Volkswagen Touareg SUV
Price £42,140 - £61,655
- Decent fuel economy for a big 4x4
- Smart looks
- Luxurious cabin
- Looks very similar to its predecessor
- Expensive to buy
- Hybrid model is noisy
At a glance
"It's a decent road car, but underneath the smooth bodywork and luxurious interior lurks the mechanicals of a serious off-road machine."
The Volkswagen Touareg is based on the Porsche Cayenne but is significantly cheaper to buy and does without the more powerful engines that are available with the Porsche. It also competes with the Land Rover Discovery and the BMW X5.
Off-road toughness and on-road ability are two things the VW does quite well. All models come with four-wheel drive and the Touareg engine range is good – it includes two 3.0-litre diesels, a flagship 4.2-litre V8 diesel, and a petrol electric hybrid.
The Touareg doesn’t come with the option of seven seats, but it does have a cabin that's spacious enough for five and well-built, even if it doesn’t have quite the same premium feel of the Porsche Cayenne.
Trim levels include SE, Escape, R-Line and Hybrid. Every Touareg gets 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a DAB radio and parking sensors. If you plan to use your Touareg off-road then the Escape model comes fitted with clever electronics and protection for the underside of the car that should make it even more capable in rough conditions.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Hybrid has lowest CO2 emissions at 193g/km
If you want to save money on fuel, the basic 3.0-litre diesel is the engine to go for. It can manage 40.4 mpg and CO2 emissions of 184g/km, which mean road tax will cost £225 every year. The most powerful version is the V8 diesel, but it is also the least efficient, with economy of 31mpg and emissions of 239g/km for an annual road tax bill of £485. We can’t see many people opting for the hybrid model because it costs almost as much as the V8 diesel to buy and is only marginally more economical, although it does cut CO2 emission to 193g/km for road tax of £265.
As a big four-wheel drive car, maintenance costs for the Volkswagen Touareg are never going to be cheap but Volkswagen does offer fixed-price service plans, as well as the option to pay for your car's upkeep via a fixed monthly rate.
Interior & comfort
Seats are pretty comfortable
As a tall car the Volkswagen Touareg gives its driver a clear view of the road and you feel well insulated from your surroundings thanks to the car's quiet interior and comfortable seats. As you would expect on an expensive model like this, the Touareg gets a height adjustable driver's seat and a steering wheel that can be fine-tuned for rake and reach.
Sitting in the back might not be so enjoyable if you end up on the middle seat. Unlike in the Land Rover Discovery, it's raised and there's not a lot of space for your feet thanks to the car's transmission tunnel, which runs down the centre of the interior.
Practicality & boot space
Back seats are easy to fold for maximum carrying capacity
Space inside the Touareg is generally pretty good with plenty of room up front for tall passengers. The interior also gets lots of useful storage areas including a large glovebox and a storage area in the centre of the dashboard, a space hidden under the front centre armrest, and spacious door bins.
Aside from the tight space for the middle passenger, the back seat has useful features including the ability to slide forwards and backwards, and recline. The back seats drop down easily – by pressing a button in the boot – and boot space increases from 490 litres to 1,642 with them down. Although the seats don’t fold completely flat into the boot, there's no boot lip so even heavy items shouldn’t be too difficult to get in.
Reliability & safety
Feels built to a high standard
Sadly, the Volkswagen Touareg didn’t feature in our 2013 Driver Power survey, but Volkswagen finished 19th out off 33 manufacturers. That result was mostly down to the company's 26th place finish for reliability and that it didn’t post any top-ten scores. Having said this, the Touareg uses engines and parts from across the Volkswagen range and should be solidly constructed. It's also a proper tough off-roader.
The current Touareg has never been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the old car was awarded five-stars in 2004, which indicates the new model should be very safe. It gets all the safety features you would expect of a car costing this much, including six airbags, electronic stability control and a driver alert system, which warns the driver when they need to take a rest.
Engines, drive & performance
Comfortable and stable through tight bends
Comfort was a high priority when Volkswagen designed the Touareg so if you want an SUV that offers driver thrills the BMW X5 and the Porsche Cayenne are both better options. The Volkswagen is stable enough in the corners though and feels much smaller to drive than it actually is. A lot of that's down to the car's nicely shaped steering wheel and its driving position, which gives you excellent visibility.
If you want a quick Touareg then the Hybrid model proves surprisingly fast, with 0-60mph taking just 6.5 seconds. The V8 diesel model is still the quickest though, and it can get from 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds. If speed isn’t your top priority, the 3.0-litre diesel models are cheaper to buy and perfectly quick enough for a car of this type.
Price, value for money & options
The Touareg is expensive, but has good equipment
Even the basic Touareg SE comes with alloy wheels, a leather interior, climate control, cruise control, parking sensors, an easy-to-use touchscreen sat-nav system and a leather interior. Expensive options across the range include adaptive cruise control, which can monitor the car in front's speed and keep the Touareg a safe distance away, and a parking heater that can warm up the car before you get in it.
Before you spec too many options, bear in mind that the Touareg will lose more value than cars such as the Porsche Cayenne and Land Rover Discovery.
What the others say
On air suspension (a £2,000 option on all models), the V8 rides superbly. If you want to do much off-roading in your Touareg you'll need the air system because of the versatility it gives. You can raise it by up to 78mm from a normal 'road' setting.
While the VW can’t match rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery for cabin space, there’s still plenty of room for five passengers – sadly there’s no seven-seat option. Drivers get a commanding view of the road from the high set driving position, and the interior is solidly constructed from top quality materials. Opening the useful split tailgate reveals a useful 500-litre load bay, while folding the rear bench flat and this increases to 1,525-litres.
For starters there’s a punchy but smooth V6 diesel mated to an eight-speed auto tiptronic gearbox. It’s probably not the most enticing combination you’ve read about on this website, but engine and transmission work together very well, and can hustle the two-ton Touareg along with plenty of vigour.