Touareg hot-footing to NZ

Touareg will be on sale from the last part of the year – though Kiwi fans could be able to look and touch from as early as August.

NEW ZEALAND seems set to be one of the first right-hand-drive export markets for the just-unveiled third-generation Touareg large sports utility.

Volkswagen New Zealand boss Tom Ruddenklau has confirmed intention to have the latest model, revealed to the world just days ago, on sale in the last quarter of 2018, starting with a turbodiesel V6 in two power formats.

The on-sale is after he’s whetted the market’s appetite with two display cars that will tour nationally. These land at the end of July.

The pair of pathfinders are snaffled from a consignment created for the United Kingdom, which is the type’s first right-hook destination, and it looks as though Kiwis count second only to the Poms for availability.

We are certainly set to be well ahead of Australia, where the distributor has signalled a mid-2019 launch.

Interest in SUVs and crossovers is running at an all-time high in New Zealand, with the types now comfortably outselling orthodox passenger cars – a trend that VW is already benefitting from with boom sales of its Tiguan elevating that medium rock-hopper to achieve in-house best-seller status.

The latest growth spurt for Tiguan has occurred with that derivative landing in a seven-seat format that is surprisingly still not going to avail in the next-size-up Touareg – even though another VW Group car on the same platform, the Audi Q7, comes that way.

It should be pointed out that they are not necessarily full sister ships. While the car’s full dimensions have yet to be released, VW is saying it is only “moderately” wider and longer than its predecessor – which suggests it will occupy less road space than the big Audi.

Ruddenklau, who has only just returned from Germany where he enjoyed a drive day in the Touareg, says he does not know why VW has resisted upscaling to a seating count that has clear support internationally and agrees it might deter some potential business.

All the same, he is confident the Tiguan Allspace meets that family demand and suggests the new Touareg will achieve a strong following all the same.

Not only is it all-new but has been enhanced massively for technology and quality, to the extent that it is now being promoted as a fully premium model by the maker.

Ruddenklau assures that descriptive should not be taken as a portent for significant price increases.

While the new line will deliver enough equipment and luxury to go toe-to-toe against premium-badged competitors, he intends that any upspend over the seven-year-old current model – which sans from $  to $ and whose supply is potentially set to exhaust before the new car arrives – will be slight.

All will be revealed when NZ market pricing and specification is released in about a month.

As expected, the styling of the new Touareg mirrors that of the T-Prime Concept GTE shown at the 2016 Beijing show, with a large grille featuring horizontal chrome slats that mesh into the large LED headlights.

The interior also delivers dramatic change. The vehicle debuts Volkswagen’s Innovision cockpit, which teams a 12.0-inch digital cockpit instrument cluster with a massive 15.0-inch infotainment system for an extensive, uninterrupted display that minimises the need for buttons and draws inspiration from Mercedes-Benz’s similar screen set-up.

Seen in today’s photos, the system is standard only to the high-end Pro derivative and outclasses equivalent displays used by other Group brands, Ruddenklau says. VW says the new system is highly customisable and can allow for drivers to tailor the information layout to their personal tastes.

Touareg will also feature the largest range of assistance, handling and comfort systems ever integrated into a VW, including a thermal camera-operated night vision assistance system, roadwork lane assist, front cross-traffic assist, four-wheel steering, LED matrix headlights, new roll bar stabilisation and a head-up display.

At launch Volkswagen will offer the Touareg with the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 in the current model. Ruddenklau intends to launch with 170kW and 210kW tunes.

A 310kW turbodiesel V8 will come in early 2019 but there is no firm timeframe set for the 270kW plug-in hybrid, which Ruddenklau says will definitely be offered to Kiwis as soon as it becomes available. He imagines that drivetrain might achieve up to 20 percent of volume at peak.

The only engine so far announced that is not coming here is a 250kW turbo-petrol V6.

Also en route to NZ is a higher-performance edition of the V6 Amarok to see off the high-performance Ford Ranger Raptor and incoming V6-powered Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

The current 165kW/550Nm Amarok V6 holds bragging rights as the one-tonne ute category champion, but stands to lose the crown to the incoming Mercedes that arrives with a 190kW/550Nm bent six.

At last year’s Frankfurt motor show, Volkswagen unveiled an Amarok Aventura Exclusive V6 concept that matched the Benz’s 190kW, with torque figures remaining a mystery. The production edition of that model is cited for NZ release, but when it comes is not yet clear.

However, while the performance will upsize, the brand has asserted there is no chance of a bigger truck to come with it. Speculation about that idea has risen to the surface after the brand showed its Atlas Tonoak at the New York motor show.

Billed as a concept, the mammoth model is based on a North America-only seven seater SUV VW builds in Tennessee. Though that the models being based on VW’s ubiquitous MQB architecture, which offers the opportunity for right-hand drive production, raised conjecture about both vehicles ultimately being available for markets such as ours.

However, VW has said that’s not the case.