New Volkswagen Touareg 2018 review
The new VW Touareg shares a platform with the Audi Q7 and Lamborghini Urus, matching their talents for less cash
Whichever way you approach the Volkswagen Touareg, it’s an extremely tough car to fault. Here is an SUV that’s as talented as its posher VW Group cousins but it’s available at the lowest price of the lot. The question you’ve got to ask yourself is, how much does a badge matter to you?
Since its introduction in 2002, it’s always seemed like the Volkswagen Touareg has fought a losing battle. In a class where image is everything, big SUVs from Audi, BMW and Mercedes have a headstart over the less prestigious ‘people’s car’ alternative. In other words, the Touareg needs to be really special to compete.
Our first experience of the all-new generation was promising, and now we’ve tried the car for the first time on UK roads. Under the skin, the Touareg rides on the VW Group MLBevo platform - the same that’s used for not just the Audi Q7, but also the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus. It’s slightly shorter than a Q7, but marginally longer, wider and lower than the old Touareg.
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With the new chassis comes a fresh look. It’s an evolution of the old car’s, but the neat blend of headlights (LED as standard and LED matrix optional) into an imposing front grille, a rakish roofline and neat behind make the latest model the sharpest-looking yet - arguably a more handsome beast than the Q7 or the BMW X5.
Sharing a platform system with its posher VW-Group cousins grants it access to much of the same tech. Air suspension, four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars are all on the options list, and all three trim levels get adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and leather seats as standard.
The Touareg’s engine line-up will soon include a 228bhp diesel, a 3.0-litre V6 petrol and, eventually, a plug-in hybrid. For now, there’s just one choice, but it’s a great one. We’ve tried the 3.0-litre V6 diesel unit, here making 282bhp, in various VAG installations before, and as ever it’s smooth, strong, and an ideal match for a big SUV like the Touareg.
It’s just a shame that the gearbox doesn’t make the best of the hefty 600Nm of torque on offer. The eight-speed auto is far too keen to kick down, and its slow responses cause a frustrating pause before the car surges forwards.
Gearbox aside, the Touareg is very relaxing from behind the wheel. On the optional air suspension (regular springs and adaptive dampers are standard) the ride is excellent. Road noise is perhaps a little more audible than in the Q7, but wind noise is impressively hushed.
But the Touareg isn’t one to be rushed. It feels every bit a high-riding two-tonne car through the turns, and mid-corner bumps cause it to shimmy from its intended course. The steering, while precise, lacks feel, too. On the plus side, the optional steering rear axle is brilliant - gracing this near-five-metre-long behemoth with the low-speed manoeuvrability of a Golf. It’s available as part of a package with the air suspension, and it’s an upgrade well worth considering, though it’s not cheap, at £2,370.
But the Touareg saves its best for the inside, because the cabin is more attractive than not only the Q7, but pretty much any other alternative in this segment. The highlight is Volkswagen's Innovision Cockpit, a combination of a 12-inch and 15-inch screens which blend driving and infotainment functions together for what almost appears like a single huge, gently curving display.
The larger touchscreen in particular features gorgeous graphics (including Google Earth mapping for the navigation system), rapid loading times and an interface which uses simple smartphone-style menus and a home shortcut. Even adjusting the temperature through the screen doesn’t seem like a chore - though we reckon a physical temperature dial would still be easier. This set-up is standard on the top spec R-Line Tech, but costs the best part of £2,500 on lower SEL and R-Line trims.
The screen is framed by a surround which mimics the car’s front grille. VW’s designers admit they’d be happier if the display shape could perfectly fill the hexagonal framed area, but the use of black menu pages and shortcut keys helps it to blend in neatly. Some cheap plastics around the front occupants’ knees disappoint, but otherwise quality is up there with the class-leaders, too.
The Touareg lacks a seven-seat option that the Q7 provides, but this means that rear passengers have loads of head and legroom and, regardless of where the sliding rear bench is positioned, the boot is enormous.
But how does it compete on cost? An introductory offer prices the middling R-line at £499 per month on a four-year deal, with a £10,489 deposit. With a similar payment up front, an Audi Q7 with similar kit levels costs £16 per month more, but has to make do with 67bhp less from its V6 diesel.