- What is it?
- Why does it make more sense, exactly?
- It’s certainly got some presence…
- Would a medium-sized elephant appreciate the interior?
- Our choice from the range
- What's the verdict?
- What is it like to drive?
- What are my engine options?
- Sweet. And what’s the ride like?
- Are there modes? Tell me there are modes?
- What is it like on the inside?
- What should I be paying?
What is it?
VW’s SUV flagship. The most intelligent and technologically advanced production car to come out of Wolfsburg, no less, and with the Touareg R, a product line that also sports VW’s most powerful production model. Now in its third-generation, Volkswagen’s big SUV has sacrificed its off-roadyness to become more of a premium, high-tech SUV for the road. Which makes more sense, when you think about it.
Why does it make more sense, exactly?
Put simply, it’s Volkswagen’s incredibly stylised answer to the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes GLE and BMW X5. Now that’s a heavyweight battle if ever there was one, although diesel SUVs are starting to feel slightly anachronistic in the new age of electric motivation. You can’t beat them for towing though…
Built from the incredibly flexible ‘MLB Evo’ parts matrix, the Touareg uses the same architecture as the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. That means there’s aluminium suspension, a body that’s largely aluminium too, and a whole lot of other weight-saving in the powertrain, cooling, exhaust, electrics, seats, whatever.
It’s certainly got some presence…
The Touareg’s somewhat dumpy looks were sharpened up last time it faced the surgeon’s knife, with more powerful and svelte lines that added an air of sophistication and modernity. Thanks to the new platform-sharing, the car has actually increased in size but dropped 106kg. Compared to the last car, it’s 44mm wider and 77mm longer but lower than its second-generation brother; helping its proportions and making it a bit easier on the eye.
Another win is that there’s even more boot space, up 113 litres to 810 in total with the rear seats in place. So you can lob pretty much all you can think of this side of a medium-sized elephant back there and it’ll probably fit.
Would a medium-sized elephant appreciate the interior?
Back in 2003, when the first Touareg was launched, it was the outrageously torquetastic V10 TDI that had everyone talking. As well the choppy ride quality. This time it’s all about the tech. Inside has seen one of the biggest cabin overhauls from VW in decades, repositioning the Touareg entirely and bringing it bang in-line and even ahead of its fiercest competitors. Some interior materials feel like they’ve suffered in quality to help finance the incredible dual screen display, but you’ll forgive it, as it looks fantastic, is incredibly minimalist and has a tech artillery to back it up.
These include: ‘Night Vision’ to detect (and hopefully avoid) humans and animals in darkness via a thermal imaging camera; Roadwork Lane Assist, to steer, brake and accelerate for you up to 37mph; four-wheel steering to make it feel nimbler than it actually is; active roll stabilisation, to magically reduce body roll, and a head-up display projected directly onto the windscreen. Pricing is from £55,885 in the UK (the lower-powered of the two 3.0-litre diesels in SEL trim).
Our choice from the range
3.0 V6 TDI BlueMotion Tech 262 SE 5dr Tip Auto
What's the verdict?
“The big VW has always been the thinking person’s large SUV”
The Touareg had its biggest and best makeover in the last refresh, and the changes make it a real contender if you’re not obsessed with badges. Both inside and out it’s been thoroughly modernised and really has something to shout about. Fully-loaded, it’s a proper tech powerhouse and the flagship that VW will be showing off for a while. But that technology is expensive, so be careful what you spec.
Even so, the big VW has always been the thinking person’s large SUV, more understated and less ostentatious than its rivals, it’s more than capable of holding its own on the road, now in utter refinement. Even if it has sacrificed its off-road ability for it. But honestly, how many of you are looking to take it on the rough stuff anyway?
What is it like to drive?
Like all the other large SUVs underpinned by the MLB architecture, the way that VW has managed to hide the Touareg’s porky 1,995 kg kerbweight (more in heavily-specced trims) is pretty much Ouija board witchcraft. It’s thanks to the electro-mechanically 48V adjustable anti-roll bars working in conjunction with the active all-wheel steering, which simultaneously levels out body roll while virtually taking a slice out of the wheelbase.
These are complex and expensive ways to disguise over two tonnes of car, and you’re always aware of the forces they’re fighting, but they really work. In a world of electric cars that regularly crest the two-tonne mark, the Touareg actually feels quite sprightly.
What are my engine options?
The engines of choice are pretty much either of the two 3.0-litre diesels, offering decent economy and happy torque, and peaking at 228bhp or 282bhp. There’s a 335bhp V6 petrol also on offer, but we’re talking 25.7mpg on a good day, so that’s one for those who really can’t cope with the thrum of diesel. Then there’s the plug-in hybrid R with 462bhp, and that seems to be a very tax-friendly and absolutely surprising sports-SUV.
Of the two diesel V6s available, the higher powered, 282bhp one is the choice of the lot as it returns decent fuel economy while shoving the Touareg along with gusto. It’s seriously refined too. Same story for the slick eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Sweet. And what’s the ride like?
With the optional adaptive air suspension the ride is refined, soaking up small and large road imperfections with ease. The variable steering rack is direct and light but lacks feeling. One thing we would say is to be wary of wheel choice, as you can spec everything from 17s (good for ride, bad for looks) to 21s (bad for ride, good for looks).
But with the inclusion of all the new geeky tech, the Touareg’s off-road ability has been slightly compromised for the latest model. There’s still permanent four-wheel drive and a centre diff-lock acting as the transfer box between the front and rear axles (sending 70 per cent of torque to the front wheels and up to 80 per cent to the rear) but there’s no rear locking diff, so the Touareg has a tendency to unnecessarily spin its wheels on far from arduous off-road terrain.
Are there modes? Tell me there are modes?
There are four off-road modes (Snow, Sand, Gravel and Expert) as part of the Off-Road pack, but they’re all just throttle, ECU and steering maps. Saying that, if you do tick that box, you also get two towing eyes, a 15-litre larger fuel tank (90-litres) and some underbody protection.
Generally though, the Touareg is impressive on the road. There’s plenty of cruising calm, it’s tight and responsive and capable of winding its way down a back road with minimum fuss. More so than some of it’s more ‘premium’ priced competition.
What is it like on the inside?
Where the old car felt like a jacked-up Golf from the inside, the new car is properly premium and a massive improvement. That’s thanks to the ‘fully digitised Innovision Cockpit’, or as you and I would call it, two enormous screens stitched together to look like one big one. Obviously expensive and time-consuming to programme, there’s a wonderful minimalism and notable absence of buttons inside, perfect to go along with the tidy lines outside.
It’s compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and features a WiFi hotspot that allows up to eight devices to be connected at one time. The cabin ambience is massively improved, especially if you opt for the double-glazing which puts the outside world on mute. However, if you go diving below the cabin’s waistline, you can see that some of the materials are slightly plasticky, probably to pay for all the electronics and those two giant slabs of glass.
There’s a whole host of potential tech onboard too including: ‘Night Vision’ to spot (and with any luck, avoid hitting) animals and people when it’s dark thanks to a thermal imaging camera, LED matrix headlights, Roadwork Lane Assist (it’ll manage your steering, braking and acceleration at up to 37mph), a hyperactive pedestrian presence, head-up display, trailer assist, park assist and 360-degree cameras.
What should I be paying?
There are four trim levels – V6 SEL, R-Line, R-Line Tech and Black Edition – plus the full-on Touareg R, so no lack of choice. Although if you hit the VW website you may see that there is no option for a factory order at the moment. That’s not because you can’t get a Touareg, just that VW has stock available that it needs to shift, so the advice is to contact a dealer.
Still, the base SEL 3.0-litre TDI weighs in at £55,885, with a walk-up to the bells’n’whistles Black Edition up at just under £65,305. The R is just under £72k, but comes with 462bhp. The base diesel is a 231bhp 3.0-litre V6 connected to an eight-speed auto (as are all Touaregs), but the slightly higher-powered 282bhp version of the same set-up is probably the preferred option, especially if you do any towing. Which apparently nearly 50 per cent of Touareg owners do.
With the extra grunt, clogging the throttle will see 62mph off from a standstill in 6.1 seconds and onto a top speed of 146mph. Or 147mph if you’ve specced the optional air suspension. If you’re super careful, you can get 40mpg from it while it kicks out 214g/km of C02. There’s also a 335bhp V6 petrol available – beware mid-20s mpg – while the Chinese (the Touareg’s biggest market) have the option of a 362bhp plug-in hybrid version, we aren’t going to see that. Instead, we get the R, which combines a tax-friendly plug-in hybrid system with a 462bhp system output.
Taking a mid-spec Touareg V6 R-Line with the lower-powered diesel and 34.4mpg officially, VW would be looking at PCP of 48 months at 10k miles per year at roughly £615 a month with three grand down. Though you can get that cheaper if you shop around a bit. So not cheap, but decent value for the vehicle on offer.