First Drive: Volkswagen Touareg

When the original Touareg launched in 2003, it stood out like a behemoth alongside the regular cars of the day. But now?

Now the world has moved wholesale to SUVs and the latest Touareg looks, well, like most other SUVs.

Some are keen to point out that the new model rides on the same platform as the Audi Q7, or even the Bentley Bentayga, which is true. However such is the flexibility of Volkswagen’s MQB platform, a modular lump of metal that can be stretched and resized in all directions, that it sits underneath the Polo and SEAT Ibiza. It even underpins the huge Atlas, a supersized SUV that we won’t be getting in the UK.

That’s a shame, as the Atlas is a seven-seater and, despite its 4.9-metre length, there’s only room for five in the Touareg. Still, avoiding the temptation to squeeze two more passengers in leaves a generous amount of space for the five that are allowed on board. It also boasts one of the largest boots in the class, with a huge 810 litres of family gubbins able to be placed in the back. Specify the optional air suspension and you can even lower the rear of the car, making loading of heavy or bulky objects far easier.

The rest of the interior is just as clever. There’s a simply enormous infotainment screen stuck in the middle that measures 15-inches from corner to corner. It’s housed in a seamless panel that flows into the main instrument binnacle, itself housing a 12.3-inch digital screen. It’s not quite seamless, but the join is well hidden, and it’s there to reduce the cost of replacement should one half fail.

The infotainment houses virtually everything you’ll ever need, and comes fitted with DAB radio, navigation that includes satellite images, weather updates, vehicle settings, and so much more. It’s configurable, so the frequently used options are brought front and centre, while everything else hides away neatly.

The instruments can be configured individually, a they’re just digital displays rather than physical needles and dials. They can even be replaced by a Google Earth screen showing your location and route. It’s impressive, but perhaps a little overwhelming at times. Stick with the head-up display that floats on the road ahead of you for speed, directions and a few other bits and you’ll rarely need to look away.

It’s a technical tour de force then, but there’s hints of old-school luxury abound too; leather is everywhere, and there’s plenty of metal highlighting.

The same is true of the engine, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel. It’s the only engine available for now, although there are two power outputs to choose from. There’s 231hp, or this one, with 286hp. That’s enough for sports car levels of performance, with overtaking moves just a toe flick away. It’s quiet too, so refined on the motorway and serene in town. It’s easy to manoeuvre in the city too, thanks to four-wheel steering that reduces the turning circle to that of, roughly, a Golf.

The handling doesn’t live up to the straight line performance, with inert, uncommunicative steering and a softly suspended setup that demands you relax rather than press on. However, push hard and there’s exceptional levels of grip available – it’s just not entertaining to use it all.

If entertainment’s not your thing, and this is a huge SUV so it probably shouldn’t be, then you can almost let the car drive itself. Predictive cruise control follows your set speed, but automatically slows for corners or changing speed limits, keeping you out of trouble in the first place. That’s aided by traffic jam assist that leaves you with nothing to do when stuck on the A14. If things do go wrong, seemingly every safety system known to man is fitted to ensure you stay on the tarmac and not in the trees.

It’s clear you get a lot of kit with the Touareg, and it’s a hugely capable car, but you pay for it. This test model is knocking on the door of £60,000, which is a lot to ask but, with low depreciation thanks to the desirability of both the car and the badge, comes low leasing and PCP costs. There’s strong competition from the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and the Land Rover Discovery, but the Touareg isn’t shamed by any of them.

Model Tested: Volkswagen Touareg R-Line Tech 3.0-litre V6 TDI 4MOTION
Price: £58,195
Range: £48,995 – £58,195
Top speed: 146 mph
0-62 mph: 6.2 seconds
Power: 286 PS (282 bhp)
Torque: 600 Nm (442 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £795
Official fuel economy: 42.8 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 173 g/km
Car Tax: £450
Insurance group: 42E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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