Volkswagen Touareg Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Friday 22nd September
Often forgotten in favour of more exotic fare, the Touareg’s a hidden SUV hero

Good stuff

Sophisticated and high-tech interior, good quality, subtle-but-handsome looks

Bad stuff

Same-price rivals wear more premium badges


What is it?

VW’s SUV flagship. The most intelligent and technologically advanced production car to come out of Wolfsburg, no less, and with the Touareg R, a product line that also sports VW’s most powerful production model. Now in its third-generation, Volkswagen’s big SUV has sacrificed its off-roadyness to become more of a premium, high-tech SUV for the road. Which makes more sense, when you think about it.

Why does it make more sense, exactly?

Put simply, it’s Volkswagen’s incredibly stylised answer to the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes GLE and BMW X5. Now that’s a heavyweight battle if ever there was one, although diesel SUVs are starting to feel slightly anachronistic in the new age of electric motivation. You can’t beat them for towing though…

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Built from the incredibly flexible ‘MLB Evo’ parts matrix, the Touareg uses the same architecture as the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. That means there’s aluminium suspension, a body that’s largely aluminium too, and a whole lot of other weight-saving in the powertrain, cooling, exhaust, electrics, seats, whatever.

It’s certainly got some presence…

The Touareg's somewhat dumpy looks were sharpened up last time it faced the surgeon’s knife, with more powerful and svelte lines that added an air of sophistication and modernity. Thanks to the new platform-sharing, the car has actually increased in size but dropped 106kg. Compared to the last car, it’s 44mm wider and 77mm longer but lower than its second-generation brother; helping its proportions and making it a bit easier on the eye.

Another win is that there’s even more boot space, up 113 litres to 810 in total with the rear seats in place. So you can lob pretty much all you can think of this side of a medium-sized elephant back there and it’ll probably fit.

Would a medium-sized elephant appreciate the interior?

Back in 2003, when the first Touareg was launched, it was the outrageously torquetastic V10 TDI that had everyone talking. As well the choppy ride quality. This time it’s all about the tech. Inside has seen one of the biggest cabin overhauls from VW in decades, repositioning the Touareg entirely and bringing it bang in-line and even ahead of its fiercest competitors. Some interior materials feel like they’ve suffered in quality to help finance the incredible dual screen display, but you'll forgive it, as it looks fantastic, is incredibly minimalist and has a tech artillery to back it up.

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These include: ‘Night Vision’ to detect (and hopefully avoid) humans and animals in darkness via a thermal imaging camera; Roadwork Lane Assist, to steer, brake and accelerate for you up to 37mph; four-wheel steering to make it feel nimbler than it actually is; active roll stabilisation, to magically reduce body roll, and a head-up display projected directly onto the windscreen. Pricing is from £55,885 in the UK (the lower-powered of the two 3.0-litre diesels in SEL trim).

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

The big VW has always been the thinking person’s large SUV

The Touareg had its biggest and best makeover in the last refresh, and the changes make it a real contender if you’re not obsessed with badges. Both inside and out it's been thoroughly modernised and really has something to shout about. Fully-loaded, it’s a proper tech powerhouse and the flagship that VW will be showing off for a while. But that technology is expensive, so be careful what you spec.

Even so, the big VW has always been the thinking person’s large SUV, more understated and less ostentatious than its rivals, it’s more than capable of holding its own on the road, now in utter refinement. Even if it has sacrificed its off-road ability for it. But honestly, how many of you are looking to take it on the rough stuff anyway?

The Rivals

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