"It's a decent road car, but underneath the smooth bodywork and luxurious interior lurks the mechanicals of a serious off-road machine."
The Touareg SUV was originally launched back in 2003 and then significantly updated in 2010. It majors on luxury, although it also has the capability to tackle more extreme conditions than most drivers will ever experience. The latest version is much lighter than the original, despite being bigger. That weight reduction means a notable improvement in fuel economy across the range. The Touareg Hybrid is new, although the TDI diesel engines still offer the best blend of economy and performance.
Unlike some rugged, workmanlike 4x4s, the Touareg has been developed to excel on the road, where it will be used most of the time. So it's comfortable, and stable through tight bends. While it's no sports car, it doesn’t feel as big as you might expect. That's thanks to a nicely shaped and sized steering wheel and high driving position. Its eight-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly and the cabin is well insulated. The range-topping Altitude model packs a punch in a striaght line, sprinting from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds.
Volkswagen enhanced the Touareg's comfort when it updated the car in 2010. The new seats, which are covered in leather on all models, are supremely comfortable, even over a long journey. The updated Touareg also comes with more space inside than before – leaving more room for passengers to stretch their legs. However, the middle seat in the rear is very flat and its occupant has to deal with a raised floor, making this seat the least comfortable.
Although there's no reliability data for the updated Touareg, its predecessor built up a good reputation for reliability and build quality – as is the case with most Volkswagens. The new model feels as if it's made to a higher standard inside, and all the engines – with the exception of the Hybrid – are proven in other cars in the VW range. The Touareg is equipped with front, side and curtain airbags as standard, as well as a complex and capable traction control system.
The Touareg is a large car, so its boot is big to start with. Cabin space is reasonable, and the rear seat slides back and forth and the rear backrest tilts, so it can be positioned to best cope with whichever combination of passengers and luggage you’re carrying. The back seats are easy to fold down for maximum carrying capacity. Elsewhere in the cabin there is loads of space for your bits and pieces.
Value for money
Compared with the established premium cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi, the Touareg appears to be good value, especially when you consider the generous standard specification. The entry-level SE model, for instance, comes with alloy wheels, a leather interior, climate control, cruise control, heated seats, parking sensors and a touchscreen satellite navigation system.
Volkswagen has managed to reduce consumption and emissions across the Touareg range, thanks mainly to a weight reduction. The 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine returns 38.1mpg, while the Hybrid version boasts the lowest CO2 at 193g/km. Unfortunately, the 4.2 TDI model creeps into Band K in terms of Road Tax, due to its higher emissions. It also returns just 31mpg. Volkswagen offers fixed-price servicing so that owners can predict their costs.