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Premium SUVs have a tough task - of balancing two distinctly opposite characteristics in a single package. After all, a premium SUV has to be the epitome of comfort on the inside and a tank on the outside. It's a vehicle that needs to possess both style and substance, and the balance between the two is what makes or breaks its appeal factor in the market.
Undoubtedly a tough job, however, Volkswagen seems to know a thing or two about manufacturing awesome SUVs and standing as testimony is the 2012 Touareg that's a quintessential, no-nonsense SUV offering all this in a package that should emerge as a luxury powerhouse on wheels.
However, in terms of design, the Touareg doesn't really break new ground. It sticks to the Volkswagenfamily look that can be seen on the Phaeton all the way down to the Polo. But, it is nevertheless a good-looking vehicle with clean character lines and a purposeful macho stance that will demand a second look. Of course there's the argument that a similarity in the design theme is becoming quite a norm amongst manufacturers worldwide and it helps in making a brand statement.
Step inside the Touareg and you notice it comes endowed with a first-class cabin, crafted to pamper you. The cabin space is nice and airy, even for the secondrow passengers. The fine use of high-quality materials, impressive fit and finish, all complement each other to offer a plush cocoon inside.
When it comes to gizmos and gadgets on board, the Touareg can boast of a rather long list, including bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, roof rails, a power liftgate, cruise control, four-zone automatic climate control, 14-way adjustable front seats, Vienna leather upholstery, bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with touchscreen control, a six-CD changer, USB and iPod connectivity...
If it's safety you are looking for, the Touareg comes fitted with electronic stability control, ABS with brake assistant, ASR, EDL, 10 airbags, hill start assist/hill descent assist, front and rear disc brakes and, of course, the three-point seatbelts.
For India, it is set to come powered by a large 3. 0-litre V6 TDI diesel unit. This is mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox which translates all this power to the road to make for a great drive. Fire up that engine, and you will be surprised by the silence despite the large diesel under the hood. The Touareg is fast on the tarmac and has enough grunt to drive over boulders, but we will get to the boulder-bashing a little later.
In terms of ride and handling, it is surprisingly surefooted. The air suspension allows the vehicle to soak up road undulations without bouncing the passengers around and this in turn allows you to go faster on some bad roads. I found myself touching 3-digit speeds with ease on some broken roads and the Touareg held its own. The steering was a bit light but for the Indian market that isn't such a sore point. In any case, the vehicle has the genes of a formidable off-roader as well. The air suspension allows you to control the ride height, and when fully extended, it can literally crawl over boulders. Add to that, the off-road package onboard and the SUV can handle some tricky situations too given its lineage. I personally experienced the Touareg tackling a 35-degree half-pipe situation and while I thought it would tip over, it just drove right along. Overall, a great experience.
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