Steering Column

Touring the new Touareg

Volkswagen has whipped the wraps off the latest version of its top of the range 4×4, the Touareg.

It’s said to be lighter, cleaner, more fuel efficient and still able to combine hot-hatch acceleration with off-road and touring ability.

The company talks of clean new styling that draws inspiration from the latest Golf hatchback. It’s a couple of inches longer, about the same width and its overall height has dropped by just under an inch.

Looking at the pictures of it, the new Touareg looks more like a racy estate car than a proper SUV. There’s nothing in the press details about its ground clearance which now appears to have dropped closer to that of a crossover vehicle than a proper mud-plugger so I guess we’ll have to wait to find out if it’s an optical illusion.

The new version is said to be up to 200kg lighter and up to 20 per cent more fuel efficient. There will be three engines available from launch, a three-litre V6 turbodiesel pumping out 238bhp and 405lb.ft. of torque while returning an average fuel consumption of just over 38mpg.

There is a 3.3 V6 petrol hybrid model that gives a stonking 378bhp and 428lb.ft. of torque while still turning in an average of 34.4mpg.

King of the heap has to be the 4.2-litre V8 turbodiesel with 338bhp and a stump-pulling 590lb.ft. of torque. It will give you a livewithable 31 miles of motoring to a gallon of diesel.

If you still insist on going into the muck with your 4×4, the 4XMOTION is a five-stage dial-a-terrain system. The driver picks a number from one to five to give increasing levels of traction.

Stage one is the on-road application, two is for slippery conditions and kicks in the automatic differential locks that push drive out to whichever wheel is getting grip.

Stage three brings in the low-range transfer box and alters the settings on the automatic gearbox, stage four locks up the centre differential and stage five locks the rear differential too.

Deliveries will begin in August and prices will be announced nearer the time, though I suspect they will all be between 30 and 40K.

More new cars for old

Vauxhall is extending the so-called “swappage” scheme it has brought in to help boost car sales as the government’s scrappage scheme comes to an end.

Last week I described how you could trade in your old beast of more than seven summers age and get at least £3,000 off certain new Astras, Astra Sports and Corsa cars. Well this week it has added the multi-purpose vehicles Meriva and Zafira, and the award-winning large family car, the Insignia.

As before, however, you have to get your car ordered or registered before the end of March to take advantage of the scheme.

Cossie and Scooby

Here’s a mouthwatering pros­pect. Those makers of quality four-wheel-drive road cars at Subaru have entered into a collaborative scheme with Cosworth, those masters of the black art of performance engineering best associated with Fords in the past.

There are very few details available yet except to say they’ve been jointly working on an even higher performance version of the Impreza STI. We’re told the STI Cosworth will go on sale in March but performance, prices and specs are all being kept secret for the time being.

Subaru says only that it’s “creating a car that will raise the bar for all-wheel-drive, high-perfor­mance motoring”. Considering that includes the Mitsubishi Evo X, that’s quite a claim.

More salivating

I know you won’t be able to buy it at a local dealership, but I have to say I’m rather excited that Mini is bringing out a four-door, five-seat car with four-wheel-drive.

Yes, it appears to have all the bulbous charm of the existing Mini, but it’s bigger … hopefully even big enough to get adults in the back seat which is virtually impossible with the current car.

The idea that it will have some ability in the ice and snow is an added tantalising prospect and could turn it into the best of all possible worlds. A car with charm, performance and real-world flexibility.

Known as the Mini Countryman, it will come with a choice of five engines, two of which will be diesels. Prices will be between £16,000 and £20,810 but the most attractive one to me is the Cooper D costing £18,810.

It has a 110bhp diesel engine, a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.9seconds and yet it will do over 64 miles on a gallon of diesel. What’s not to like?

Mike Grundon


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