lamps. There's a hint of the Cayenne's sportiness on the lower valence.
On the side, shoulders run from the hood all the way to the tail, while the window graphic is outlined in chrome. Above, roof rails are already installed easy fitting of aftermarket accessories.
Behind, the tail lights, stretch across the tailgate, reflectors are positioned on the bumper, while a scuff plate lines the loading lip.
The Sport Edition adds silver scuff plates to the front and rear as well as sporty five-spoke “Mallory” 20-inch wheels.
Inside is a neatly laid-out interior that is practically symmetric, right down the center. Piano gloss inserts break up the predominantly black dashboard for very subtle contrast. Cricket leather line everything from door inserts, seats to the center armrests and come with a dirt-repellent coating. The leather seat is power adjustable, so too is the steering, via a little knob underneath.
In front of the driver is a three-spoke wheel with intuitive integrated controls for the entertainment and climate. Ahead of it are two large dials for the speedo and tach, with an LCD display in the center for trip info.
The center houses the touch screen LCD of the entertainment system, which thankfully retains knobs to select tracks and adjust the volume.
The Touareg features four-zone climate control, allowing each corner of the car to operate at a different temperature.
Further down is the gear selector as well as controls for the 4-corner air suspension system. There's also the electronic parking brake that is practically flush with the surface.
The center armrest is covered in leather and can also open up to reveal a cavernous storage space.
Behind, the seats are just as comfortable. The legroom may not be much to brag about, though the folding armrest and dual-zone climate control in the rear more than make up for it.
Finally, behind is a carvernous cargo area with hidden storage under the floor, hooks for tie downs, and even seats that can fold down to accommodate more items. There's also a setting in the air-suspension system that lowers just the back to make loading easier.
Of course, where the Touareg truly rewards is in the drive itself. Its 3.0-liter TDI powerplant returns plenty of torque, be it for effortlessly rolling the vehicle along in traffic or rapidly accelerating to overtake. The 8-speed automatic works very smoothly on its own, while the manual mode gives the sporting driver more control and plenty of gears to play with. The permanent all-wheel drive constantly returns a reassuring feeling of grip on the road. At night, adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights turn with the wheel to light the way around corners. Finally, the speed-sensitive steering is one of the most enjoyable aspects, becoming very light at low speeds and heavier at higher speeds for better stability. Driving around the city yielded an average of 7 km/L while highway results numbered up to 12 km/L.
The real treat to driving the Touareg is simply playing with the multiple settings. The 4-corner Air Suspension has comfort and sport modes. Comfort returns a truly pampering ride muting most of the bumps on the road. It also makes the vehicle a little wallowy, being a setting best used for relaxed driving. Sport mode returns stiffer damping, making the Touareg behave more like a sports car, in terms of responsiveness and handling, in spite of the height. There's also freedom to tweak the ride height, with practically three inches difference from very low to extremely high. Preset modes like sport and off-road make quick work of it, while additional controls allow the driver to make it even lower or higher. Of course, it takes some time for the system to raise and lower the vehicle to the desired height. It will also automatically return it to the middle setting when travelling at highway speeds.
While not that many of the Touareg's potential owners will likely take it off road, the vehicle can in fact, hold its own against more purpose built off-roaders. The highest setting will practically guarantee no scratches on the underbody when travelling off-road. In addition, systems like electronic differential locks and Anti-slip Regulation make it incredibly easy to tackle difficult terrain.
Finally, the Touareg's long list of safety features, from traction and stability systems, airbags, parking aids, and even driver alert systems make it a very safe vehicle, even in the hands of a less experienced driver.
Our brief test drive with the Touareg certainly showed that it's not unreasonable to demand a vehicle that can be powerful, fuel efficient, comfortable, sporty or even the ability to go off-road, all rolled into one vehicle.
The Touareg manages all of these seemingly polar aspects with ease. The only downside is the time spent waiting for the air suspension or differential to adjust to the desired setting. Afterwards, it's all a breeze.
In addition, Volkswagen Philippines continues to assure us that its locally available vehicles were never fitted with the so-called defeat device and will pass any local emissions regulations.
It's a steep admission ticket at P4.3 million, yet is a steal compared to similar rivals like the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, or Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The real luxury the Touareg provides is the confidence that there's no road it can't drive through, no condition it can't overcome, and no driver it can't adapt to. Just give it a minute or two to adjust to that setting.