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2019 Volkswagen Touareg review: Bigger than yours

Size can be a pain on Singapore's tight roads, but technology makes handling the Volkswagen Touareg a pleasure.

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The Touareg R-Line's height-adjustable air suspension and all-wheel steering system help make it an ultra-comfortable cruiser, and also a surprisingly nimble handler in the bends.

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Above: The 15-inch infotainment display dominates the dashboard.

Singapore

SIZE is a double-edged sword, or so I'm told, but one way to find out for sure is to drive the new Volkswagen Touareg, which is endowed with plenty of it.

It costs S$319,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement (COE) in top-spec R-Line trim here, so in addition to being the biggest Volkswagen you can buy in Singapore, it's also the most expensive. For the money, you get a car that makes quite a statement.

At 4,878mm long and 1,984mm wide, the Touareg rumbles down our streets with an imposing presence. The front grille alone is the size of a bungalow's front gates, and it's all enough to scare smaller traffic out of your way.

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But size like this can also make for a bit of a headache when swinging around U-turns, or negotiating those annoyingly tight carparks in town, the ones that were constructed when the Toyota Crown was considered a large car.

Yet, there lies the appeal of owning a big, flagship car like the Touareg. Manufacturers tend to offer the newest and coolest features on their larger and more expensive models first, before trickling them down to the rest of the range later on. And in the Touareg, some of these features go a long way towards making it a much more liveable proposition for everyday use in our city.

Take for instance the front cross traffic detection system, which warns you if there's traffic ahead that's approaching from the side, for example when you're pulling out of a junction. You do end up finding this feature quite useful, as the Touareg's front end is so large that it can sometimes obscure smaller vehicles like motorcycles from your view.

The same goes for the other safety systems fitted on the car, such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with traffic alert, and lane-keep assist, all of which are there to help you see better and keep this giant on the straight and narrow.

The Touareg can even drive itself to some extent, as the R-Line model here comes with what Volkswagen calls Traffic Jam Assist. In effect it's an adaptive cruise control system that can "take over the steering, acceleration and braking functions" in stop-and-go traffic, to quote the company's marketing spiel. It actually does work quite well, although it can be a bit unnerving for beginners as you have to trust it to come to a complete stop as you pull up to the car ahead, without any input from you on the brakes.

Apart from that, the R-Line package also adds some engineering trickery under its sizeable body. The ones that really make a difference to the Touareg's drive are the height-adjustable air suspension, and the all-wheel steering system.

These two features contribute to make the Touareg an ultra-comfortable cruiser, and also a surprisingly nimble handler in the bends.

Of course, there's still no escaping the car's dimensions, and you still have to be careful in taking on tight turns, but these additions help give the Touareg such excellent driving manners that it feels like you're driving a much smaller car. The handling itself is taut and balanced, and extremely capable for a car this big, almost to the point of defying physics.

That's really the only thing that helps you forget what a hulking car this is. Once you settle down back to the grind, you are once again reminded of the Touareg's size, which translates to the interior, too.

Obviously you get plenty of space for five passengers, but there is also the gigantic 15-inch infotainment display that dominates the dashboard. Its touchscreen is larger than some laptop monitors, and it's certainly going to let you win all manner of "mine is bigger than yours" contests.

Even the sunroof is gigantic. So gigantic, in fact, that takes a full 18 seconds for the shade to fully retract, longer than it takes for some convertibles to fold down their tops.

Far from being a product of excess though, the Touareg is a demonstration of how carmakers tend to inject their best ideas into their biggest cars. This VW flagship might be imposingly large, but advanced suspension and steering tech mean it isn't floppy. Instead, it reminds you how a double-edged sword is sharp.


Volkswagen Touareg R-Line

Engine 2,995cc, V6, turbocharged
Power 340hp at 5300-6400rpm
Torque 450Nm at 1340-5300rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Efficiency 9.1L/100km
Agent Volkswagen Centre Singapore
Price S$319,900 with COE
Available Now