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Volkswagen Touareg 2024 review – a true BMW X5 rival?

Volkswagen’s dependable SUV has had a big update and still does exactly what it says on the tin, which is no bad thing

Evo rating
Price
from £68,065
  • Practical, comfortable, diesel engines offer great capability 
  • Can get expensive quickly, hybrids are a hindrance 

​​​In a world of Range Rovers, Bentaygas, Cayennes and Q8s it’s easy to look over the more humble offerings in the premium SUV sector, with buyers inclined to step down a sector to the Kodiaqs and Q5s of this world instead. But there’s one large, luxury SUV that, while it might not have the most fashionable of name tags, still wears a classless badge and, despite many walking past it to go on and buy an older, worn out rival, it's one of the best you can buy if your requirements are more function over fashion. If you don’t like the wonky rear plate on a Land Rover Discovery 5, VWs Touareg is for you. In fact, it’s possibly the better car for many who buy the alternatives. 

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VW’s SUV had a sizable update last year (the third generation was introduced in 2018) that included a new look inside and out, although it varies only slightly from its familiar look of old, and gained an armful of technology and powertrain updates. It still shares much of its core construction with other models in the VW Group portfolio from Audi to Lamborghini, although it remains the value proposition with prices starting from £68,065 (yes, that price and value are a stretch). 

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> Volkswagen Golf 2024 review – still the benchmark hatchback?

As is the the way in today’s world the Touareg’s update coincided with a rationing of the range, which saw the previous six trim lines halved to simply Elegance, Black Edition and R. Two fuel options are available to you from the 3-litre V6 engines - diesel and petrol - with the 228bhp and 282bhp outputs available with the former, the latter available with 335bhp or up to 456bhp if you go for the range topping R eHybrid. There’s also a second less powerful plug-in hybrid model with 376bhp. All models get an eight-speed automatic gearbox and VW’s 4MOTION four-wheel drivetrain. 

We’ve driven both the range-topping plug-in hybrid R and the 282bhp diesel here. The former has had everything thrown at for its £80,710 price tag, including a 14.3kWh battery pack, which VW claims provides 30 miles of electric range. During our time it did exactly that with enough on the move regen to keep the battery topped up on most journeys. The electric drive is well configured to cut in and out when you would expect it, with the V6 engine more than capable of picking up the baton when required.

The V6 petrol isn’t the best when it’s working on its own with no electric boost, it can feel strained and under pressure to maintain momentum wiping out any economy gains its hybrid powertrain provides. It’s not especially sprightly despite what its name tag suggests and when stretched it sounds quite harsh, even in Sport mode when some acoustic support is pumped through the cabin. 

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Standard air-suspension combined with the 35 profile 22-inch wheels and tyres make for an unsettled ride. It’s not choppy or harsh, but there’s always a constant fidget from beneath you unsettling the chassis and sending unwanted feedback through your finger tips and bum cheeks. It’s at odds with the robust feeling and quality of the interior.

If you can ignore the ride, the Touareg R leaves you wanting very little from its interior. There’s more space than most London flats but it doesn’t feel like an empty warehouse and the fit and finish is a step up from your expectations and on a par with many premium rivals, certainly from BMW and Mercedes and possibly Porsche. Then again, don’t forget this model costs £80,710.

£68,840 is still also a sizeable amount of money to pay for a TDI Black Edition, but in return VW will supply you with a practical family/sensible pair of trousers and it’s the pick of the range, an SUV that makes sense and one that’s designed for a purpose rather than a status symbol. 

There’s still lashings of black trim and an element of trying hard in the trim department but the 282bhp TDI Touareg has that dependable appeal where you know it won’t let you down and will always be there for you. Think of it as a softer edged Defender or Land Cruiser

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For some in 2024 a diesel engine is the antichrist of personal mobility, but for many it’s still the best solution and VW knows this, which is why it's spent a great deal perfecting the Touareg powered as such. Waves of seemingly limitless torque, low engine speeds, low fuel economy and little effort to make a great deal of progress still appeals, and the V6 TDI does all of this without even making you aware that you need to refuel using that black nozzle that’s a bit smelly and sticky. 

Matched with the a smoother ride than the R’s (the TDI has a higher 40 profile tyre fitted to a smaller 21-inch wheel) the Black Edition TDI could slot in to a family fleet with Caterhams and 911s stashed away without anyone noticing but all appreciating when it’s asked to transport a family from one end of the country to another. Or to Waitrose. 

The Touareg’s hefty price tags do provide you with plenty of standard kit, and not all of it as infuriating to use as it is in a Mk8 Golf. Air-suspension is standard across the range, panoramic roofs are included too, heated memory electric seats, 360-degree camera views for parking, HD mapping, Apple and Android wireless connections and roof load sensors that adapt the car’s electronic chassis controls accordingly to match the shift in the car’s centre of gravity. 

When it comes to picking a Touareg the petrol models are best to walk by, there are better options from within the group’s portfolio, especially the likes of the new Cayenne e-Hybrid. Where the Touareg does score highly and makes a solid case for itself is when you go a bit old school and stick with a turbo diesel engine and utilise it how such cars have been designed for, which is to cover big miles in great comfort with a great deal of life stuff strapped in and on it. The world might have fallen out of love with the diesel SUV, and many point out we shouldn’t have hooked up and got together with them in the first place, but for some it’s exactly what they need and VW’s TDI powered Touareg provides just that.

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