Volkswagen Touareg Review
How important is a car’s badge to you? For some, the Volkswagen badge won’t have the cachet of, say, Audi, Mercedes-Benz or BMW. But if you can see past the badge, you’ll find that the Volkswagen Touareg offers a level of sophistication and class on a par with cars from these prestigious brands. The Touareg is a large SUV available in many forms and to suit different budgets.
All of them are very well engineered, and the top-spec models may convince you not to spend extra on a luxurious brand after all.
Select's rating score* - 3.7 / 5
At a Glance
As the biggest SUV in Volkswagen’s range, the Touareg has space for five adults and the features to keep them as comfortable as anything else short of a Bentley. It’s a rival for cars like the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, with which it shares its mechanical underpinnings.
Unlike some rivals, it’s not available with seven seats, which could put some people off, but that means that rather than cramming extra people in a third-row of seats, it mixes fantastic rear legroom with a huge boot for carrying all their stuff. Under the bonnet you can pick from a range of petrol and diesel engines.
All are relatively brawny and powerful, but they range from the relatively frugal to genuine performance options, and there are plug-in hybrid models too. To drive, the Touareg is surprisingly agile for such a big car, but it’s comfortable too, particularly on higher-spec models, which have more sophisticated suspension.
The Touareg trades firstly on its size, which is considerable, and that means lots of space inside. While those in need of a seven-seater will have to look elsewhere, families of five or less will have huge amounts of space inside, and access to some great technology to keep them informed and entertained.
Several well-specced trim levels give you different options for different budgets, and different powertrains mean you can have a fuel-efficient diesel for long distances, a punchy petrol engine or, in the form of the Touareg R, a performance SUV that’s both powerful and can run on electric power alone for around 30 miles.
All models have an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, for great traction and confidence on-road, and a reasonable capability off-road too. All this in a package that isn’t quite as plush and premium as its luxury rivals, but it’s not far behind, and it comes with more affordable leasing rates.
Range & Batteries
The plug-in hybrid Touareg R uses a 3.0-litre TSI petrol engine attached to a 136-horsepower electric motor, and a 14.2kWh lithium-ion battery. That gives it an electric-only range of 31 miles according to official tests.
Performance & Drive
Volkswagen has made the Touareg available with several different trims and a choice of engines. However, all are notable for surprisingly agile handling for such a big car, and for their power, as every model gets a big V6 engine. That’s perhaps not ideal for those looking to save as much on fuel as possible, but it does mean effortless performance across the range.
The diesel options are both 3.0-litre V6 engines with either 231 horsepower or 286 horsepower. For most people, the entry-level option is plenty powerful enough, with effortless acceleration and minimal noise. The more powerful option just gives you even more grunt, which means getting up to speed on the motorway is easy, and there’s plenty of power for overtaking slower traffic.
There’s also a petrol version – another 3.0-litre V6 – with 340 horsepower. This could be better for those that do shorter journeys, as diesels are generally better suited to long motorway miles. The petrol engine doesn’t have the oomph at low revs that you get from the diesel, however, and it’ll drink through fuel at a faster rate.
That changes on the top-spec Touareg R plug-in hybrid, which combines the petrol engine with an electric motor. The result is a considerable hike in power to 462hp, and acceleration that will rival sports cars. It’s seriously quick, and what’s more it can run on electric power only for up to 28 miles. For many people, that means the daily commute can be completed without using any petrol at all.
However, once the battery is depleted and you rely on the petrol engine, fuel economy will go down very quickly. It’s best suited to those that do mostly shorter journeys, and have somewhere to plug the battery in to keep it charged between drives. A home charger would be perfect, but you can also refill the battery at public chargers.
Even the Touareg R doesn’t feel particularly sporty, however. While it and other Touareg models have a lot of agility for the size of car, the steering is fairly light and doesn’t give you a huge amount of engagement. That means that it works best as a comfortable cruiser with a decent turn of pace, rather than a genuinely sporty car like a Porsche Cayenne.
The standard suspension gives reasonable ride comfort, although the best option is the air suspension that’s standard on the Touareg R and optional on the rest of the range. This takes the harshness out of the ride, particularly on bad road surfaces. The stiffer sports suspension found on R-Line models is best avoided if comfort is a top priority.
You can charge the battery at up to 7.2kW from a home wallbox or public charger, which will take about two-and-a-half hours. Doing so from a regular three-pin socket will take just over five hours.
Running costs & Emissions
When it comes to running costs, the top-spec Touareg R PHEV has the potential to be the cheapest on fuel, although it’s also the most expensive to lease. More than other types of car, it does rely on being used mostly on short journeys using electric power to get the best fuel economy.
The official fuel economy figure is 123.4mpg, but that’s largely meaningless in the real world – keep the battery topped up and the journey short and you’ll get better, but drain the battery and rely on the petrol engine and the consumption will be worse.
For those doing lots of longer journeys, the lower-powered diesel promises 34.6mpg, although that barely changes in the more powerful diesel, with an official MPG of 34.7. The petrol-powered TSI model promises up to 25.7mpg.
Insurance groups range from 36 to 43 of 50, which means premiums that won’t exactly be cheap, but are comparable to the Touareg’s main rivals.
Interior & Technology
The interior quality in most Volkswagens is very good, and it’s as good as anything else from the brand inside the Touareg.
That said, when you’re competing against the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes you’re looking at a very high benchmark, and the Touareg doesn’t feel quite as classy in terms of material quality. It’s still more than acceptable however, and you have to factor in the savings you’re making in monthly leasing charges.
A bucketload of standard technology goes a long way to making up for things too, with leather seats across the range and a massive touchscreen infotainment system. Entry-level models have a screen measuring 9.2 inches diagonally, while top-spec models grow that to a huge 15 inches. All have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat-nav.
Other features include a permanent SIM card that connects your car to the internet. Not only can this keep your software up to date wirelessly, it also lets you use a smartphone app to monitor things like fuel, whether your car is locked and if all the windows are closed.
The car’s sat-nav will also monitor real-time traffic information and reroute you as necessary, and it can find you parking spaces too.
Practicality & Boot Space
Space is a major feature of the Touareg. Some may bemoan the lack of a seven-seater version, but you’ll easily fit five adults inside, and they’ll have plenty of legroom and headroom wherever they’re sitting, even in cars fitted with a panoramic sunroof. In the back, the seats slide backwards and forwards to prioritise legroom or boot space, and they’ll recline too if your passengers fancy a snooze.
The boot is huge, even compared to rivals. If you need extra space you can fold the rear seats down individually, and with them all flat you’ll have a massive 1,800 litres of space, which is all-but van-like.
If you’ve got the optional air suspension, you can lower the car at the touch of a button in the boot to make it easier to load larger items.
There are plenty of storage spaces for odds and ends, including two cup holders up front and a cubbyhole under the centre armrest.
Safety organisation EuroNCAP tested the Touareg in 2018, and awarded it the maximum five-star score. Having said that, rival cars also scored five stars, and some had better individual scores, particularly the Volvo XC90.
The Touareg is loaded with lots of safety features as standard, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane assist.
All models get front, side and curtain airbags, and Isofix child-seat mounting points on the outer rear seats. You can get Isofix on the front passenger seat as an option.
There are five different trims to pick from in the Touareg range, and all are crammed with equipment. Even the entry-level SEL model has front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and heated front seats. It sits on big 19-inch alloy wheels and has bright LED headlights.
Next in the range is the sporty-looking R-Line model, which has 20-inch alloy wheels and a sportier bodykit, four-zone climate control air-con, automatic parking and an electric boot lid.
The R-Line Tech model, as the name suggests, adds some extra technology, including electric front seats, automatic high beam for the headlights, keyless entry and the bigger touchscreen.
The top-spec ‘regular’ Touareg is the Black Edition, which has clever Matrix LED headlights that can keep high-beam on while putting oncoming traffic in shadow to avoid dazzling them. It rides on 21-inch wheels and has a black styling pack that – as you may guess – adds lots of black elements for a stealthier look. It also has a panoramic roof as standard.
The Touareg R, which is only available as a plug-in hybrid, rides on 22-inch alloy wheels and has most of the features mentioned here, including air suspension and a panoramic sunroof.
Options include a range of standard, metallic and pearlescent paints, various alloy wheel designs and various extras, from heated rear seats to a head-up display, Dynaudio sound system and massage seats.
Volkswagen wants the Touareg to be considered alongside luxurious large SUVs like the Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. The Audi is nicer inside and has seven seats, while the Cayenne is far more fun to drive. You could also look at premium cars like the Range Rover Sport or Land Rover Discovery, which will go off-road as well as on with aplomb, and the BMW X5, which is more fun to drive but not quite as sporty as the Porsche. Then there’s Volvo’s leftfield XC90 and the Mercedes GLE to look at too.
Entry-level Touaregs also compete with more volume brands, and cars like the Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq or Hyundai Santa Fe, but they don’t feel quite as premium as the Volkswagen. Think of the Touareg as a stepping stone between these more affordable cars and the more expensive premium models.
Verdict & Next Steps
Depending on how you spec it, the Touareg can either be a large SUV that sits at the top of the tree for volume manufacturers, or a bargain way to get a genuinely luxurious car on your driveway. It’s crammed with equipment, especially in the more expensive models, and there’s a choice of powertrains to suit different needs and budgets, although it’s a shame that the only plug-in hybrid option sits right at the top of the range.
Some customers will dismiss it for not offering seven seats, but for those that need a maximum of five, it’s a quality car, with tonnes of space and a very well-judged driving experience.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Volkswagen Touareg
**Correct as of 31/12/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4715.37 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.