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£57,940 when new
Ooh a Touareg. Do they still do the big V10 TDI? Ha, good one. These days the VW Touareg (pronounced Twa-reg, for those wondering) is available with a choice of two engines – either a 3.0-litre V6 diesel (with 228 or 281bhp) or a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (with 335bhp). The Germans get a V8 TDI too, but the chances of it ever being offered in the UK are slim. Because we don’t deserve nice things. Which one’s this? The sole petrol, which has just gone on sale in Britain a year or so after the diesels. It’s a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 – the same one that you can get in the Audi A6, A7 and A8 among others – with 335bhp, 332lb ft from 1,340rpm and a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds. Not bad, for something of such size and two-tonne heft.
Which is, if you’ve forgotten, roughly that of a Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and so-on. The five-seat Touareg is based on the same ‘MLB Evo’ platform as the VW Group’s other big saloons and SUVs, so it gets some of the same tech (including this engine) plus aluminium panels, suspension components and various weight-saving measures. Meaning even though it’s bigger than the old Touareg, it’s a fair bit lighter. The petrol saves a further 50kg over the diesels, too. So it’s an Urus or Bentayga for a quarter of the price? Not quite, though no doubt that’s what your mate will tell you if he buys one. It’s more prosaic than that – a Q7 minus two seats and, well, a bit of badge. But that’s kind of the point of this thing. Despite the big grille and trinketry of our test car’s R Line trim, the Touareg is a much more understated, less ostentatious car than rivals like the BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE. As they get brasher, bolder, the Touareg remains the considered choice. How’s the engine? Cars like this tend to suit big, brawny diesels. The Touareg is no different, but the 3.0-litre petrol is nonetheless pretty good. It’s a quiet, refined motor that delivers a surprising turn-of-speed, whether you’re the driver, a passenger or another motorist. What holds it back is the gearbox. Like the diesel, the only choice is an eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels. On the move it’s fine – but there’s so much slack and lag as you move away from a standstill, you really do have to think twice before pulling out into gaps. Then there’s the economy, or lack thereof. In day-to-day driving it’ll settle in the mid-twenties, versus a claimed 31.7mpg. As for how it drives – you must have the air suspension, as it does a much better job of soaking up bumps than the standard steel springs. Worth the £2,370 cost. Another pack adds all-wheel steering and a 48-volt electrical system with roll stabilisation. It makes things better still, but at a hefty cost of £4,890. This thing is more of a cruiser anyway – not a ‘driver’s’ SUV like an X5 or Cayenne. To that end it wafts beautifully, with little wind rustle, a placid gait and clever adaptive cruise. How about the interior? Bit different in here. Low- and mid-spec Touareg’s get analogue dials and conventional climate controls, but ours, being a top-spec R-Line Tech, had the ‘Innovation Cockpit’. This pairs a digital cockpit display with a second, vast touchscreen that replaces most other physical controls. Climate, radio, nav – they’re all integrated into these two screens, making the interior feel nicely modern and minimalist. Getting the setup right supposedly delayed the launch of the whole car, but sure enough it’s all pretty slick. Good animations, logical menu layout, easy enough to operate without reading the owner’s manual. Certainly more straightforward than the current version of BMW’s iDrive. Elsewhere the seats are comfortable, and there’s plenty of space in the boot and rear-seats. Should I buy one? You can get a diesel Touareg for under £50K, but prices for the petrol start at £52,635 for the SEL, rising to £59,235 for the R-Line Tech pictured. However, a long list of optional extras was to thank for our test car’s RRP of over £70,000. Which is a lot of money for something that doesn’t have a typically ‘premium’ badge. Definitely worth considering though, if you want a big, high-quality SUV and want to slip past largely unnoticed. 6/10