Volkswagen Touareg – Review

The Volkswagen Touareg. First seen on the road in 2002, the SUV has a lot of road presence. Even sitting behind the wheel, you feel like you are in control of the Death Star. Like my experience of the Audi A4, I got some funny looks in the Touareg. People looked at me probably assuming I was popping down to the shops in Mummy’s runaround. But is that all the Touareg is, an SUV only good for posing?

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A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Volkswagen Touareg
Engine: 3.0 V6 Diesel, 262hp and 580Nm.
Transmission: 8-Speed DSG automatic, permanent four-wheel drive.
Price: Prices start at €71,505 for the Touareg range.

Styling

It is no secret that the Touareg  has what it takes to take on the beefy looks of being an SUV. Much like its predecessor, DSC_0007-compressorit has round edges and subtle lines rather than sharp and angular ones, like seen on the BMW X5 for example. I found it to be very photogenic. The anger is saved for the face where a chrome grill and huge VW badge intimidates the driver in front.

 

The soft approach is continued around the back too. The Touareg’s bum is ‘bubbly’ DSC_0003-compressorand is finished off nicely with triangular chrome exhaust pipe tips.  Where the Audi Q7’s bum is droopy and the BMW X5’s is bland, the Touareg’s “bubble butt” is no bad view whilst sitting in traffic for the driver behind you.

Interior

Inside the Touareg is no revelation. As expected, it is a scaled up version of a VW Golf…or Passat… or Polo…..Ok, any Volkswagen in the range. But this is no bad thing because I happen to like VW’s interiors. The usual good quality, soft touch plastics are in the right places and on the bottom of the doors; the easy to clean, scratchy ones are present. Its just right.

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The SUV measures almost 2 metres wide and this is evident from inside too. The centre console is bulky and you find your self sitting quite far away from your passenger.

Although you are sitting up high and can see over the traffic and if the lights have gone green before anyone else, visibility from the rear is not as advantageous. With thanks to the middle rear passenger headrest, you cannot see what is directly behind you, literally nothing. Just a big cube of leather. Either you have to take it out or leave it in place and risk missing all the action from behind…who needs to rest their head anyway?

On The Road

Lets just point out the obvious again, the Touareg is huge, H-U-G-E! It is beyond me how I see people navigating these through the streets of Dublin. I took it upon myself to drive into college one day. As I sat in the spacious, toasty interior while in traffic,DSC_0018-compressor I was dreading hitting the city. I parked in St. Stephens Green Shopping Centre. Negotiating the car park’s tight aisles and ramps was a chore. You’d think parking it would be a pain, fortunately not. Thanks to the Touareg’s parking sensors and rear view camera (as part of VW’s 171 premium upgrade pack), I was able to squeeze into a parking spot.

But I did something not many Dublin-based SUV owners do. Something they’d never think of. Something they mightn’t think is even possible. I took this off road capable vehicle… OFF ROAD! DSC_0045-compressor*GASP*. I know, I know, fear not! I did not break a nail, don’t you worry. I decided to take the Touareg to a very technical course located in Howth, Co. Dublin. Many a time I took my 2 wheel drive SEAT Ibiza and, previously, my father’s Toyota Avensis.

You might have guessed by now, that the course is not so technical. But it was fun none the less and I was surprised at how some of the features on the Touareg worked. DSC_0012-compressorFor example, the Auto hold function and hill hold assist/hill descent assist. These features arwe similar to cruise control and assist the vehicle when descending down a steep hill. The SUV has permanent four wheel drive called 4Motion. Off road “mode” can be selected from a knob on the centre console. Unlike a Range Rover, for example, where many different driving modes can be chosen, the Touareg just has either “On Road” or “Off Road” mode, simples!

Practicality/Boot Space

So where does the sheer size of the Touareg pay off? Well in practicality and boot space of course. DSC_0025-compressorThe SUV boasts a 580 litre to 1,642 litre boot, depending on whether the rear seats are up or down. Up front, the Touareg has lots of cubby holes for your phone and water bottles. It even has the signature VW cooled glovebox.

Equipment

As part of Volkswagen’s 171 Premium Upgrade Pack (free before 31st December, €999 thereafter), buyers get sat nav, keyless access, electronic open/close boot, leather steering wheel, road sign recognition and rear view camera.

Running Costs

As the Touareg is such a monstrous machine, running costs ain’t cheap. The 204hp or 262hp V6 available emit 176g/km and 177g/km of CO2, respectively. This equates to €750 in tax per year. Adding salt to the wound, the equivalent BMW X5 30d emits 157g/km so is €570 per year to tax.

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I averaged 10l/100km throughout my week. I once hit 19.2l/100km while sitting in city traffic and managed to get as low as 7.9l/100km on a motorway run.

Pricing

The Touareg starts at €71,505 for the 204hp V6 and the 262hp engine coming in at €74,965.

Competition

As for competition, SUV’s are a hot topic for car brands at the moment with new luxury ones creeping onto the market, for example the Bentley Bentayga. But more sensible choices include the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC90.

The BMW starts at €81,440 for the rather “boggo” spec 2 litre; 25d. Although it has the luxury of a BMW, a starting price of almost €82,000 for a 2.0 231hp unit does not suffice. Unless lots of options are added to the X5, it does look bland. 1 point to Touareg.

The Audi Q7 is one of my favorite SUVs on sale at the moment. Forgiving its droopy bum, I think the Q7 is a very handsome machine. The Touareg is built on the same chassis as the Q7, along with the Porsche Cayenne. But the Audi adds its witty tech and a more comfortable interior. Although, options from Audi tend to be quite pricey. It also has a starting price of €72,850 but the rather impressive 3.0TDI engine with 272hp and emissions of 153g/km (€390 tax) starts at €79,750. 1 point to the Audi.

The Volvo XC90 has been praised for its good value for money as it has all the Swedish tech of a Volvo along with good quality materials. Engines range from a 2.0litre diesel 190hp, front-wheel-drive unit to a 2.0 petrol hybrid producing 407hp and only 49g/100km of CO2. Prices start at €64,950 for the Swede. Looks like its another point against the Touareg.

Finally, the Jaguar F-Pace is the most recent of the 4 to come onto the scene. It is Jag’s first attempt at an SUV and, in terms of styling, they have not done half bad! Compared to the Touareg, it is far prettier and looks a lot sportier. Although much like the X5, unless nicer rims and a good colour is specced it looks quite neutral. Prices start at €44,100 for the 180hp 2.0 diesel but a 3.0 300hp V6 is available too. Prices for that engine start at €69,700  in Pure trim level. Cheaper and more power, another point against the Touareg.

Conclusion

To conclude, the Touareg is a perfectly capable SUV. It does what it does and goes about it the right way but there are much better competition on the market for a similar or cheaper price. The Touareg doesn’t offer enough innovation to justify its price. We all know VW is capable of it as it can be seen in the Audi Q7. So the question remains, is the Touareg just to make a statement? I’ve yet to come across a reason against it.

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Suzuki Baleno – Review

Over recent years, new Suzukis are seldom seen on Irish roads. The odd Swift and S-Cross might cross your path. Suzuki aim to take on the Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta with it’s new supermini, the Baleno.

A Few Facts:
Model Tested: Suzuki Baleno SZ5 1.0 Boosterjet
Engine: 1.0 petrol. 109hp and 170Nm
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual, front-wheel drive
Price: Prices start at €17,995 for the Baleno range. As tested – €19,495.

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Styling

The Baleno’s styling is simplistic. DSC_0045The front has a wing-like grille. Sitting between the “squinty” rear lights is a chrome spoiler just beneath the rear window. The design is not revolutionary but it does look different than any other car offered by Suzuki. My car was painted in Ray Blue Metallic.

Interior

For me, the interior was a bit of a throwback. It reminds me of my father’s recently deceased 2000 Toyota Avensis Estate.DSC_0062 Soft touch plastics, generic Japanese indicator stalks, electric window buttons and door locks. You see until I got the Baleno, I had been driving mostly German press cars. It was so nice to see a plain and not overly thought out interior. It is a no frills interior but it works perfectly for this car. Just get in and go. The cloth seats are surprisingly comfortable too for long journeys.

On The Road

Get the Baleno onto a nice country road and you will be just as content as pottering around the city. DSC_0039It handles very well but with slight body roll. The 3-cylinder 1.0 petrol engine lets out a nice and pleasing grunt. It makes your journey more characterful. The gearshift is easy and smooth but somewhat bland.

Unfortunately, on the motorway the little Jap hatch is noisy. Road and wind noise intrude the cabin, you can feel its budget build quality.

Practicality/Boot Space

The boot measures at a sizeable 320l although the high loading lip can be awkward. DSC_0064But to redeem itself, it does have a removable double floor resulting in a deeper boot.

 

No surprises when it comesDSC_0067 to cabin storage though; the usual glove box, door cards and central armrest storage to throw things into. It does not feature proper sized cup holders up front. C’mon Suzuki, really? No decent cup holders?

Equipment

In terms of tech,DSC_0069 the Baleno is good value for money. As standard on the SZ5 trim, buyers get; adaptive cruise control, emergency brake assist, sat nav and reversing camera.

Running Costs

Emissions come in at 105 g/km so the Baleno will set you back €190 per year to tax.

I averaged 6.1l/100Km between city and motorway driving in the Baleno.

Pricing

Prices start at a very reasonable €17,995 for the 1.0 SZ-T and can rise to €22,495  for the automatic SZ5. My test car was priced at €19,495.

Competition

Volkswagen Polo – The “go to” car in its segment. The VW Polo is a strong German rival to the Baleno but does it follow the footsteps of its older brother, the Golf, in being too common?

Toyota Yaris – Another Japanese hatch clipping the Baleno’s heels. But with the Yaris now looking quite dated the Baleno is a fresh look to the segment.

Ford Fiesta – The Fiesta has always been renowned for its good chassis and focused steering for a city car. But with 290l of boot space, the Baleno can a fit just that little bit more.

Conclusion

Overall, the Baleno is decent value for money. It drives well, sounds good and is not the worst looking car in its segment. If a simple and no frills city car is what you are after, the Baleno will tick all the right boxes for you.

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