Volkswagen Touareg review
The Volkswagen Touareg doubles as a capable off-roader and a luxurious family car – although it comes at a price
The Volkswagen Touareg is a large SUV that sits at the top of the company’s range. Most models will never see more challenging terrain than a muddy track or grassy field, but buyers can be reassured that the Touareg is capable when they need it. While it doesn’t have the ultimate off-road ability of rivals like the Land Rover Discovery or more expensive Range Rover, the car will overcome most obstacles off the beaten track thanks to its high ground clearance, 4MOTION permanent four-wheel drive and powerful, torquey diesel engines. Most of the time, the Touareg will be driven on the road, and here it shines with impressive comfort and refinement, as well as reasonably sharp handling for a car with such enormous dimensions. Thanks to its size and weight, like most SUVs it’s not especially fuel efficient, but VW offers a petrol-electric Hybrid model for eco-minded buyers – although the entry-level 201bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine promises lower fuel consumption. There’s also a 242bhp version of the same engine, while the 335bhp 4.2-litre V8 TDI diesel provides crushing pace for buyers more interested in performance than fuel economy. All engines are hooked up to a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, while the range comprises SE, Altitude, Escape, R-Line and Hybrid specs. Every version comes generously equipped as standard – although you’d expect them to, because even the entry-level Touareg carries a high price.
Our choice: Touareg 3.0 TDI V6 SE
The Touareg was developed alongside its Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 sister cars, and you can make out the family resemblance in profile. It doesn’t have the boxy shape of the Land Rover Discovery, although it’s no less imposing. Instead, VW has gone for a chunky yet sporty off-road look. Even entry-level SE models come with 19-inch alloy wheels – any smaller and they would look lost in the massive wheelarches – while Altitude and R-Line versions benefit from 20-inch rims, with different designs. The top-spec R-Line V8 stands out with its vast 21-inch wheels. Buyers wanting a less brash and more practical, rugged look should go for the Escape model – it has a unique front end, designed to give greater ground clearance, and benefits from matt chrome underbody protection. Hybrid versions are set apart by striking LED daytime running lights – these are a pricey option elsewhere in the range – while the R-Line V8 combines this LED set-up with bright xenon headlamps. The flagship model also stands out inside, with a panoramic sunroof and higher-grade leather. In fact, all versions get hide interior trim as part of a long list of standard equipment that also includes climate control and Bluetooth. Avoid the SE and Hybrid if you want the easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment system, although every Touareg bar the petrol-electric model gets a DAB radio. And the dash is neatly designed and beautifully finished whichever version you go for.
The 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel is the only engine most Touareg drivers will ever need. It's offered with outputs of 201bhp or 242bhp, so buyers can choose between maximising efficiency or performance. The 328bhp Hybrid provides even more pace, and can be driven in near-silence on electric power alone for short distances at low speeds – although the sheer size and weight of the car means it’s never long before the 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine kicks in. Opt for the range-topping 4.2-litre V8 TDI, and you’ll be able to outsprint most hot hatches, although this model is obviously much more expensive to run. All models have an impressive towing capacity of 3,500kg, while buyers wanting to use their Touareg off-road should go for the rugged 3.0 V6 TDI Escape. Yet every version rides beautifully on the road, providing impressive high-speed refinement. And while the steering could offer more in the way of feedback, the car belies its vast dimensions to corner as well as the best cars in the SUV class.
Euro NCAP hasn't crash tested the latest Touareg yet, but the old car received a five-star rating, and we expect no different from this new model. It comes with nine airbags as standard, while VW offers a host of hi-tech safety gadgets. It’s just a shame more of these aren’t included as standard – lane keep assistance, radar-controlled distance control, blind spot warning and autobrake are all options. Still, owners should have no problems with reliability. Although the Touareg hasn’t appeared in the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, VW models have a great reputation for durability, while the mechanicals are proven not only in the Touareg, but also the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne.
Unlike many of its SUV rivals, the Touareg isn’t available with seven seats – it’s strictly for five people. Still, the long wheelbase means there’s plenty of space wherever you’re sitting. And while the middle rear seat isn’t especially comfortable, the entire rear bench can be moved back and forth to free up extra legroom or boot capacity as required. Folding the back seats is also incredibly easy, with a button located in the boot. This increases luggage space from 580 litres to a cavernous 1,642 litres. And to help drivers cope with the large dimensions when manoeuvring, rear parking sensors are fitted as standard on all models.
You don’t expect low running costs from a big SUV like the Touareg, but surprisingly, the most efficient model in the range isn’t Hybrid. The petrol-electric version promises 34.4mpg fuel consumption, while its 193g/km emissions aren’t especially low, either. VW claims 40.4mpg and 184g/km for the 201bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI, and the lower price means the diesel is a much more tempting buy. Just steer clear of the 4.2-litre V8 TDI if running costs are a concern – this potent model returns only 31mpg and emits 239g/km. It also sits in the highest insurance group, although no Touareg will be especially cheap to insure. Service intervals are variable, so the car will flag up when it needs a check, and VW offers a pre-paid maintenance plan to keep costs down.