Remember back in 2004 when Volkswagen towed a Boeing 747 with a Touareg V10 TDi with no modifications aside from a reinforced tow bar? That was VW, and more specifically its CEO at the time Ferdinand Piech, flexing their engineering muscles upon the launch of the new luxury SUV. The original Touareg, you see, was a vanity project; an over-engineered, over-specified luxury SUV designed to be a showcase of the marque’s engineering might, rather than a solid, profitable model line.
That was over 15 years ago, and despite the proliferation of mainstream rivals offering bigger, cheaper and seemingly more appealing models to buyers, this third-generation Touareg has followed the same path of offering a kitchen sink’s worth of new tech in a luxury model aimed at a more affluent buyer. That premiumness is typified by this car’s core MLB-evo underpinnings, too, which are shared right across VAG’s large SUV range.
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The Touareg’s platform finds itself under everything from the Porsche Cayenne, the family orientated Audi Q7, right through to the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. Its powertrain is currently far more sensible than those in its more glamorous relatives, while the more understated, albeit tech-filled interior and subtle styling makes the Touareg a more sensible option for those not wanting to attract too much attention. The question remains, though, does it represent a bargain in offering elements from its luxury cousins at a lower price point, or is it just a very expensive Volkswagen SUV?
Volkswagen Touareg: in detail
Performance and 0-62mph time > UK models are limited to a single V6 TDi engine for the moment, but performance is strong, despite the high kerb weight
Engine and gearbox > Later this year a second entry-level V6 TDi and range-topping V8 TDi will also be offered.
Ride and handling > Although there is no getting away from its sheer mass, the Touareg counters its sterile handling with a supremely refined driving experience
MPG and running costs > MPG is impressive, considering its size, but running costs are higher than most might associate with a VW
Interior and tech > Part of being a halo model is its introduction of next-gen tech, something the new Touareg has in droves
Design > Beyond the chrome-heavy nose, the styling is understated, sophisticated and attractive. Three things many of its platform cousins are not
Prices, specs and rivals:
The new Touareg starts at £51,595 in ‘basic’ SE-L form, with a strong list of standard equipment including 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, a 10-inch infotainment system, leather upholstery, climate control, adaptive cruise control and all-round parking sensors. Mid-table R-Line models start at £55,095 and add ‘sportier’ styling on the outside, larger 20-inch wheels, a firmer suspension set-up, four-zone climate control, tinted windows, a reverse parking camera and the now-essential electric tailgate.
For the full Touareg experience, mind, you’ll need to stump up a further £3k for the top-spec R-Line Tech model, adding keyless entry and start, a memory pack, a different wheel design and the all-important Innovision Cockpit that we’ll go into more detail about later. As is typical with any German luxury car, though, breakthrough new tech is all relegated to the options list, where you can spend a heap more on excellent matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof or a £4890 Professional Chassis pack that combines air suspension and four-wheel steering with an active anti-roll bar system powered by its own 48V electrical system and adaptive dampers.
If the sound of a near-£60k Volkswagen is a little hard to swallow, however, you must keep in mind that closely related models such as the Bentley Bentayga can be up to and over three times more expensive, for a car that is fundamentally very similar. This suddenly makes the Touareg’s value proposition a very different matter, without taking into consideration its substantial improvement in tech compared to its platform-sharing cousins.
Rivals are widespread and varied, but thanks to the slightly less-than-premium VW badge, the Touareg starts at a lower price point than most. Its closest relative, the Audi Q7, is only around a thousand pounds more than the Touareg in equivalent 3-litre TDi S-Line trim, though, and is also a bigger car, with seven seats as standard and equipment levels that are near enough the same. If you’re after tech like the active anti-roll bars and four-wheel steering you’ll have to jump right up to the SQ7, which is well over £70k.
The BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE are priced from £55k and £57k respectively, but both are on the cusp of being replaced by all-new models, so although well equipped, they are beginning to feel their age. The recently refreshed Range Rover Sport starts at a much higher £67k price point, but is equipped to compensate, and wears a far more desirable badge (to some). Basic Porsche Cayenne models also hover around the £55k mark, but are petrol-only at this stage (the more efficient e-Hybrid is priced at a steep £67k). We then reach the Land Rover wild cards, as the smaller Range Rover Velar in SDV6 form starts at £49k, while the larger (fatter) Discovery SDV6 starts at £57k.
As you might have noticed, there is no lack of luxury SUV rivals to choose from, and as most are driven by image more than anything else, many will likely bypass the VW for its lack of it. But you’d be foolish to think of it as inferior, as the Touareg has always appealed on engineering merit more than image.