Volkswagen Touareg (2003-2010) review
The big Touareg is beautifully built and a genuine off-roader. Despite being a six year old design, the VW is still a class contender.
Styling/Image There’s no denying the Touareg has huge road presence. With its large chrome grille, upright stance and raised suspension, the VW is every inch the premium SUV. Entry -level models get 17-inch alloy wheels, while SE models add chrome window surrounds, 18-inch rims and leather seat trim. Pick the luxurious Altitude and you’ll get a subtle bodykit and air suspension. Performance fans will want the wild R50, which comes with huge 21-inch wheels, a 20mm lower ride height and chunky aerodynamic additions.
Interior/Practicality While the VW can’t match rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery for cabin space, there’s still plenty of room for five passengers – sadly there’s no seven-seat option. Drivers get a commanding view of the road from the high set driving position, and the interior is solidly constructed from top quality materials. Opening the useful split tailgate reveals a useful 500-litre load bay, while folding the rear bench flat and this increases to 1,525-litres. All models get air-conditioning, trip computer and ESP. However, we’d have expected parking sensors to be standard across the line-up on a car this big.
Engine/Performance Diesel is king in the Touareg range. Three TDI units are available – 172bhp 2.5-litre, 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 and the mighty 5.0-litre V10, which pushes out 308bhp in standard tune and 345bhp in the rapid R50. Petrol fans can choose the 276bhp 3.6-litre V6. All models are fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, although the 2.5TDI is available with a six-ratio manual. The entry-level oil burner is a little sluggish off the line, but will return 30.7mpg. At the other end of the scale is rocketship R50 that sprints from zero to 62mph in 6.7 seconds. But our choice is the smooth and punchy 3.0-litre TDI, which serves-up the best mix of performance and fuel economy.
Driving experience Given its large dimensions, the VW is surprising agile on the road. Direct steering, strong brakes and good body control all help to make the Touareg feel much smaller from behind the wheel. High-speed refinement is excellent, with air-sprung versions soaking up even the biggest bumps. Standard four-wheel drive, hill descent control and electronic differential locks combine to give the car genuine mud-plugging ability.
Ownership costs Running a big SUV is never going to be a cheap business. Even the smallest diesel engine emits 243g/km of CO2, putting it into the top VED tax band. The range-topping R50 puts out 315g/km and will struggle to return real world fuel economy of 20mpg. Residuals are surprisingly strong, with the 3.0-litre TDI retaining 49 percent of its value after three years.
Safety/Environment A five-star EuroNCAP rating suggests the Touareg will be strong in an impact. All cars get six airbags, electronic stability control and ISOFIX seating. Buyers can also specify blind spot warning and tyre pressure monitoring. Eco-friendly motorists should steer clear of the VW, as all the versions fall into the top VED tax band.