New Volkswagen Touareg eHybrid 2023 review: a relaxing SUV that packs a punch

The VW Touareg isn’t the most glamorous of SUVs, but it’s superbly built and comes with outstanding comfort and refinement

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The Volkswagen Touareg SUV over-delivers in an understated package. The new plug-in hybrid powertrain is an excellent match to the Touareg’s relaxed driving demeanour, and in Elegance specification comes with a sophisticated design and attractive price point. For those wanting a high-spec SUV without the stigma of a high-end badge, the Touareg makes a compelling case.

The Touareg is something of a lone ranger in the Volkswagen line up – a lasting relic of VW’s late CEO Ferdinand Piech that was designed to rival and conquer models from far more upmarket brands upon its launch back in 2002. 

Yet as Volkswagen’s SUVs have diversified over the last two decades, the Touareg has retained its higher standing in its third generation, only made stronger by a recent mid-life update. 

A total of five powertrains are available on the facelifted model: two V6 diesels, a turbocharged V6 petrol and two plug-in hybrids. Here we’re testing the lower-specification 375bhp PHEV, which is new to the range and promises an ideal balance between performance and efficiency. 

Together with the petrol engine, is an electric motor which draws power from a relatively compact 14.3kWh battery pack. This is considerably smaller than rivals from Porsche and BMW, which both have closer to 30kWh – meaning the VW comes with a restrained 31-mile claimed electric range. Our test car displayed 24 miles from a full charge.

On-paper, VW quotes 128mpg and 51g/km, and those batteries will charge from empty on a 7kW charger in around 2.5 hours. If these figures seem a touch off the pace compared to a rival BMW X5 xDrive50e or Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, it is worth noting that the VW undercuts both of those models by around £10,000. Performance is on target for this sort of car, reaching 62mph in 5.9 seconds, and does so with quite a satisfying grumble from beneath the chiselled bonnet. 

The entry-level PHEV powertrain is offered exclusively with the Elegance trim level, which sits below the sportier Black Edition trim, yet still comes packed with standard kit. Highlights include high-end matrix LED headlights, a panoramic roof, leather seats and a pair of high-end digital interfaces inside the cabin made up from a very large high-resolution 15-inch touchscreen and a digital dial pack.

The two displays sit in a very clean and easy to use interior, and while key functions like the air conditioning are integrated into the larger central touchscreen, they sit on a static section which is always accessible. Overall quality, though, is very impressive; the cabin feels superbly put together, and while most materials don’t quite come across as luxurious, they are certainly solid and robust.

The same can be said of the exterior, which has razor-sharp shutlines and an indomitable aura to its design and build quality. For all of the criticism levelled at some of VW’s electric ID. range, the Touareg is very much VW at its best.

Interior space is on-point for the class, with good leg and headroom in the second row regardless of the headroom-sapping glass roof. This is a dedicated five-seater, though, with no third-row available, even on the options list. It does leave behind a well-shaped 810-litre boot, but rivals like the seven-seat Volvo XC90 are bigger back there with the third row down.  

A quirk of the lower-spec PHEV’s sole ‘Elegance’ trim is the combination of sensibly-sized 20-inch wheels and standard coil-sprung suspension. This gives the Touareg excellent bump absorption without too much compromise in terms of road-holding, helping make it very relaxed and comfortable to drive. For those interested, the Touareg is also an excellent tow car, with a 3,500kg rating. It’ll even go off-road with some enthusiasm. 

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The plug-in powertrain offers its own luxurious element to the driving experience, with near-silent running when in EV mode and a mostly smooth transition between the electric motor and combustion engine. When running in hybrid mode the feeling is of a smooth and high-powered petrol engine with a cultured soundtrack, and if you keep your inputs smooth there’s almost no jerkiness. There’s also a clever virtual kickdown point in the throttle pedal that will notify you when you’re about to wake up the petrol engine – handy for when you’re climbing hills or soon coming to a stop, helping avoid unnecessary running of the engine. This is not a sports car, however, so if you’re after a more engaging driving experience in a large luxurious SUV, then both BMW and Porsche strike a better balance. 

Better to slow down, enjoy the excellent refinement levels, and float along in a bubble of calm. The relatively slow steering rate and easy long-legged feel to the suspension is a compromise worth having for the sake of the superb comfort on offer. In the luxury SUV segment there are lots of rivals to consider, but the VW has its own understated vibe, which for the right type of buyer is exactly what they’re after. 

Model: Volkswagen Touareg eHybrid 4Motion
Price: £68,050
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-petrol, plug-in hybrid
Power/torque: 375bhp/450Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy/CO2: 128mpg/51g/km
On sale: Now
Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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