Arriving astonishingly late to a party is viewed by many as perfectly fashionable behaviour in this part of the world and Volkswagen it seems, has been taking note. With the introduction of the new Teramont, the company has finally, some 16 years after the launch of the Touareg and 11 since the Tiguan first graced our roads, brought a three row, seven seat SUV to market. Now since this particular party started quite some time ago there’s already a whole gaggle of loud, thirsty guests in the room, but due to its late arrival, the Teramont’s stylists have had more time to dress it up all fancy, and accessorise.
The Teramont’s style icons are clearly American — the fact that it’s built in Chattanooga, Tennessee may have a lot to do with that — but that bluff, upright grille and heavy set wheel arches were no doubt chosen carefully to appeal to a certain type of buyer and what better way to make a good first impression. But if the front end is all bluster and bumper, VW’s stylists have sculpted the roof-line and rear haunches more subtly, such that despite the Teramont’s lengthy 2,979mm wheelbase and 1,769mm height, it doesn’t appear to the eye to be a bulky vehicle.
Eighteen inch alloy wheels come as standard, though there are plenty of larger choices available, Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system taking care of the power delivery so that when under low load or coasting only the front wheels are driven. That helps to minimise fuel consumption, but when determined as necessary by the 4Motion, the rear wheels also receive up to 50 per cent of the torque from the engine. Power is derived in the S, SE and SEL models from a 3.6 litre V6 putting out 280 horsepower, whilst the base model Teramont is fitted with the 220 horsepower 2.0TSI four-cylinder unit, in both cases mated to an eight speed DSG gearbox. Time will tell if in the horsepower hungry UAE, the smaller engine vehicle sells in great numbers, but with pricing starting at just Dh 137,100, there’s every chance it will. In a wise marketing move, the equipment levels and specifications of the entry model and S model are, other than the engine choice, exactly the same — so consumers can choose the more economical engine without losing out in terms of interior trim, number of speakers, infotainment screen etc.
Out on the road the Teramont’s handling belies its size, so whilst the driver enjoys a slightly elevated point of view and the confidence of knowing all-wheel drive is available, the driving sensation is definitely one of ‘large car’ rather than ‘big SUV’. During both city and highway driving, the electric assisted rack and pinion steering feels nicely weighted, thanks no doubt to the electric power assist which is speed sensitive, making the vehicle easier to park at journey’s end. If you feel so inclined, it’s also possible to have the car park itself, either parallel or perpendicular, using the Park Assist function fitted on the SEL. There’s also Rear Traffic Alert for when you are reversing back out again, so the Teramont is well equipped to deal with any shopping mall car park challenge.
After driving for around three hours on a mixture of motorway, good city roads and a few less well maintained remote streets, I was asked by one of the VW team what I thought about the driving experience and my first, honest reaction was “I hadn’t really thought about it”. By that I meant that at no point had any aspect of the car’s interior, ergonomics, on road handling, performance etc., caught my attention in any negative way. I’d simply adjusted my driving position, driven off, and three hours later stepped out of the vehicle, with no concerns at all, no niggling doubts about this switch or that noise, or the suspension, nothing. And in my view that’s a compliment to the car’s designers; on 99 per cent of previous test drives I’ve ever performed, there would be one or more aspects of the vehicle which attracted my attention, good or bad, and became a point for discussion. With the Teramont, I just set off and enjoyed the scenery and to me, that speaks volumes about the attention Volkswagen has given to fine details.
That’s not to say I didn’t make a few notes about the interior, so for the record, SE and SEL models come with leatherette and leather trim respectively in place of the S model’s cloth seats, but if you and your partner want cooled posteriors whilst sat up front, they’re only available with the SEL. The enormous panoramic sunroof is optional on the top models, and if you enjoy rock music as much as rock crawling, the SEL comes with a wonderful Fender, 480 Watt, 12 speaker system which I am happy to report sounds superb; (may I personally recommend Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ for your test drive aural delight, it was after all, played on a Fender Stratocaster).
Now it’s important of course to consider the Teramont’s raison d’être, its ability to transport a family of seven, and when planning the vehicle’s interior, Volkswagen’s engineers asked themselves not only ‘what works well?’ but just as importantly, ‘what doesn’t?’. Consequently they’ve not just built in features, but designed out problems. For example, it is possible to fold the centre row seats to give access to the rear, even when all three are fitted with ISOFIX mounted child seats; any parent with small children will appreciate that convenience. Furthermore, access to the rear row is made by lifting a single lever, causing the centre row seat to both slide and tilt forward; the Teramont’s long wheelbase means the space now available to climb into the rear row is generous, since the wheel arch does not intrude a great deal. That long wheelbase also allows for a more comfortable seat pitch and after setting both the driver’s and centre row seats for my six foot frame, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to sit in the rear row and still have both comfortable headroom, and space between my knees and the centre seat. Air conditioning outlets direct a cooling draught to all three rows, a simple but essential feature which in my experience, not all manufacturers take into consideration.
With the SE and SEL, an ‘Easy Open’ foot operated tailgate comes as standard and the interior boot space is quite cavernous; there’s 583 litres with all the seats up, rising to a whopping 2,741 litres with them all folded, whilst a 12V outlet and various tie down points in the rear complete the picture. Incidentally, Volkswagen love to point out that the vehicle has 17 cup and bottle holders built in; I checked, and yes, there really are! There’s USB ports of course, all models come ready to work with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, and even on the 2.0L entry model, the infotainment system features a very clear 8.0-inch screen with what I found to be very intuitive software and controls; setting up my phone for Bluetooth connection took about eight seconds, with no reference to the manual — that’s got to be some kind of record!
Naturally being a people’s car, the Teramont is loaded with safety systems including pre- and post-collision brake assistance, stability control, front airbags and side curtain airbags covering all three rows. There’s optional Adaptive Cruise Control, blind spot monitoring and varying types of rear view camera depending on the model, whilst a rotary drive mode selector allows the driver to choose between Road, Snow, Off Road or Custom Off Road. Whilst it’s no gnarly dune basher, the Teramont proved perfectly capable of tackling rough, steep graded tracks; the Hill Descent Control works particularly intuitively and as a keen off roader I appreciate the ability, using the Custom Off Road setting, to adjust the engine, gear selection and steering behaviour to suit a particular situation.
With a highly practical and well laid out interior, good on road manners and a smart choice of both engine and trim levels, the Teramont has a lot going for it. Volkswagen’s determination to gain a foothold in the seven seat sector is clear from their keen pricing, and that’s sure to attract attention from larger families looking for a new vehicle.